Superhero movies ask their audiences to suspend so much disbelief, but Avengers: Infinity War took things a bit too far in its climactic ending. So, yes, let me say this clearly: everything that follows the image below this paragraph is a spoiler for the film.
First off, I'll give the whole team at Marvel, especially directors Anthony and Joe Russo credit. The final battle of Infinity War, from Thor's emotional crash into Wakanda to Thanos plucking the Mind Gem out of Vision, all rang perfectly.
I, and most of those around me, had our heartstrings played like an orchestra of programmable fiddles.
And for a minute there, after Thanos snapped his fingers to accomplish his master plan, I was still emotionally invested in it all. But then T'Challa died, and instead of emitting a guttural noise akin to those around me, I bore an expression of eating something that didn't match what I expected.
As our mightiest heroes began to disintegrate into ash, I was still grounded in the emotions of the movie. Bucky fading away, for example, right as he was rid of the brainwashing, was gutting. Teenage Groot, who also just found a redeeming moment, similarly hurt. Falcon, who had nearly nothing to do in this film, definitely saddened me, passing before getting any decent character moments.
But T'Challa? The Wakandan king and Black Panther? I knew perfectly well that Marvel Studios has 1.185 billion reasons to not risk its biggest new franchise. And since Thanos used the Time Gem to rewind the proverbial tape only moments earlier, most of the deaths that followed all felt hollow.
All it will take is the comic book movie equivalent of hitting Ctrl+Z to undo this mess, and that's an even bigger bummer than the mass killing was meant to be. Sure, the Infinity Gauntlet looks like it's fried, but two of the smartest minds in the world (Bruce Banner and Tony Stark) are still in play, I bet they'll find a way to make that gem right again.
Also, Captain Marvel is coming to save the day. And even if you were one of the few folks in the theater who didn't recognize her symbol during the film's post-credits scene, you were given plenty of reason to believe an ultimate help is coming. Not only did Nick Fury break out his intergalactic beeper — which we've never seen before — as his means of last resort, but the raucous reaction in theaters showed that the ultimate deus ex machina has been summoned.
Sure, Infinity War could have been written before T'Challa obliterated the box office. Sure, Shuri or Okoye (heck, even M'Baku) could don the mantle of the Panther, but that's a major risk to Marvel and Disney's profits given how beloved Chadwick Boseman is. Also, getting the powers of the Black Panther transferred to one of those characters will prove a little impossible, as Killmonger had the garden of the heart-shaped herb burned down.
Am I thinking through this too much? Was I supposed to buy in on T'Challa's death? I don't think I can be slighted for seeing this path so clearly, as the Marvel movies reward you for buying in. For each chapter you've seen, another few characters in Infinity War made more sense.
Before you call me a total monster, let me admit one thing. Peter Parker's death? Thanks to Tom Holland being so young, and how much Tony Stark will blame himself for it, wrecked me.
So, I left the theater with a mix of emotions, half annoyed with the movie for thinking I'd fall for these undoable deaths, and half amazed and shocked that they had the nerve to attempt this gambit in the first place. Both feelings, though, were not the sadness or hunger for revenge against Thanos that the film seemed to want to imbue me with.