Movies, music, games, television and books are almost always universally enjoyed because they’re magic. Minor suspension of disbelief can transport us away from the harsh truths of the world, making our worries fade away. But not every story deserves a happy ending. Tales that challenge, provoke, and destroy both emotionally and intellectually are just as important as escapism.
The scale needs to be balanced for the message to have weight and lately it’s too far in the wrong direction.
Note, I will be spoiling practically every comic book movie up to and including “Avengers: Infinity War” along with “Game of Thrones,” “Justice League,” and “The Walking Dead.” You’ve been warned.
I’ve never been a big fan of Superman because of his boring, impervious nature. His only weakness is kryptonite and each foe he goes toe-to-toe with happens to conveniently carry it. Writers sometimes then find themselves in a corner where’s there no tension so they kill off the Man of Steel, like in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” However, Superman came back in “Justice League” with only a few minutes of mourning in between.
The trope is a problem for the entire publisher. DC Comics is home to the aptly named Lazarus pit used by villains, such as Ra’s al Ghul, and heroes, like the Green Arrow, alike. Nothing is permanent in the industry when each new issue can change the previous arc with a few words.
While bringing them back is frustrating, just as annoying is having only the lower-tier people perish. Rick Grimes from “The Walking Dead” needs to die if the show is going to find new life. He’s lost his friends like Glen and Andrea along with his wife and son, yet he’s invincible. The show relishes in its grimdark tone but it will never truly get there unless he bites the dust. I’m starting to prefer the spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead” more because the new crew is wholly unpredictable.
Creators need to kill more than supporting cast to raise the stakes and show that antagonists are a threat.
Ned Stark’s execution in “Game of Thrones” is so shocking because we all thought it couldn’t happen to “the good guy.” Though George R.R. Martin isn’t immune to resurrecting characters, he illustrated that Westeros is as real as Earth when the axe fell.
The phrase “kill your darlings” is used in the writing world to refer to the editing process. Authors need to realize when they need to cut sentences that they may adore but ultimately don’t work for the piece. I believe some editing is in order because, after all, characters are just a collection of paragraphs.
Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise knows about the importance of death. The name of the group comes from the fact they are avenging Agent Coulson from S.H.E.I.L.D. in the first movie. Later in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” Nick Fury’s demise helps spur Steve Rogers in fighting Hydra. However, as soon as the motivating is done Coulson and Fury come back to life. What should be final is used as nothing more than a tool.
“Infinity War” has put us at a crossroads for character death du jour. A partial list of who Thanos killed includes: Gamora, Loki, Heimdall, Sam Wilson, Drax, Mantis, Wanda Maximoff, Vision, Fury, Agent Maria Hill and Bucky Barnes. Along with Fury, Barnes and Loki were thought to be dead once before so it’s difficult to be taken aback this time around.
What did surprise me were the deaths of Peter Parker, T’Challa, Groot, Dr. Strange and Peter Quill. Don’t get me wrong; I wanted leads to die. In a sense I agree with Thanos’ mission that the population needs to be thinned so others (like Hawkeye!) get their due. I was expecting Tony Stark to go, since he’s training Parker to take his mantel, while losing others such as Black Panther and the lovable tree permanently seems like commercial suicide.
Nevertheless, the climax works. Watching Stark and Parker exchange their last words as the teen disintegrates was a powerful moment. Captain America, usually a beacon of hope, is curled up on the ground muttering to himself at the end. Their minds and bodies have been utterly broken.
Now before you get the tissues, there is a sequel planned for next year and I predict that the Time Stone or Reality Stone will be acquired to restore life. And to peek behind the curtain the studio already has three sequels in the works for “Black Panther,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Those could be fake-outs, for instance maybe Princess Shuri assumes the Wakanda’s throne, but chances are they’ll all be back in mint condition like brand-new action figures. But part of me really doesn’t want that to happen.
Quill, if he comes back, needs time to grieve over Gamora and then grow as a character and if he doesn’t then Rocket Raccoon needs to process losing his friends. Rogers has to figure out how he can reform and lead a shattered team. If this movie is going to have any lasting impact and not toy with audience’s time and emotions, most of the Avengers should stay dead. It’s time to stop the placating.