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[This story contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War]
Avengers: Infinity War was billed as the culmination of 10 years of storytelling, but those who have seen the movie know the film doesn’t offer any closure.
The film ends in the biggest way possible, with Josh Brolin’s Thanos wiping out half of life in the universe, showing the deaths of beloved characters such as Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), as they vanish into thin air.
Whether or not the ending ultimately works for you, it’s undeniable that the last 10 minutes of Infinity War are a testament to how Marvel Studios gets comic book fans and non-comic book fans alike to keep talking about their films in between installments. Marvel has been building to an ending like that in Infinity War ever since Iron Man introduced Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in its surprise post-credits sequence, a move that had fans buzzing for years about an Avengers Initiative and a team-up movie to come.
As Marvel orchestrated its cinematic universe movie by movie, and introduced filmgoers to comic book characters they might not have otherwise known, it was the stingers in the post-credit scenes in particular that started to form the idea of the Avengers. It was that ping of excitement seeing Thor’s hammer at the very end of Iron Man 2, or the brief image of Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that expanded the universe and started to assemble Marvel’s ultimate team.
Avengers: Infinity War, in turn, feels like the sudden unraveling of those thrilling gatherings, making a main event out of the type of shock for which people used to sit through closing credits. But like those moments, the end of Infinity War has created more discussion, as well as a new opportunity for people to be emotionally involved.
Fans have spent a week commiserating about the ending and reliving the heartache thanks to memes and YouTube reactions, some of which include audio of movie crowds reacting to the most important scenes. One of the most stirring reaction videos comes from Normies, a YouTube review team based out of Indiana. In their review, they splice in their after-screening thoughts with footage of them all watching Infinity War in a van at a drive-in theater, sharing an absolute shock in certain moments and then reflecting upon it afterward. They document the experience of that ending — not how it looks, but how it feels for audiences everywhere.
The ending’s emotional whiplash is captured in particular by YouTube vlogger bigscreenbooks, who filmed her raw post-screening reactions to the film while driving with a friend. Watching her share her thoughts about the movie while navigating traffic gives a sense of just how intense an event this film is for Marvel fans, and it even gets a bit emotional watching her tearfully recall the unexpected deaths of Infinity War. This video, along with so many other reactions, provides a greater sense of how even Marvel’s biggest fans weren’t prepared for what Thanos had in store.
Along with its narrative choices, the ending’s visualization of death has a catchy aspect, and is already being repeated across memes, providing a new way to express sarcastic anguish. Superhero movies have always been good for this; first it was Tobey Maguire’s weepy Spider-Man, then it was Henry Cavill’s screaming Superman. Now it’s Spider-Man’s last few words of “Mr. Stark…I don’t feel so good,” as echoed by memes that show various people disintegrating. (Ever wonder what it would look like if Frasier Crane died in Infinity War?)
And if you watched the ending of the Avengers: Infinity War and wondered whether you’d share the same fate as Spider-Man, one website has an answer for you, as made by self-professed Iron Man fan, Tristan Bellman-Greenwood. Like the snap of two fingers, a simple click over to DidThanosKill.Me will decide whether or not you are spared by Brolin’s character.
In an email correspondence, Bellman-Greenwood says that he decided to make the website when he saw the post-credits scene with “random people being “snapped’ off the streets,” stating that “it could be any one of us.” Expressing particular shock at the death of Black Panther, Bellman-Greenwood said that he “thought that this would be a good single-use website…to show how many people who are close to us would have been gone.” As a creator of the site, he’s had his own dealings with Thanos: “While making/testing the page, I have died and lived many times. You get used to death quite quickly, as it turns out.”
The response to Infinity War proves that Marvel doesn’t just have more pieces to toy around than any other franchise, but that it can play with audiences’ emotions on an unprecedented scale. It’s particularly fitting that Marvel would turn its biggest occasion yet into a memorial, as if to make fans cherish these heroes by adding a definitive sense of loss, all before some type of resurrection in the concluding fourth Avengers movie. As the eternally wise Cinderella ballad goes, “You don’t know what you got, ’til it’s gone.”
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