67 characters sounds impressive, but might just mean that Avengers: Infinity War is working against itself.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo dropped some big news at Wizard World New Orleans with the announcement that they “have a board with 67 characters on it” from which they are working to decide who will be the main focus of the two part Avengers: Infinity War film. That got everyone (including us) speculating which characters would be the most important and which ones might just show up for cameos. We all knew Infinity War would prove to be the largest and most challenging film to date for Marvel Studios, but now we’re getting some concrete understanding of just HOW large and challenging.
Of course, when the films are finished, there might only be half that many to hit the screen in any meaningful sort of way. Some might appear as Easter eggs in the background of certain scenes (something Marvel loves to do) or show up in the movie for a scant minute or two as the story dictates. The fact is, we’ve never seen a superhero film of this scope or magnitude before, and while it seems exciting, there is the nagging feeling that maybe Kevin Feige and the Russos have bitten off more then they can chew.
This Number of Main Characters is Unprecedented
Up until now, the Avengers films have had to juggle about 11 and 15 major characters, respectively, including villains and key supporting characters. There were 10 major comic book characters in Guardians of the Galaxy (not including the cameo from Howard the Duck). To date these are the three largest movies that Marvel has produced.
The closest comparison that can be made to the number of possible characters to show up in Infinity War is 2006’s X-Men: Last Stand which featured something like 37 characters, many of whom showed up just in time for the final battle. Then there’s 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which featured cameo appearances by over 100 recognizable cartoon characters (and those are just the Disney characters, we’re not even talking about Bugs, Daffy, Porky Pig and the rest from Warner Brothers, MGM, Walt Lantz and others). But with the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy teaming up, not to mention the additions of Spidey, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange all arriving in theaters prior to the release of Infinity War – Part I, it’s beginning to look as if the first film could easily reach a three hour running time just to make sure everyone gets a few lines of dialogue.
The Russos have already hinted that “supporting Avengers are going to become primary Avengers” in the two Infinity War films, so it’s possible some of the heroes we know and love may not be around when it comes time to face off with Thanos. But that almost makes the problem worse, as we’ll have to learn new characters on the fly rather than getting to know them well before they come together, like with the first Avengers movie.
There is a Massive Amount of Material to Cover
Both the limited series runs of Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War in 1991 and 1992 (followed by a third six-issue limited series, Infinity Crusade, in 1993) were touted as major comic book events that crossed over into tie-ins with other books for all of the related characters. Feige and the Russos are already taking a stab at a crossover event adaptation in Civil War, opening in May, which seems to have drastically altered the scope and tenor of the original seven issue series in order to fit it into one film. Some of the changes were just to fit the story to the MCU, but they also had rights issues with pivotal characters, something Marvel still has to contend with for Infinity War.
Both of these issues already present some cause for concern. How much material can you cut out of the original story before it becomes a mere shadow of what we all loved about it? The core concept is certainly still intact and they’ll still likely have Spidey switch sides, so the main beats will remain. But just judging from the trailer, it would appear that the film hinges more on the friendship between Steve Rogers and the Winter Soldier than the main thrust behind the Civil War comics.
Civil War and Infinity Gauntlet/Infinity War all required multiple issues among multiple books to tell their stories, but Feige and the Russos simply don’t have that luxury. The question is, which story are they telling? Although the films are called Infinity War, it would stand to reason that they will likely rely on the Infinity Gauntlet storyline instead. This makes the most sense because we see that Thanos has the Gauntlet (minus all the infinity stones) by the end of Age of Ultron and we know that four of the Infinity Stones have been located.
The fifth one could be revealed in Doctor Strange, the sixth one in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 (which may be when we are also finally introduced to Adam Warlock, whom James Gunn confirmed was inside that cocoon we saw in the Collector’s menagerie in the first Guardians).