In a surprising move, Marvel Studios has announced the release of its next film, Avengers: Infinity War, will be moving up a week, abandoning the traditional First weekend in May slot for an April 27 launch date It’s great! It’s wonderful! And the more I think about it, the more certain I am that this means somebody is going to die.
Marvel, of course, has teased us with the possibility that someone major might die in this movie for quite some time. And in the interest of suspense, it’s always best to leave that window open, because if your heroes are never in real peril it’s harder to get caught up in the action. But the films of the MCU have a track record almost as bad as their comic book counterparts when it comes to keeping the good guys below ground. Agent Coulson was resurrected on TV, Nick Fury came back before the movie in which he died even ended, and although Groot is technically dead, he was replaced with an offspring similar enough that a lot of people evidently didn’t even realize they were two different organisms.
“Sure, death in superhero movies is cheap, Blake. And the price of bacon just keeps going up! So what? What does that have to do with the release date?” Well, if you’d stop interrupting my blog posts with your bizarre pork-based analogies, I’ll tell you.
I think it comes down to Rotten Tomatoes and The Walking Dead. Oh, and also Europe.
I should probably explain. A large number of the MCU movies have opened in Europe a week earlier than they have in the US. This hasn’t really been a big deal, except for the occasional communique from across the pond that threatens to reveal information about a film that has yet to be glimpsed by American eyes. For most of the Marvel movies, these posts haven’t been anything of Earth-shattering importance:
“Zendaya is Mary Jane!” — Rumors That Have Been Circulating For Months Quarterly
“Blimey, that Black Panther is a bit of all right!” — Cockney Stereotype Magazine
“Yondu is Mary Poppins, y’all!” — Out of Context Quotes Online
But what if Infinity War has something that truly is of monumental importance to the MCU? What if, for example, Steve Rogers were to die? It’s certainly possible. Chris Evans’s contract is up and the MCU already has two other characters running around who have replaced him as Captain America in the comics at one point or another. It’s possible, I think, that they decided to close the gap in release dates because they knew there was no way to keep that secret (or a similar one) under wraps once the film hits the theaters in the UK, so they needed to make things mesh up.
Is it that big a deal, though, if the movie gets spoiled? After all, studios keep touting studies that indicate spoilers actually enhance people’s enjoyment of media, even though that’s completely insane and the people who did these studies are clearly misdosing themselves on cold medication. It’s why trailers have all the best stuff in them. It’s why casting news blurts out surprises you’d rather not know way ahead of time. It’s why Marvel and DC Comics keep announcing what’s happening in tomorrow’s comics in today’s edition of USA Today and it makes me want to kick them in their collective shins. So wouldn’t word leaking out that Steve Rogers is taking the big dirt nap, logically, improve the performance of Infinity War?
Of course not, and the studio knows it, and frankly I think this whole thing proves that they know the “spoilers make movies better” thing is a load of horseshit they use to justify leaking out just enough to try to draw in people who otherwise wouldn’t see the movie while simultaneously pissing off those of us who would rather see it for ourselves.
Over the past year or two, a lot has been made about Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator site that some people say has taken on such prominence that it can influence the performance of a movie. I’m not one of those who would go so far as to say that Rotten Tomatoes should be shut down (I like that First Amendment the way it is, after all), but I do believe that we’ve seen its work — movies that had strong buzz crashing and burning after they release their sacred percentage, DVD cases and shelves clamoring to add that “certified fresh” sticker, and most importantly, a legion of nerds on the Internet slinging around a movie’s RT score as if it was some objective measure of quality, which it isn’t. Frankly, I find the notion of using a RT score to determine a film’s worth without watching it yourself utterly absurd, but I would never deny that it’s become a force in the industry.
Then there’s The Walking Dead and I’m about to drop MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE SEASON EIGHT MID-SEASON FINALE AND MID-SEASON PREMIERE, WHICH IS PROBABLY INFORMATION YOU ALREADY KNOW, BUT NOW YOU CAN’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.
In the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, Chandler Riggs’s character Carl was revealed to have been bitten by a walker. This was followed by a few months of cries, outrage, and death threats against showrunner Scott Gimple, many of them made by the same people on the internet who wouldn’t shut up about how much they hated Carl a year ago. I kid (sort of), but it’s a testament to how good an actor Chandler Riggs is that he took a character that was a meme synonymous with the obnoxious child in a life-or-death situation and turned him into someone that fans were genuinely upset to see die. And in fact, he did die in the midseason premiere last weekend… which suffered record-low ratings for the show.
I’m not saying the reason the ratings plunged is because people were angry that Carl died, but let’s face it, the reason the ratings plunged is because people were angry that Carl died. And this was after they had a couple of months to calm down and allow cooler heads to prevail.
Now apply this same logic to the MCU. What if people knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Steve Rogers was going to die in Infinity War. It’s not a tease, it’s not a possibility, I heard it from a guy in England that this is absolutely what happens in this movie. Sure, some people (myself included) would see the movie no matter what, but isn’t it possible that a lot of those same people who walked out in anger over Carl would boycott Infinity War if they heard the news? Enough of them to tank the movie’s all-important opening weekend numbers? (The fact that a movie’s fate is decided by the take of a single weekend is even more absurd than the fact that it is decided by a review aggregator, but that’s another conversation entirely.)
Please keep in mind, nothing I’m saying here should be construed as a condemnation of Infinity War. I obviously haven’t seen it and don’t know any more about it than you do, but I love what the Russo Brothers did in their two Captain America movies and I’m excited as hell to see what they do with the whole of the MCU as their playground. But I do think that this is a case where Marvel saw the writing on the wall and decided to get ahead of it.
Thanks to my lovely wife, Erin, for casually asking me why I thought they changed the release date and inadvertently inspiring this whole post. I’m sure she’s glad she had to go to work and didn’t have to listen to me thinking this all out loud.
You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got a bunch of books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.