The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in the middle of some crazy momentum right now. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is once again exceeding expectations at the box office, and Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok will follow in July and November, respectively. On the small screen, we’ll get The Defenders in August and Inhumans in September, and we may still get The Punisher before the end of the year. But those still feel like appetizers before Avengers: Infinity War opens in May 2019.
Avengers: Infinity War is likely to serve as a kind of “season finale” for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. Sure, we’ll still get movies after it, but big names like Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and, of course, Robert Downey Jr. are all nearing the end of their Marvel contracts and may want to pursue other roles. Regardless, 20 years from now, you know you’re going to have a bunch of grizzled nerds looking back and saying, “They should have just ended it with Infinity War,” while waiting on line for Speedball 3: Atlantis Attacks.
Everything has been building up towards this throwdown with the Mad Titan, Thanos. While Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2 were about building towards the Avengers as a concept, Thor and Captain America laid down the first seeds for Infinity War with Avengers ramping it into gear.
Even then, Marvel has taken its time with it, which is pretty impressive. They skipped over Thanos for Avengers: Age of Ultron and have been treating him like Emperor Palpatine, showing up briefly here and there and spoken about in hushed tones. The writing has been on the wall for years that the third Avengers movie would be about Thanos and the Infinity Gems, and it’s possible that the (currently untitled) fourth movie will deal with this as well.
Of course, none of the superhero movies these days are word-for-word faithful to the comics they borrow their titles from. Still, the mining of source material has still been strong enough, whether it was how Dark Knight Rises was a hybrid of Dark Knight Returns, Knightfall, and No Man’s Land or how Captain America: The Winter Soldier was close to the comic in all the ways that mattered. Then again, Avengers: Age of Ultron thankfully had absolutely nothing to do with the comic with the same name.
If nothing else, we can look at Jim Starlin and Ron Lim’s Infinity Gauntlet as providing at least some of the inspiration for Avengers: Infinity War. If so, it’s a really good thing that they won’t follow the book too closely because while the idea of Infinity Gauntlet is awesome, the movie-going audience would turn on it if they went with the comic’s story.
Anyway, it can’t be too close to Infinity Gauntlet comic, because one of the key players in that, Adam Warlock, won’t be introduced until Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which won’t turn up until at least a year after Infinity War hits theaters. It’s difficult, but not impossible to tell that story, though. It says a lot that there have been multiple attempts since then to rewrite the Infinity Gauntlet story without Adam Warlock saving the day while all the Avengers and their ilk are reduced to dust. I mean, Brian Clevinger, Lee Black, and Brian Churilla did Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet, where instead of the Avengers being massacred by the big, purple, space genie, they have Thanos get crushed with a space truck.
Look forward to US-Ace showing up in the post-credits of Thor: Ragnarok.
If there’s one casualty you can count on, it’s Vision. Of the four Infinity Stones introduced throughout the movies so far, there isn’t much drama in Thanos getting his hands on them outside of a quick showing of power, a yelling of, “YOINK!” and a smile. Vision, on the other hand, is housing the Mind Stone on his own head. It’s literally part of who he is. Maybe removing it will kill him. Maybe it won’t. What’s for sure is that Vision, the current heavy hitter of the Avengers in terms of sheer power level, is going to get wrecked as part of Thanos’ path to omnipotence.
Poor Scarlet Witch can’t catch a break.
There is one aspect of the Infinity Gauntlet series that has an incredibly good chance of being remolded for the movie-going audience. In the series, Thanos is advised by Mephisto (Marvel’s Devil-who-is-not-actually-the-Devil-but-let’s-be-honest-he’s-the-Devil) in how to best use his ultimate power. Naturally, Mephisto is trying to use his forked tongue to play things his way. I highly doubt we’ll see him show up on the big screen, but it should be obvious that this role is absolutely perfect for Loki.
Ever since Avengers came out, people have been speculating that Loki – being Thanos’ underling in The Avengers – would be thrust into the Mephisto role. Considering the character’s massive popularity, it seems more and more likely.
Much like Age of Ultron, I wouldn’t expect much to come out of the movie being named after the actual Marvel miniseries Infinity War. After Infinity Gauntlet, Jim Starlin continued to write a bunch of Warlock/Thanos stories with “Infinity” in the title, but they go off the rails and wouldn’t jibe with an Avengers movie.
For one thing, Earth heroes have less and less to do with the main plot. Second, the heroes’ main obstacle during this time is to fight evil versions of themselves, which would be incredibly lazy, especially since heroes fighting dark versions of themselves is a major criticized trope in these movies as is. We already had Iron Man vs. Evil Iron Man, Captain America vs. Evil Captain America, and Hulk vs. Evil Hulk. We’re good.
Then there’s the fact that they’ve been spending years building up Thanos as the ultimate bad guy. After Gauntlet, Starlin started to write Thanos as something of an anti-hero and that’s not going to work here. He’s THE threat. Whether the movies end with him being frozen into a statue, blown to smithereens, or reduced to a farmer, it needs to be about everyone vs. Thanos.
Marvel – both as a studio and a comic company – has been sketching the architecture of these movies for a long time. There’s a reason why the Guardians of the Galaxy showed up on the Avengers cartoon years before the movie came out. The Captain Marvel movie has been in the cards for a long time. Long enough that they’ve been trying to increase Carol Danvers’ importance and make her the premiere female hero in the comics…especially since mutant heroes (and Sue Storm) are off the cinematic menu.
Here’s something interesting, though. There have been ongoing plans to introduce Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel in the movies, with Joss Whedon initially hoping to introduce her at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron. But her origin is tied to another key piece of cosmic Marvel lore, as she gets her powers from Mar-Vell, the Kree soldier who is the MU’s first character with the name. Could Mar-Vell show up in Infinity War, with his downfall leading into Carol’s rise in Captain Marvel, which would then funnel back into whatever the next movie is?
The original Captain Marvel took on Thanos several times and the Starlin-penned story from Captain Marvel #31-33 in the ’70s is like a more streamlined version of Infinity Gauntlet. Thanos is even done in the same way: he gets ultimate power, becomes one with the cosmos itself, but forgets that the very device that made him so powerful is now left out in the open.
Then there’s the Inhumans, another superhero property Marvel’s been trying to build up over time. Long planned as a movie, it’s now a TV series premiering in September 2017. The whole Inhuman concept has been built up on Agents of SHIELD with Skye being an Inhuman herself and the entire concept serving as the focus for the third season of the show. But with the Inhumans now getting established before Infinity War, it opens the door to a particulary interesting Avengers vs. Thanos tale: Infinity.
While I love the story to death, Infinity is a mess to explain, mainly because it’s merely a climax to the first act in Jonathan Hickman’s complicated Avengers/New Avengers run and that’s a whole can of worms in itself. The comic goes out of its way to make Thanos more like the little we’ve seen on his movie incarnation, in the sense that we first see him sitting on a throne in space with followers bowing down to him and handing out exposition while he merely smiles.
Speaking of thrones, Thanos finds himself at odds with the Inhumans halfway into the story, leading to a balls-out awesome confrontation with Black Bolt…
Certain characters are introduced through this story, such as Thanos’ major henchmen. For the sake of giving the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy someone to fight against, I wouldn’t doubt seeing the likes of Proxima Midnight, Black Dwarf, Ebony Maw, and Supergiant on the big screen. More importantly, this story brings in Thane, the son of Thanos and a woman of the Inhuman bloodline. He’s yet to truly make an impact in Marvel outside of the finale of Infinity and the X-Men/Guardians crossover Black Vortex, but the company definitely has some plans for him.
It’s still a year until Avengers: Infinity War makes its first step into theaters, but it’s still fun to speculate. In the end, I expect a foundation of Infinity Gauntlet with cherry-picked aspects of Infinity thrown in there, along with Kree warrior Captain Mar-Vell showing up. While we know the Guardians of the Galaxy will show up, as badass as Annihilation was, I doubt we’ll see anything resembling that story, sadly. I’d love to see Drax the Destroyer tear out Thanos’ heart and show it to him before he dies as much as the next guy, but I don’t think they can swing a PG-13 rating with that.
Gavin Jasper is hoping for the cinematic debut of the Thanoscopter from Spidey Super Stories. Follow him on Twitter!