INFINITY WAR hit like a tank. It’s a smash success, both financially and critically, as expected. What wasn’t expected though, was its shocking and brutal ending. A film franchise that has spanned 10 years and nearly 20 films surprised and shocked the world. But, was it too much? Did the INFINITY WAR ending hit audiences a little too hard below the belt?

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Some notes to consider before we do the deep dive here: This post will discuss spoilers for INFINITY WAR. I’m not going to tiptoe around the plot, so anyone still holding out for those sweet, sweet 5 dollar matinee tickets should avoid this article until they’ve seen it, and then they can properly angrily disagree with me.

Also, to stop the comments of me being a “DCEU Fanboy,” I loved INFINITY WAR, more than most I would say. I love dark, nihilistic films. Films like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, SICARIO, THE FAN, and IRREVERSIBLE are my bread and butter. INFINITY WAR was just that; a dark and somber film nearly throughout (to the point where some of the comedy started to have the jarring feel like the keystone cops from LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but that is a discussion for another article). I would go as far to say that, after taking a universe break after AGE OF ULTRON, INFINITY WAR has gotten me back on the MCU bandwagon.

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Shock and (Intergalactic) Awe

I, like many others, sat in shocked silence at the harsh INFINITY WAR ending. The heroes lost, worse than any fan could have imagined. They are soundly beaten in a shocking display. It is a daring ending for any film, let alone a summer tentpole film. I left the film feeling shaken, but also buzzing with excitement; where does the universe go from here? Who will return from the ashes, and who will remain in the ether? Why couldn’t Samuel L. Jackson just get one full “Motherfucker?”

These were the thoughts that continued to swirl through my head as I started my shift, working at the same theater I had just seen the film in. I watched as countless groups of families and friends entered the darkened theater, unknowing and unassuming of what they were about to see.

I stood outside those theaters as they left, giving quiet goodbyes to their solemn faces.

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But then I started to notice a new trend; tears. Not the tears of older longtime fans, but those of children. Every single screening I stood outside of, I saw a steady stream of children exit the theater, their faces red and puffy, tears staining their Iron Man and Captain America shirts. I saw kids dressed in full Iron Man regalia, their heads held low, tears coming out through the Mark IV eye holes. I saw kids squeezing their Spiderman plushies, hoping they could hold on tighter than Stark could, and keep spidey alive.

The Tears of a Child (Dressed as Black Panther)

It is in this near daily MCU Bataan Death March that my feelings on the film began to change. While the films are enjoyed on a near-universal scale by people of all ages, these films still have their basis rooted in entertaining children. These are characters who were created as fantasy archetypes for children to enjoy. While they have taken on new life in the MCU, the films are still rooted in entertaining this same demographic.

While the vast majority of the viewing public realize that Black Panther and Spiderman will most definitely be back, as they already have scheduled sequels, a 10-year-old kid just sees it as their cinematic heroes being blasted into dust. You can tell your sobbing child up and down that Spiderman will return, but that doesn’t change the fact that he just clutched to Iron Man and begged for his life. It is a level of mortality realization that a child still filled with naivety and wonder doesn’t need to experience.

We realize he’ll be back, but the traumatized child a row down may not be so sure. (Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment)

I’m not arguing that children shouldn’t have exposure to darker and harsher things. “life isn’t a fairy tale”, blah, blah, blah. Like I stated before, I love nihilistic films, and that love most definitely started at a young age. THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER is a very harsh and nihilistic children’s film, one that’s well written and well made. THE FOX AND THE HOUND is another children’s film that ends on a somber note. The film just gives us an INFINITY WAR ending that it may not have fully earned. Instead, it’s an ending designed to fully and utterly pull the rug out from under us.

Cultural Constants

My issue with INFINITY WAR is not what is going to proceed from it, but what preceded it. The MCU as a whole has been a very family-friendly affair. While some of the films dealt with darker material (terrorism in IRON MAN, government corruption in WINTER SOLDIER), there was still the overall message that “good defeats evil”. It might be a saccharine message, but it is one that the MCU has stuck to, even in its darkest moments (nobody died during the CIVIL WAR battles, and the only hero deaths were just that; heroic).

While the majority of the audience remembers a time when ‘superhero movie” meant B-list actors pantomiming their way through z-grade special effects, for kids, these are heroes they have grown up with. They’ve always known them as a cultural constant, something that has always been there to fight the good fight. It is a cultural phenomenon that we’ve never known as a society. STAR WARS had 3 films over 10 years; The MCU has had 19.

Infinity War Ending
Just a reminder; this film came out a DECADE ago. (Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment)

With INFINITY WAR, in its closing minutes, refutes all of that. Not only have the hero’s not won, they’ve lost in the worst way possible. They watch as their comrades, their friends, their family fall away and die in an unexplained cloud of dust. It is a startling moment to witness as an adult, but a devastating moment for a child. These are cultural mainstays that are no more, parts of their worldly understanding that disappear in a literal snap of the fingers.

The Reality of The INFINITY WAR Ending

The box office numbers are in. The critics have given their word. INFINITY WAR’s a smash hit. The reviews are glowing and praising. No one really agrees’s with my assessment here, especially on the INFINITY WAR ending. I don’t think that the harsh INFINITY WAR ending will lose many fans. The world now waits with baited breath to see how the original Avengers plan to counteract Thanos genocidal accomplishment. We know they’ll succeed because they are our heroes and Disney’s cash cow.

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I don’t write this to make you dislike INFINITY WAR. Even after analyzing my own points, I still love the film, more than most of the MCU’s output thus far, and I’m in awe of the truly ballsy INFINITY WAR ending. I write this for the little guy, specifically the younger ones in the audiences out there. For the young boy’s or girl’s who left their theaters crying, hurt, and confused.

That Boy

I write this for the little boy, not unlike myself. He sits somewhere in the middle of the theater, several rows back because that’s his favorite spot to watch movies. He sits next to his father, a quiet Marvel fan himself. The boy holds onto his prized Spiderman plushy, the stuffed hero that keeps him safe from all the monsters that may lurk in the shadows of the night. As the lights go down, he squeezes the plushy in excitement, happy to be seeing the film with his soft bedside best friend.

Over the next 2 and a half hours, he watches several of the characters he grew up loving and admiring die harsh and brutal deaths. In the final moments of the film, as he squeezes the plushy in an attempt to find comfort in its cotton uniform, he watches his cinematic hero reach out for his surrogate father figure, begging for his life.

At that moment, that little boy has a window open in his mind. As Spiderman clings to the last moments of life, bargaining for every last breath, that little boy discovers a glimpse of mortality, that even his superhero pals can’t stop the machinations of time, and the inevitability of death. As he lays in bed at night, those shadows feel a little bit more menacing, a little more real, and his plushy hero a little less infallible, a little less eternal.

I write this for that boy.

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