As Easter rolls around and Endgame quickly approaches we’ve been thinking about death and resurrection in the MCU. It seemed obvious to many that after the shocking conclusion of Infinity War many of those characters that were turned to dust would return in some way from their sudden deaths. Indeed, death in the MCU in general has often been tainted by some kind of revival. There are very few major players in the Marvel films that have died and actually stayed dead. So this article will take a look at whether the stakes are that real at all and whether unlike some other major film or TV franchises, Marvel just doesn’t take character deaths all that seriously.
To understand this better, first of all we’ll take a look at some of the deaths that have already taken place in the MCU; ones that are permanent. Unfortunately, those are few and far between. There are a few key ones that do come to mind however, with the stakes of each them varied. Quicksilver is the obvious example of a main hero that couldn’t outrun death. Featured only in Avengers: Age of Ultron, apart from a small cameo in Winter Soldier, we barely knew this iteration of Pietro. His death towards the end of the second Avengers film was both unexpected and predictable. It seemed strange to kill off a character we’d only just met, but with a version in development at Fox and the inability to kill off any other major characters, it seemed totally natural that Quicksilver was the one to bite the dust.
There are a couple of other notable deaths within the MCU. Most of Thor’s family and friends, especially in a particularly shocking sequence in Thor: Ragnarok, Agent Carter, although of old age rather than because of a big bad, the Ancient one, Zuri, T’Chaka and Yinsen. You’ll notice that most of these characters served as the mentor in some capacity, often being of an older generation. This is one of the tropes of death in the MCU. If you’re guiding the hero you probably won’t be the one to make it by the end. These deaths are often poignant but not a huge loss to the wider universe. These characters usually have a role to serve and then once they have played their part, are killed off, with all of their knowledge passed along.
When you look at the villains across the MCU there’s also another trope here! Most of them end up dead too. Despite the villains often being incredibly interesting and well designed, they also have served their purpose by the time the credits have rolled. Some of those villains are starting to be brought back in various capacities. Red Skull turned out not to be dead and we’ve already seen Korath and Ronan return in Captain Marvel. Villains like Klaw and Killmonger probably won’t be seen anytime soon, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Ultron managed to survive somehow. The deaths of villains are regular but not often lasting. It seems that most of them could still return in some form, which suggests that this trope is less definite than the last. These momentary deaths are probably a way to write them out for the time being, until they are needed to provide some form of conflict again.
Then there are those deaths that just can’t seem to last. We all know the ones that are referred to here. Coulson, Bucky, Loki (so many times). The deaths of these characters are predictable in one sense; they’re never lasting. Everyone knows you can’t kill off some of the major heroes of the MCU and so no matter what happens they’ll come back in some form, often without consequence. What’s happened with Coulson is interesting, as the impact of his death has plagued him until his permanent demise in the latest season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This is an example of the impact of the death still being felt years on and ultimately meaning that there were still some stakes there. For others, their deaths have remained, but for those who have returned and not perished once more, there’s some serious questions to be asked about the impact of deaths in the MCU.
In Avengers: Infinity War we saw a few deaths that were not caused by the snap. Vision, Gamora, Loki and Heimdall all met their maker in the last Avengers movie. Heimdall’s death is perhaps the one that is most likely to stay the same, with actor Idris Elba becoming incredibly busy with other projects. There has already been speculation that Loki survived again. Gamora has been rumoured to be alive and well in the soul stone and Vision is all but confirmed to return for the WandaVision series, unless that takes place before the events of Infinity War. A lot of those very moving and impactful deaths might not have the bite they first did, if they are to be reversed in the sequel.
The same can be said in regards to the snap. As was previously mentioned it’s almost guaranteed that those decimated by the snap are going to return. With Spider-Man set to have another feature film alongside the return of teams like the Guardians, it would be incredibly surprising to find out that all those characters are going to remain as dust particles. In order for the conclusion of Infinity War to maintain some of its shock factor, there still needs to be a compelling sacrifice in the next one, that shows that there were still consequences to the snap. The most popular theory is that all those who were not snapped would be the ones to die, meaning that there would still be a link to what had happened, as well as proper stakes once more.
For the MCU to continue to be a franchise that has real consequences, it can’t be afraid to kill off its characters. The Marvel landscape has looked very familiar for far too long and there needs to be some changes in the main faces we’ve been seeing. There’s no better time to do that than at the end of phase 3, so there may finally be a death of true significance with Endgame. If the Russo brothers want to do this right though there is one film in the saga that has already done it perfectly.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 had a death that no others compared to in the MCU. Yondu was an established character that had a serious emotional arc across the two films he was in. A father figure and later a member of the Guardians, this blue alien ended up being the heart of that film. His death was moving, emotionally profound, played a larger part to the story and felt earned. Most importantly, it had consequences. This wasn’t like losing a random mentor that we never truly knew. This was like losing one of the gang. The surprising death lifted a film from good to great, adding a set of emotions that I didn’t know this comedy was going to provide.
This is the kind of impact that the last film this side of the franchise has to make. We can no longer settle for half hearted deaths, resurrections that remove any stakes and plot armour that takes away the tension. If this is to try and take us on a roller coaster of ups and downs, then the deaths need to be meaningful. We need to be shown that we should be afraid for these characters, because they might not be coming back again. Ultimately, we need to be shown that by watching these heroes and villains go on the journeys they are undertaking, that the dangers they are faced with are very much real and could actually mean the difference between life and death.
What do you think? Do you think the stakes feel real in the MCU? Will all those that perished in the snap be brought back consequence free? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below, or on social media.