Image Credit: Marvel/The Postrider Illustration
It was all over in a chilling snap; Thanos wiped out half of all life in the universe, ending his Malthusian quest for balance, at great personal cost to our antagonist. Plenty of heroes survived and are sure to regroup and seek to avenge their fallen comrades in Avengers: Endgame in a few weeks. Marvel recently unveiled character posters for those who survived and those who fell by Thanos’ hand, which give us some insight as to who is still around and what the team-up will look like. Conveniently, Thanos’ random snap left all six of the original Avengers — Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye — standing and ready to reunite to do whatever it takes to defeat him and restore order to the universe. This serendipitous team-up reminds audiences how far these heroes have come from 2008 since the original Iron Man through the first time they assembled in 2012’s The Avengers and of the ghosts of tragedy in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. It’ll make for what is sure to be a nostalgic, tragic, and ultimate reminder of the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a behemoth of a cultural moment the likes of which the world has never seen, that has delighted audiences worldwide. So I’m going to ruin it for myself and for you, dear reader, with some math.
To find the actual odds that a “random” selection of half of the life of the universe would leave the entire original lineup standing, we can start with calculating the odds of one. That’s, obviously, 50%. With six original Avengers, this is a probability of 0.56 or, in probability notation for the joint survival of the original Avengers:
= 0.0156 or a 1.56% chance. That’s pretty unlikely and I certainly wouldn’t take those odds, but there is one caveat that makes this look a little more probable. For those nitpicky “I intensely focused on every line” fans, you may recall that lost in the theme of not being willing to trade lives for their mission, Doctor Strange mysteriously turned over the time stone to Thanos in exchange for Tony Stark’s survival. We can safely assume that Thanos, despite being a deluded crusader for his perverse cause, is one of honor and was true to his word, so the chances of at least Iron Man’s survival are 100%. This improves the probability to a whopping… 3.13%. Still nothing to hedge the fate of the world or our audience fulfillment on, but hey, that’s about one out of every 32 Snappenings right there.
However, we can use the character posters to inform some more analysis, since we know there are a two other headlining survivors: Captain Marvel and Ant-Man. So, if we take every single Marvel character that has their own headline (i.e., their own film), we have this list:1Any “group” film is not included, so the Guardians of the Galaxy or the Avengers all on their own do not all count as a headliner. However, because they’re both mentioned specifically in the title, I am counting the Wasp for her headline in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
- Iron Man (survives)
- The Hulk (survives)
- Thor (survives)
- Captain America (survives)
- Ant-Man (survives)
- Doctor Strange (dusted)
- Spider-Man (dusted)
- Black Panther (dusted)
- The Wasp (dusted)
- Captain Marvel (survives)
Of our headlining heroes, we have six survivors and four piles of dust. So what are the odds we’d wind up like this, with at least six of our ten headliners left? P(at least 6 headliners survive) is a combination of the probabilities that either 6/10, 7/10, 8/10, 9/10 or all 10/10 survive:
This is a bit better, giving a 37.69% chance that we’d have at least six or more of our headliners standing! So while the odds of the original six Avengers left standing are fairly suspect, we don’t have the worst odds in the world that we’d have at least six of our headliners (overall) sticking it out to fight Thanos. Of course, those six left standing in this measure of probability could just be Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, The Wasp, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and Black Panther; it’s not contingent on the original Avengers remaining (otherwise we’d have far more slim odds).
Probability is a funny thing, but a bit of movie magic goes a long way, and these short odds have been easily overcome. If we suspend our disbelief (and statistical reasoning), we may be in for the reunion and fight of our moviegoing lives.
Avengers: Endgame has a high probability of coming to theaters April 26.