Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Avengers: Infinity War.
Image: Marvel

Children are the future, after all.

Avengers: Infinity War co-director Joe Russo stopped by Iowa City High School this week to surprise a group of unsuspecting teenagers with a lengthy chat about his most recent film and all of the burning questions that everyone still has after seeing it. Russo was surprisingly forthright with the audience, and while he couldn’t answer all of their questions about the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future, he dropped quite a number of meaty revelations that cast Infinity War in a new light.

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While many of the questions posed to Russo focused on the technical and logistical aspects of directing a film a large and potentially unwieldy as Infinity War, some of the high schoolers pointedly asked about specific plot points that many viewers were uncertain about. A student in attendance was nice enough to give a lengthy report on the entire affair but we’ll focus on the biggest revelations here—so, spoiler warning, particularly if you don’t want the answers. Thank you to all of the students at Iowa City High School for asking such great questions.

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok.
Image: Marvel

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Where’s Valkyrie?

Infinity War opens after Thanos and the Black Order have already attacked Thor’s ship containing the universe’s last surviving Asgardians. While there’s a brief mention that half of the ship’s passengers managed to escape, there’s quite a bit of confusion as to whether Valkyrie in particular survived. When asked about the warrior’s fate, Russo was straight and to the point:

There certainly were survivors—Thor does say to the Guardians that [Thanos] slaughtered half his people [but] prior to the start of that scene escape ships were deployed for Asgardians—including Valkyrie.

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It’s unclear just where Valkyrie and the Asgardians are and how many of them were vaporized by Thanos’ plan in the end, but at the very least, there’s a chance that Valkyrie will join the fight against Thanos in a subsequent film. A follow-up question was asked about Korg, to which Russo replied, “You’ll have to wait to see.”

Zoe Saldana as Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War.
Photo: Marvel

What Happens to Gamora After She’s Sacrificed?

Out of all the information that Russo revealed, it’s new details about the Soul Stone that have the largest implications for the MCU’s future. When asked by a student why a younger Gamora appears in front of Thanos in the orange-bathed world after he snaps his fingers while wearing the Infinity Gauntlet with all six Stones, Russo confirmed the popular theory that the Guardian of the Galaxy might not actually be dead; rather, she’s in the Soul Stone:

When he goes inside the Soul Stone he has this kind of conversation with the younger version of his Gamora.

It was an attempt, an attempt on our part—because we don’t like two-dimensional roles or three-dimensional villains, every villain is a hero in their own story and as insane and psychotic and brutal and violent as Thanos is, he’s a more complex villain if you go on a journey with him emotionally. He does care for things and it is complicated for him to execute his plan and it cost him something.

He said at the end “It cost him everything” and that it was the only thing he loved, which was Gamora, which is why we put him back with her at the end. I just want to reiterate with the audience that he does feel true emotion even though he is a monster.

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In Marvel’s comics, the Soul Stone is unique among the Infinity Stones because it contains an entire dimension known as Soul World where the souls of those consumed by the Stone. At various points in time, Soul World’s been depicted as being either a kind of purgatory or paradise for those trapped within the Stone, and it is possible in some instances to escape it. With that in mind, it stands to reason that Gamora might not be properly dead quite yet and will make her triumphant return in Avengers 4.

Josh Brolin as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.
Photo: Marvel

How Could Thanos Be Sure His Plan Wouldn’t Have Killed Him?

Thanos’ ultimate plan to bring balance to the universe is simple. By killing half of the universe’s living population, he reasons that he can avert resource shortages that, if left unchecked, would lead to the collapse of life on various planets.

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But when asked how it is that Thanos could be certain that he himself wouldn’t be one of the randomly selected people who were atomized at the end of the movie, Russo hinted that the Titan might not have actually been fully in control of the process:

You can ask if he allowed himself to be apart of that random process. He does have a very interesting look on his face. When we come back to him after the snap before he disappears, a look of surprise.

Though the transcription of Russo’s response was a bit garbled, his mention of Thanos’ surprise is interesting, if only because it suggests that Thanos doesn’t necessarily know how to wield the Gauntlet with precision accuracy. Bear in mind that throughout Infinity War, he really only uses the Power and Space Stones with any regularity, save for rewinding events with the Time Stone to recover the Mind Stone after the Scarlet Witch shatters it. Russo could very well be spitballing, but his comments could also suggest that when the Avengers do battle with him next, Thanos’ unfamiliarity with the Gauntlet’s whims could be an important part of how they win.

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The cover of Captain Marvel #1.
Illustration: Kris Anka (Marvel)

About That Post-Credits Scene

Though it doesn’t have much bearing on the film, Russo also shared a rather shocking fact about Infinity War’s post-credits scene that points to Captain Marvel’s impending arrival to the MCU. When asked why the scene comes all the way after the credits as opposed to part of the way through, Russo explained that it was intended for the audience to sit and process the gravity of the movie’s ending. Here’s the wild thing, though. At one point, the Russos considered not even including the stinger:

Because we wanted you to be in pain until the very end—if we gave you a credit scene right after the end—frankly we considered not putting any credit scene.

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It’s fitting that Russo would spill everyone’s most pressing questions about Infinity War to a bunch of kids, considering that these movies are for children, and their being invested in Marvel’s franchises is the key to the studio’s success. What’s wild, though, is that none of them thought to ask about if and when we’re ever going to get that meeting between Shuri, Peter, and Teen Groot.

[Reddit]