I write about true crime full time, so I’ve found the teasing done by Marvel across 18 films compelling, fun and psychologically sound. Marvel are masters at coherent intercontextuality, and in Infinity War, due out next month, it’s going to go up a notch. We know that, what we don’t know is how.
Like many other fans of this franchise, I’ve followed the accessories to the Marvel juggernaut, as they educate and prepare audiences for what’s to come. Ridley Scott seemed to be one of the progenitors of this, providing a series of informative previews and reveals on YouTube that stood alongside Prometheus, but weren’t trailers per se. Marvel and Star Wars have taken up the cudgel since, seeding their content with easter eggs, post credit scenes and plenty of social media discussions – audiences [and true crimes writers] are loving it.
But these ‘explanations’ within the films and in the PR accessories [toys, interviews etc] are still teasers. What are they leaving out? I’m not going to spoil it, because I can’t – I haven’t seen the film myself. But it’s fun to speculate beyond the mainstream speculations, so here, more specifically are my 2 cents.
- A lot of Marvel characters are going to die. There’s some speculation that it may be Iron Man, could be Captain America, and as for Vision, he already appears to have lost some color in the trailers. More likely, a bunch of characters will be culled, especially the old ones [Ironman, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk Black Widow etc].
- DC beat Marvel to the same punch, but executed badly. In Justice League we saw Superman come back from the dead, but in a less than satisfying way. Many expected to see a darker Superman in a different suit, a black suit. The way DC did it there wasn’t really a punch-in-the-gut reaction to Superman’s death, nor the let’s-do-cartwheels when he was resurrected. DC rushed and botched the job, in a bid to stay in the race with Marvel. They should have stuck to their own pace and gone their own way. What audiences can expect though is for Marvel characters to die, but “die” in inverted commas.
- Look to Odin, people. We’ve seen some of the alternate universe stuff already in Odin making appearances in alternate possibilities for Asgard from beyond the grave, similar to Star Wars ghosts but without the ghostly halo. Thor, Captain America and Hulk have started that process of alternate characters occupying – wait for it – alternate universes. When this happens, characters look different, and sometimes seem different. They might have longer or shorter hair, they may have one eye instead of two, they may have lost a shield or gained a new piece of equipment. They may be angrier or have memory problems. In the trailer for Infinity War Thor has an eye patch at one point, and look carefully, he seems to be missing one somewhere else.
- Expect more character differentiation. We’ve already seen Thor, Captain America and Spider-Man starting to look different, but it’s happening throughout the franchise – from Groot to Loki to Hulk. Iron Man actually started the whole thing off with his upgrades, and in the modern world, it makes sense that stories have inbuilt capacities to modernize and recontextualise.
- Iron Man and Spiderman ended up on another world together…Joining the dots, Spider-Man ends up swooshing onto Thanos’ wormhole maker, but as it departs back into space, Iron Man has to rocket-boost to the rescue. Probably both of them get sucked into another dimension where they first encounter Thanos, and my guess is, that’s where Iron Man buys it, resulting in Spider-Man getting a massive Stark-tech upgrade.
When the last Infinity War trailer opens, it starts with a weird upside-down rotation of the city. No one is talking about that. A lot of nuance is buried in the first three frames of the new trailer, and no one seems to be talking about it. The upside down view is a metaphor for an alternate universe.
The next frame shows Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanov and
Iron Man War Machine. It’s shot from above the three appear to be standing on a strange grid. Each of the three occupy a quadrant on the grid. Bruce Banner is the only one with a leg sort of drifting into a fourth quadrant, the others are neatly inside their own clearly delineated grid. Reading too deeply? It may be, and this is a random guess, that these three characters may guide us separately into the alternate universes to come. Natasha Romanoff on Earth, Bruce Banner in some other dimension [as he’s already done in Thor] and Iron Man War Machine is in a third dimension, perhaps a second Earth, or a second Asgard, or somewhere else. Each may take a few characters with them to battle in different places and times – hence Infinity War.
In the third scene we see a meteorite falling across the sanctum window in New York. The sanctum windows are both emblematic of gateways, and in terms of the sanctums themselves, actual gateways. So the meteor passing across the gateway is HUGE psychological fodder. You with me?
When Thanos’ favorite daughter, the green-skinned Gamoa refers to Thanos’ dream of wiping out half the universe, one has to wonder – why half? What about the other half? That’s exactly it, one half tends to mirror the other half. So the half that’s missing isn’t really missing, it’s not destroyed but mirrored in another dimension. How?
Why are Marvel doing this? For at least two good reasons. Firstly, many of the big stars’ contracts are coming to an end. Robert Downey Junior anchors the franchise, but he also costs a fortune. Marvel is bleeding new talent, with the new Spider-Man widely seen to be the new Iron Man. I’m not sure if that’s a great move, but then I’m not Marvel’s core target market.
Secondly, alternate universes allow for flexibility. In the narrative sense, character arcs can go one way, and if Marvel decide to redeploy Iron Man, or Captain America, they can bring him back in an alternate reality looking different [including older], without disturbing some of the main story arcs.
Makes sense, right?
As mentioned above, this is likely to happen through the manipulation of Dr. Strange. Remember, Dr. Strange has a green infinity stone that can be used to manipulate time. To unlock the time stone maybe Thanos uses the Vision’s mind stone to control Dr. Strange’s mind…?
From then on, the Marvel universe is likely to become strange and expansive, and perhaps strangely unfamiliar. After 18 films Marvel have held it together, but it’s going to get a lot harder and more complicated to hold it together going forward. In a sense the alternate universe thing is about letting go, but that ushers in unfamiliar territory. Guardians of the Galaxy prove Marvel are up to the task. Black Panther proves not everyone is going to love it. DC should slow down and learn from Marvel’s mistakes, assuming they make any.