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To many audiencegoers who saw 2017’s Avengers: Infinity War and left the theater with their jaws dropped in a bummed-out stupor, the ending that saw Josh Brolin’s Thanos retiring peacefully after snapping half of the universe out of existence may have felt like a pretty big cliffhanger. To Marvel Studios President and Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Kevin Feige, that ending wasn’t exactly his idea of what a cliffhanger constitutes. And you can thank Thanos’ retirement plan for being the key distinction that separates the two viewpoints.
In his own words, Kevin Feige recently laid out his exact case for why Avengers: Infinity War doesn’t actually end on a cliffhanger. Take a look and see if you agree.
One of the reasons why we don't consider Infinity War a cliffhanger is because the end of the movie is not the heroes disappearing. The end of the movie is Thanos content on a planet in a rather shockingly idyllic environment doing exactly what he told us he would do: sit and look upon a grateful universe. He succeeded, and that's the end of the film. Will the Avengers try and stop him? Maybe. They'll try. But they didn't have much luck before, and I don't think he's worried that they're going to have much luck now.
With respect to Kevin Feige’s outlook on the ending of Avengers: Infinity War, if directors Joe and Anthony Russo had ended their film with the heroes disappearing, and no indication as to what happened next, I do feel that would constitute the cliffhanger version of events.
Yet, since we saw the Mad Titan disappear himself to his own 1-player version of Green Acres, Kevin Feige's argument is that it constitutes a definitive ending. Thanos succeeded and our heroes blipped out of existence. Roll the credits, and see you folks back for Avengers: Endgame.
Strangely enough, these details come from the recently published book, Marvel's Avengers: Endgame - The Art of the Movie (via ComicBook.com), and you can definitely see a clear logic to what Kevin Feige is saying when he defines what he feels is a cliffhanger ending. However, the dictionary might have something to say about this matter, as the textbook definition of a cliffhanger still plays into his scenario’s parameters.
The official classification of a cliffhanger is the following, taken from Lexico:
A dramatic and exciting ending to an episode of a serial, leaving the audience in suspense and anxious not to miss the next episode.
Keeping that definition in mind, Avengers: Infinity War definitely sounds like it ended on a cliffhanger. Audiences were anxious not to miss Avengers: Endgame when it was released this past summer, so much so that the film eventually went on to become the highest-grossing film ever.
Even “The Snap/The Blip” being followed by Thanos turning into a farmer left audiences wondering what the surviving Avengers would do. You could have ended that film with a slow zoom on Captain America’s shield, and it would have had fans wondering what was going to happen. Especially because, like any good cliffhanger, we knew that this serialized story wasn’t over just yet.
If audiences didn’t know that Avengers: Infinity War would be followed up the next year by Avengers: Endgame, then the case for the former film having a definitive ending would be stronger. Since both films were announced as Part I and Part II of the Infinity War saga, not even a title change could erase how folks knew this was a two-part story, with the second half arriving almost a year later.
We could talk this point out until Captain Marvel comes home, but ultimately the cliffhanger status of Avengers: Infinity War comes down to one key detail: what do you constitute as a cliffhanger? We’ll leave you to ponder that question, and if you’re so inclined to revisit this matter with all of the facts in hand, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame are both available on streaming subscription services, Digital HD, and physical media releases to home video.
However, before you head out to vote on the poll we’re going to drop at the bottom, you may want to take a look at th free 7-day trial offer for Disney+, as the only streaming subscription platform that has Avengers: Endgame on tap, you’ll probably want to have it handy before you dive into this heady debate. Though keep in mind, you’ll still need a Netfilx account to watch Avengers: Infinity War; at least until next summer.