Avengers: Infinity War ending explained — who's dead, who's coming back and what's next
You've just watched Avengers: Infinity War. You have all sorts of questions about what just happened, and what's next for the MCU. Here we try to answer them for you.
Warning: This post contains major plot spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.
The superhero-stuffed Avengers: Infinity War is a culmination of story lines that began with Iron Man in 2008. But it has left us obsessing more over the arcana of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) than all of the preceding 18 movies in the canon. This is because the Russo brothers' unprecedented crossover event ends with a slate-cleaning tragedy that even Reddit's most deeply invested MCU fans weren't able to foretell. After a while, we were left wondering if what we watched wasn't just an elaborate The Leftovers-MCU crossover episode, starring Carrie Coon.
Sure, the movie offered pure blockbuster delight but there was also sorrow, hopelessness and, above all, utter shock at its dark conclusion. And we understand you have all sorts of questions, so we'll try our best to answer them.
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First, let's revisit the ending.
After having lurked in the shadows for a few films now, Thanos finally makes a grand entrance and fulfills his plan to retrieve the six powerful artifacts known as the Infinity Stones. Much like in the Infinity Gauntlet comic run, the fabled "Snappening" happens. Despite Thor's last-ditch effort to stop him with his fancy new axe/hammer Stormbreaker, the intergalactic despot manages to wipe out half of all life in the universe with a mere snap of his fingers.
In a stunning sequence, ten of our beloved superheroes — Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Star-Lord, Groot, Drax and Mantis — disintegrates and fades away into dust. What was more shocking were the ones who survived the catastrophe. Many expected few of the original Avengers — like Captain America, Iron Man and Thor — to bite the bullet. But they manage to hang on, along with Black Widow, Hulk, War Machine, Rocket, M’Baku, Nebula and Okoye.
In the post-credits scene, two other familiar faces — Nick Fury and Maria Hill — are driving through the streets of New York when they hear chatter on a news broadcast about Tony Stark's disappearance, invading ships and the general situation in Wakanda. They are interrupted when they get hit by a car. But, upon investigating, they find that the car has no driver. Before you know it, a helicopter falls out of the sky and people around them begin to evaporate. Slowly realising what's happening, they decide to send out a distress call. Soon, Maria starts turning into dust and before the same happens to him, Nick pulls out a retro pager-like device to send a message. He dissolves into nothing before he can utter "motherf**ker" and the device falls to the ground.
As the camera zooms in on the device, it displays a red and blue insignia with a gold star at the centre and then, the screen fades to black.
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Are all of those characters dead for real?
Firstly, Marvel won't just kill off that many characters (and potential multi-million dollar franchises) all at once. It simply doesn't make business sense. Secondly, there are already confirmed sequels to Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Also, there's no way the studio will put someone like Doctor Strange out of commission.
When it comes to Heimdall and Loki, it's safe to assume they've gone to comic book heaven and there will be no resurrections this time around, as the Mad Titan himself assured.
Though Shuri failed in her attempts to remove the Mind Stone safely from Vision's brow, she must have surely saved some of the important data during his surgery before the Black Order's attack. The Wakandan princess might still have a way of saving his mind, even if not his body. So, all Vision really needs is a new vessel to inhabit.
It is hard to say if the ones who disintegrated have really perished or if the Infinity Stones precipitated some time reversal or reality warping or soul-searching event. After all, death has never been a permanent, irreversible situation in the world of comics.
So, does that mean there's a "get out of jail free" card to bring them back?
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The Time Stone possibility
Doctor Strange looks forward in time and sees some 14 million permutations of the Avengers' battle with Thanos. But he tells Iron Man that he saw there was only one timeline in which they won. He doesn’t offer any other details about it though. This is obviously intentional and one that exists for a huge payoff in Avengers 4.
So, perhaps, losing was all part of Strange's intricate plan.
He's thinking long-term and losing the battle was necessary to win the ultimate war. Think about it. He had sworn an oath to protect the Orb of Agamotto with his life and he previously did say that he wouldn’t hesitate if he had to sacrifice both Iron Man and Spider-Man to keep it out of Thanos' hands. He's a pretty smart and sensible guy and you can't help but think that he gave up the Time Stone rather too willingly in exchange for Stark's life. Before he turns into dust, he makes an oracular remark to Stark, saying, "There was no other way." He foresaw the only way to defeat Thanos and this must have included the Mad Titan possessing all six Stones.
Just like how Thanos uses the Time Stone to prevent Scarlet Witch from destroying the Mind Stone embedded in Vision's brow, the Sorcerer Supreme must know a way to reverse the events of Infinity War.
The Reality Stone possibility
The fact that Black Panther, Spider-Man and co. fade away rather than simply drop dead opens up a whole other can of worms. When they begin to disappear, they're all wholly conscious of what's happening to them. In one of the film's more affecting scenes, Peter Parker even manages to mutter an apology to his father-figure of sorts, Tony Stark, as his body slowly begins to crumble away.
Perhaps, the snappening caused a spatial tear placing half of our heroes in an alternate reality. Or maybe it's all an illusion created by the Reality Stone. Or a mere dream. If it is, then it's just some really lazy, uninspired writing.
The Soul Stone possibility
In the comics, the Soul Stone has the ability to capture and manipulate the souls of all sentient beings in the universe. But the stone is also a gateway of sorts to a pocket dimension called the Soul World, where it traps the souls it consumes. In the final scene in Infinity War, Thanos smiles — apparently at peace with himself having accomplished his goal — at an orange-tinged idyllic landscape, which may very well be Soul World. But the smile is preceded by a moment of regret. When the Mad Titan is reunited with a child version of Gamora in this dreamscape, she confronts him about the cost of his zealous crusade and he replies, "Everything," as if questioning his own actions.
Maybe, Gamora isn't dead but merely trapped inside the Soul World. If all the lives claimed by the Soul Stone merely become part of its pocket dimension, there could be a way to bring back our lost heroes if the remaning Avengers gained possession of the gem. Perhaps, this is why the Russo brothers chose to end their movie with a shot of Thanos and young Gamora looking out at the sunset — to give us hope.
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Red, blue and gold
Fans of the Marvel comic books would know that the insignia flashing on the little screen of Nick Fury's pager in the post-credits scene is of MCU newcomer Captain Marvel. Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige said in a 2016 interview with Vulture that "her powers are off the charts" and "she will be by far the most powerful character we’ve ever introduced" in the MCU.
We'll soon meet her in next year's Captain Marvel — which will release shortly before Avengers 4 — with Brie Larson taking on the role of Carol Danvers. There's a reason Fury summons her. They obviously have a history, which will be explored in her first solo movie. In the comics, Captain Marvel's human DNA is fused with Kree DNA during an explosion. Other than your usual enhanced strength and durability that comes with being a superhero, her ability to absorb energy make her even more powerful. So, when she does make an entry in Avengers 4, you know it will be an eventful one.
Where are Hawkeye, Ant-Man and Valkyrie?
Avengers: Infinity War boasts a cast of Hollywood A-listers unlike any other but the absence of three notable heroes left the fans disappointed — Hawkeye, Ant-Man and Valkyrie.
In the movie, Black Widow mentions that Hawkeye and Ant-Man took deals with the government after the events of Captain America: Civil War. As being on the run was too hard on their families, especially considering they're the only two who have their own children to worry about, they willingly go under house arrest.
But this is an end-of-the-universe, all-hands-on-deck type situation we're talking about. The movie's called Infinity War, damn it. We're not saying Hawkeye's archery skills would have made a significant difference against Thanos and the Black Order. But he could have easily taken out at least a few dozen of the Mad Titan' genetically engineered Outriders during the Lord of the Rings-style battle in Wakanda.
However, director Anthony Russo assures us that there are very "specific story reasons" for Hawkeye's absence with his brother Joe adding, "Patience is a virtue."
There are clues to what it may be especially if you have taken a look at some of the set photos from Avengers 4. It seems like Clinton Barton might be shedding his old Hawkeye identity to adopt a darker persona in the form of Ronin, meaning he'll be swapping his bow and arrow for a samurai sword.
And what about Valkyrie? Tessa Thompson's troubled Asgardian-turned-gladiator was a breakout hit in Thor: Ragnarok. She was last seen on the Sakaaran ship alongside Thor, Loki and other refugees who survived the destruction of Asgard. But, in the opening scene of Infinity War, half of the Asgardians have been killed by Thanos and the Black Order. We don't obviously see her amongst the dead, suggesting she may have escaped with fellow gladiator pals Korg and Miek.
Was the Infinity Gauntlet destroyed? What happened to the stones?
After the snappening, the Infinity Gauntlet looked burnt and mangled beyond repair. Surely, it's not of the one-time-use-and-throw variety. Thanos did teleport to the orange-tinged paradise using what must have been the Space Stone. So, it must mean the combined power of the six stones must have overheated the gauntlet, even if it was forged by the legendary Eitri the Dwarven King. So, that could give the Avengers a chance to overpower the Mad Titan in the final installment.
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Why can't Hulk SMASH any more?
Bruce Banner's angry alter-ego refused to emerge after being soundly defeated by Thanos early on in the film. Is he just afraid of another ass whooping? Certainly not. But whatever it is, we're hoping his eventual unraveling, whenever it does come in Avengers 4, will be worth the wait.
So, who will be part of Avengers 2.0?
The original Avengers — Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, the Hulk and Hawkeye — will presumably reunite one last time in Avengers 4 to take down Thanos and somehow resurrect their friends. Considering Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth are all reaching the ends of their MCU contracts, it would be wise to assume that Iron Man, Captain America and Thor will either be retired or killed. There’s precedent in the comics of a new generation of superheroes taking over the mantle.
Bucky Barnes or Falcon could carry the shield as Captain America. James Rhodes aka War Machine could fulfill Iron Man's duties but Don Cheadle sure has big shoes to fill. You need an Asgardian in your task force — a role Valkyrie could fill commendably. Ant-Man can do more than provide comic relief.
Add to that, existing members Black Panther and Spider-Man, and newcomer Captain Marvel, you've got yourself a formidable team if the universe ever needs saving again. Who are we kidding? Of course, it will. Doctor Strange too could come into the equation depending upon Benedict Cumberbatch's busy work schedule.
We hope these answers helped give you some hope and perspective as to the fate of your beloved superheroes. But, do remember that, at times, moving a story forward requires you to destroy everything and start from scratch.
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