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Characters with no purpose in Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War is the biggest film ever attempted by Marvel Studios, billed as a culmination of everything the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had to offer so far. Trailer after trailer and poster after poster advertised that not only was this the most expansive adventure for Earth's Mightiest Heroes ever attempted, but the most expansive adventure for all of Marvel's heroes (with a couple of notable exceptions) so far. That meant lots of characters in lots of locations, but even with the longest running time in MCU history, equal screentime for all the heroes we love was never going to be in the cards. Some characters in the film get major arcs, while others get to show up and join in the battle while never actually doing much to drive the story forward. That's what we're addressing here: the characters who barely served a purpose in Infinity War, not because we didn't love seeing them, but because their utility within the structure of the story was ... limited.

Oh, and in case you couldn't already guess, this will include MAJOR SPOILERS for the film.

Thunderbolt Ross

Secretary of State Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross had a major role in the MCU's second (and least successful) film The Incredible Hulk, but thankfully actor William Hurt has been popping up to play him with authority since then. When he appeared back in Captain America: Civil War he was one of the strongest proponents of the Sokovia Accords, a set of internationally approved regulations designed to keep the Avengers in check. That made him an ally to some characters and an enemy to others, but never really a friend.

In Infinity War he shows up — as a hologram during some kind of major meeting — to basically remind us that's what he did the last time we saw him. It's always nice to see William Hurt in the MCU (or anything, for that matter), but he's far from the only reminder in the film of the events of Civil War, and by the end of his appearance he and Captain America (Chris Evans) both know that Cap and his team are going to fight this battle whether Ross wants them to or not. So, his appearance is basically just an amusing cameo.

Wong

The MCU did a very smart thing with Wong (Benedict Wong), introducing him in Doctor Strange as a sorcerer with knowledge far greater than that of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who then  gains respect for Strange and becomes his ally, and even equal, despite Strange's greater proficiency in the mystic arts. In many of the comics, he's essentially a very multi-talented servant, and in Infinity War that's almost what he appears to be if you haven't seen Doctor Strange.

When he first appears, he's hanging out as Strange's house, then when the battle breaks out in the streets of New York, he's asked to guard Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) while the other heroes fight. When that's over, he basically just tells Banner that he has to take off and continue to guard the New York sanctum while Strange is off in space.

And sadly, that's the last we see of him. Sure, he did a great job explaining to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) what the Infinity Stones are, but Strange could have done that himself. Wong has a good reason for leaving, but we would have liked to see more of him.

The Collector

The eccentric intergalactic icon known as The Collector (Benicio del Toro) was primed to be a major player in Infinity War, because his collection on Knowhere was one of the last known locations of the Reality Stone (where it was stashed in a post-credits scene for Thor: The Dark World). That meant that unless his loss of the stone was explained away entirely (like the loss of the Power Stone on Xandar), it seemed likely we'd get a scene where he either died spectacularly or talked his way out of it.

Instead we got ... well, neither or both, depending on your interpretation of the scene. The Collector's very brief appearance in the film — more used to set up an encounter between Thanos (Josh Brolin) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) than anything else — in which he tries to tell Thanos he doesn't have the stone, turns out to be an elaborate illusion conjured about by the Reality Stone, now in the Mad Titan's possession. It's a cool moment, but it also gives The Collector so little to actually do that we don't even know for sure if he'll survive for more movies or not.

James "Rhodey" Rhodes/War Machine

For an Avenger who's always been relegated to supporting cast status, Rhodey actually gets quite a bit of screentime in Infinity War. He shows up at the upstate Avengers facility, has a bit of an argument with Secretary Ross, greets Cap and company as they walk in the door, and even gets a jab at Banner in Wakanda. He also very clearly fights in the final battle, and is one of the surviving Avengers on Earth. In other words, there's a lot he's present for in the film, but not a lot that he actually does other than fighting alongside his friends. There's no big "War Machine saves the day" moment like he had in Age of Ultron, and no big taking sides arc like he had in Civil War.

That's not really a problem in a movie of this scale, but here's hoping one of these days he'll get a little measure of revenge in his own War Machine solo film. Plus, Don Cheadle's incredible screen presence as the character means that any glimpse we get of him doing his thing is worth it.

Groot

At this point, if Marvel were to put out a press release saying, "We're putting Groot in every film because we can," would anyone really be surprised? The talking tree with a heart of gold won over viewers of all ages in Guardians of the Galaxy, and his role as "Baby Groot" in the sequel, while a bit smaller (pun intended), was memorable and adorable. Plus, he's a founding member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, so there was no way he wasn't going to be around in this movie somewhere.

Sadly, though, while he certainly is around for a lot comedy beats and gets in a nice bit of interaction with Captain America, his only real story utility in the film (outside of the final battle where everyone has at least something to do) is to hastily provide the handle for Thor's new axe, Stormbreaker. That's a great moment, but it almost feels like it was written in for the sole purpose of adding just a little suspense that Groot could then help out with.

Granted, Drax doesn't have much to do either (though he gets to go toe-to-toe with Thanos a bit more often), but Groot's lack of drive in the film is a bit more surprising. The silver lining to all of this, of course, is that this is Teen Groot we're talking about. He's supposed to be disinterested and absorbed in his video game the whole time, and that only adds to the character.

Cull Obsidian

The Children of Thanos were always going to have to struggle for spotlight moments in this film, because they're new characters in a sea of familiar faces. By the end of Infinity War, we still know just about as little about their MCU versions (compared to the comics) as we did when the movie started, but at least the other characters in the quartet get to talk a little bit. Proxima Midnight gets to trade barbs with Black Widow, Cull Obsidian battles Vision and Cap, and Ebony Maw gets the biggest spotlight of any of them thanks to his moments of eloquent smack talk and torture.

Cull Obsidian shows up and just kinda ... hits things. Which isn't necessarily a problem, because that's mostly what the Hulk did in The Avengers, but both of his spotlight moments are cut short because he's outsmarted and left in the dust while his fellow Children keep playing. In the end, he's mostly a storytelling tool to drive home the fact that Bruce Banner and the Hulk have some major issues to work out in the very near future. He does get a pretty inventive death, though.

M'Baku

The Black Panther antagonist who launched a thousand memes was bound to show up in Infinity War, especially since he and T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) patched things up by the end of that film. The big spotlight given to Wakanda in many of the film's trailers also boded well for Winston Duke's chief of the Jabari Tribe.

But by the time Shuri (Letitia Wright), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and T'Challa himself had their chance to pop up in the film, all M'Baku had time to do was basically show up on the battlefield and fight. He definitely fought, unleashing his trademark chanting and even helping to turn the tide of battle (until Thanos showed up, anyway), but apart from one line and a handshake, he could have been just another soldier. You probably shouldn't worry too much about him, though, because he'll have plenty of more room to shine when the inevitable Black Panther sequel rolls around.

Okoye

Speaking of Wakandan characters who don't carry a lot of storytelling weight in Infinity War, there's Danai Gurira's Okoye, the spear-wielding leader of the Dora Milaje. Like other characters on this list, Okoye appears in the film a lot, but her actual job within the context of the story structure is mostly just to follow T'Challa around. She gets a fair bit of speaking time, and she even shares a cool moment in battle with Black Widow and Scarlet Witch, but she's mostly just hanging around Wakanda because it's her job to do that.

Her consolation prize is one of the film's best lines, when referring to the looming destruction of Wakanda at the hands of Thanos' forces: "Then it will be the noblest ending in history!" Still, it's a bit disappointing that T'Challa's most trusted military advisor and one of his closest friends doesn't do at least a little bit more when it comes time to take the field.

Bucky Barnes/White Wolf

For quite a few MCU fans, this one has to sting. After finally getting his reformation arc in Captain America: Civil War and being shipped off to Wakanda — where he appeared while rehabilitating at the end of Black Panther — the hero now known as White Wolf got a new mechanical arm, a handshake with his old friend Steve Rogers, and a few shots in battle before being one of the first to fade away in the wake of Thanos' Snap Heard 'Round the Universe.

It's not that Bucky gets absolutely nothing to do: his reunion with Steve is heartwarming, his moment with Rocket is hilarious, and the fact that he's the first face Steve sees crumble into dust is absolutely gut-wrenching. The disappointment comes if you're a fan who's been waiting since the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier to see Bucky and Steve really get some quality time to be friends and emotionally reconnect. Obviously, both guys have had other stuff going on, but that big emotional connection will have to wait for Bucky's (hopeful) resurrection.