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    Avengers dead and . . . buried?

    A scene from “Avengers: Endgame,” which arrives in theaters on April 26.
    Film Frame/©Marvel Studios
    A scene from “Avengers: Endgame,” which arrives in theaters on April 26.

    Before there was Ryan Reynolds’s smart-mouthed Marvel mercenary, Deadpool, there was Clint Eastwood’s “The Dead Pool,” a Dirty Harry installment involving characters placing bets on celebrity expiration dates. A morbid little diversion, to be sure — and one that seems like it could also apply, in a way, to the April 26 release of “Avengers: Endgame.”

    The epic climax to the tantalizingly unresolved action of last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” — and, more broadly, to the entire decade-long cycle of Marvel movies to date — figures to be loaded with answers to fans’ many life-or-death questions. By our count, no fewer than 16 notable characters bit the dust — most in a digitally eerie, very literal sense — at the hands of Josh Brolin’s cosmically murderous “Infinity War” villain, Thanos. (Another handful bought it in a creepy coda to “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” released shortly afterward.) But these heroes can’t all be gone for good, can they?

    The query is rhetorical, obviously. What point would there be in racing to the multiplex and buying a ticket if there was no hope whatsoever of the remaining Avengers finding a way to beat Thanos and right the universe? Talk about a bummer — this would constitute leisure-time masochism on a par with turning out for every game of a Cleveland Browns winless season. And remember, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange did note in “Infinity War” that there was a 1-in-14,000,605 possibility that the good guys would win the day. To paraphrase Jim Carrey’s knuckleheaded “Dumb and Dumber” optimism: So you’re telling us there’s a chance, Doc!

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    Another consideration: While comic books have a longstanding tradition of killing off superheroes as a way of underscoring that these stories do involve high stakes and genuine jeopardy, the genre also loves a good “surprise” resurrection. At their core, comics are soap operas for fanboys — never-ending sagas that are always going to need tried-and-true icons to star in them.

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    With all of this in mind, we offer you a bettors’ guide to which seemingly done-for protagonists we’re picking to make it out alive — and which ones we’ll wager truly have met their end in “Endgame.”

    The list of characters affected, in order of disappearance:

    Loki (Tom Hiddleston)

    Cause of death: neck snapped by Thanos in an outer space confrontation to open “Infinity War.”

    Odds it won’t stick: even. Thor’s dodgy brother is supposed to be god of tricks — it sure would be a doozy if he bounces back from his ugly little chiropractic mishap to scheme more schemes. He’s cheated death before . . .

    Gamora (Zoe Saldana)

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    Cause of death: tossed off a cliff by Thanos, a blood sacrifice needed for him to gain possession of another of the all-powerful Infinity Stones.

    Odds it won’t stick: long shot. While it’s hard to picture Marvel changing its loopily distinctive “Guardians of the Galaxy” dynamic this radically, what better way to drive home the filmmakers’ legit-peril message? And Saldana has multiple “Avatar” sequels coming — could be she’s not keen on all the effects unitards and makeup involved in playing blue-and-green aliens concurrently. As for Gamora’s lover boy, Star-Lord, he’s a hang-loose dude — we’re confident he’ll rebound. (To the disco-riffic ’70s sound of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” maybe?)

    Vision (Paul Bettany)

    Cause of death, or cause of deactivation, as the case may be: having the Infinity Stone that was built into his android skull catastrophically yanked out by Thanos.

    Odds it won’t stick: safe bet. Consider it just another Hollywood reboot.

    Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan)

    Cause of death: wiped from existence by a snap of Thanos’s fingers — encased, of course, in the mystical gauntlet housing the Infinity Stones.

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    Odds it won’t stick: even. Captain America’s best bud has gone through so much in his years as Commie pawn the Winter Soldier, it’d be kinda cruel to preempt the comparative normalcy he’s found of late. But indulge us in a moment of wild speculation: There’s been buzz that this will be Chris Evans’s final mission as Cap. How poetic would it be if he somehow sacrificed himself to spare Bucky, and did his old pal the ultimate solid?

    Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) Cause of death: wiped from existence by a snap of Thanos’s fingers — encased, of course, in the mystical gauntlet housing the Infinity Stones.

    Odds it won’t stick: sure thing. Boseman’s African warrior-king proved culturally significant enough to make the cover of Time. Does anybody seriously suppose Marvel would retire the character after just one solo outing?

    Groot (Vin Diesel)

    Cause of death: Infinity Gauntlet.

    Odds it won’t stick: safe bet. Recall that after he nobly sacrificed himself in the first “Guardians” volume, Baby Groot was back, shakin’ his groove thing before the end credits were done. He really is like a weed that way.

    Falcon (Anthony Mackie)

    Cause of death: Infinity Gauntlet.

    Odds it won’t stick: long shot. Spoiler alert: Mackie insisted to Jimmy Fallon recently that Falcon really is gone, and IMDb.com doesn’t list him in its “Endgame” credits. Still, Sebastian Stan has made a similar assertion about Captain America’s other wingman, Bucky Barnes, yet he’s on IMDb’s roster. Is a bit of Marvel-orchestrated disinformation beyond the realm of possibility?

    Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)

    Cause of death: Infinity Gauntlet

    Odds it won’t stick: safe bet. Our hunch is that if Vision returns, Olsen’s sorceress will, too. The characters share a long history in the comics.

    Star-Lord (Chris Pratt)
    Cause of death: Infinity Gauntlet (yikes, we’re starting to think this might be the freakiest hunk of bling this side of Robert Kraft’s Meek Mill chain!).

    Odds it won’t stick: safe bet. Simply put, he’s captain of the starship. Marvel might be willing to toss Gauntlet-zapped Drax overboard, maybe even Gamora. But Pratt’s swaggering goofball is the one who first got us hooked on that “Guardians” feeling.

    Doctor Strange
    (Benedict Cumberbatch)

    Cause of death: Infinity Gauntlet

    Odds it won’t stick: safe bet. Reappearing from this particular vanishing act would be quite the trick for Strange. But then, as the Marvel comic has always told us, he is “Master of the Mystic Arts.”

    Spider-Man (Tom Holland)

    Cause of death: Infinity Gauntlet

    Odds it won’t stick:sure thing. The web-slinger still has places to go, things to do: His latest adventure, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” hits theaters in July. (Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, another apparent Gauntlet casualty, gets in on the Spider-action, too.) Fun fact: Holland’s kid Avenger represents Spidey’s third separate and distinct screen incarnation in the space of only 15 years. If there’s anything we’ve learned by now about Marvel’s flagship character, it’s that this is one hero who doesn’t die.

    Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.