The Marvel Cinematic Universe has spent most of the last few years not just introducing newer heroes such as Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Black Panther. Phases Two and Three of the MCU have served as a way to ramp up the eventual battle with Thanos (Josh Brolin), which will require just about every non-villainous character from past films as possible to unite to take him down before he destroys half of the human race with a snap of his finger. But all of the years of the MCU impressing upon audiences that Thanos is a serious bad guy doesn’t quite match up to the goofy thrill of watching Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) bump up against each other, two wildly different leaders from different parts of the galaxy.
Granted, a good number of the MCU heroes we’ve met have also met each other — Boseman’s T’Challa was first introduced in Captain America: Civil War, so while Captain America (Chris Evans) may end up meeting the Wakandan king’s extended family soon, he knows the Black Panther well enough already. But newer characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange are just beginning to meet more established MCU heroes. (Just a few months ago in Thor: Ragnarok, Chris Hemsworth’s Norse god was baffled not only by the presence of Doctor Strange, but by his mental powers in a brief cameo.) Though the full film is still over a month away, the Infinity War trailer suggests that some of these meetings are going to keep up the playful tone of recent MCU movies, as when Tom Holland’s Peter Parker (in full Spider-Man costume) reacts to Doctor Strange’s introduction by sarcastically saying, “Oh, we’re using our made-up names!”
The severity of the stakes in Avengers: Infinity War will hopefully be mitigated with jokes like that. It is arguably gimmicky to pile up all of the crossover-style introductions or combinations of heroes in a movie like this, like a superpowered version of two well liked TV shows crossing over primarily in the hopes of getting more viewers to pay attention. But the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe is built on a foundation of these heroes existing within the same space, so their eventual meetings have a level of anticipation that exceeds that of watching them face off against Thanos. No doubt, once the heroes are able to figure out how to take Thanos down — which may not happen until 2019’s Avengers 4 — it’ll be satisfying. Now, however, watching Peter Quill both mock Tony Stark’s plans and half-assedly try to take over leadership is enjoyment enough.
Getting the (very large) band together was one of the great joys of the first Avengers as well; when Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) faced off against each other due to their own fractured personalities, it was as thrilling, if not more so, as when they united to take down the aliens led by Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Here, the threat is larger, but it’s more exciting to imagine how characters are going to bounce off of each other. What are the Earth-bound good guys going to make of the Guardians of the Galaxy? Will Tony Stark find himself pushing back against an even goofier band of heroes, or will he give as good as he gets when Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) tries to out-snark him? The trailer only gives those couple of hints, but they’re both encouraging.
The last handful of Marvel’s movies has felt distinctive enough, some to the point of gleefully pricking a hole in the darker side of some of these heroes and superhero tropes in general. The new Spider-Man, the Guardians and now Thor are the exact opposite of portentous or overly self-serious protagonists. The downside of introducing them into a story spanning two films and the fate of humanity in the balance is that their looser personalities might be drowned out by a more tragic or self-important tone. For now, we can only hope that when the MCU’s heroes meet each other for the first time, they’re too busy making fun of each other to get too dour.