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Near the end of Infinity War...

Thanos snaps his fingers and roughly half of the Avengers disappear into a cloud of dust and phlebotinum. While other characters appear to show dismay or relief that they are dissolving, Spider-Man is the only one who shows any signs of physical distress, mentioning to Iron Man that he doesn't feel good before vanishing. Additionally, based on Thanos' remarks that this would be the most humane way to cut the universal population in half, one would expect no physical trauma at all.

While other characters showed emotional feelings about this event, Spider-Man was the only one to show signs of physical distress. Why?

  • 99
    Spidey-sense perhaps? – Paulie_D May 7 '18 at 11:23
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    @Paulie_D It was tingling. – Z. Cochrane May 7 '18 at 12:50
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    Its worth noting the other heros are much more emotionally mature and not virtually invulnerable to harm due to supernatural senses and are thus probably much more at terms with the danger of their profession than spiderman. – Ummdustry May 7 '18 at 13:16
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    @Ummdustry exactly. Spider-Man is a 15 year old boy; he understandably freaked out a lot more than the other characters did. – Justin Lardinois May 7 '18 at 17:47
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    @Edlothiad - It was actually an improv line directly from Dr Who. – Kevin Fischer May 7 '18 at 19:31

11 Answers 11

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Spider man has spidey-sense.

How spidey-sense works has varied, but being a limited form of precognition isn't completely out of possibility. What's more, he is probably instinctively reacting to avoid the danger. In this case, there is nothing his body can do to avoid it. Quite possibly his muscles are all twitching, his heart is racing, and he's experiencing a full-body panic attack as his instincts are trying to dodge the inevitable end, but have nowhere to go.

There are also dramatic reasons why this would happen, but the best dramatic reasons are hung on the fabric of in-universe fiction.

  • 50
    Note that Spider-Man was not the only character to react. One of Mantis's lines is "something's happening..." and Mantis also has extrasensory abilities. – Steam May 7 '18 at 18:08
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    @Steam Fury also noticed it; but only Spiderman reacted with what appears to be pain (or maybe dread). – Yakk May 7 '18 at 18:26
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    @Yakk I think it's more dread than pain. He didn't look like he was in pain. He looked scared, terrified even. – Kevin Fischer May 7 '18 at 19:32
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    @CaptainMan Judging by what he said, it's more plausible that he sensed what was about to happen (rather than deducing that based on what he saw). – xiaomy May 7 '18 at 21:21
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    I think I've read somewhere or watched it in Youtube that the directors claim that Tom Holland improvised that scene, so you'll notice that RDJ kinda caught off guard. – Logan Wayne May 10 '18 at 9:16
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Admittedly, I don't have any hard evidence for this, but I suspect this was an artistic decision on the writer/director's part. And I think it was done purely for the benefit of Tony.

Tony's story arc during the movie (and even the last few movies) is that he has been worried about an ultra-powerful entity threatening Earth/humanity ever since the first Avengers. He says something like "I've been worried about this for six years" in the film. And now that threat has materialized.

He also spends a large portion of this movie (and Spider-Man Homecoming), trying to protect Peter and keep him out of danger.

Having Peter die in such a drawn out fashion and even in Tony's arms serves to really twist the knife that Tony failed in his two primary goals: protect Earth and protect Peter. It's a way to make this incredibly personal for Tony.

Peter "suffering" before dissolving also helps to heighten the emotional weight for the audience. He's young and likeable so his death is an easy emotional sell for the audience.

  • 10
    Throw into your excellent answer the discussion he had with Pepper toward the beginning about becoming parents. This movie spun that dagger in Tony's heart. – keithcurtis May 9 '18 at 0:34
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    Tony was already a big ol' ball of PTSD before this, he'll be a full-on basket case the next time he shows up. Makes me wonder just how far down the MCU is going to take him. – John Bode May 9 '18 at 19:17
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Out of Universe

From a meta/out-of-universe perspective, Tom Holland actually improvised his death scene.

According to Screen Rant, based on a Redditor who had Joe Russo do a Q&A at their school,

[Joe Russo] just instructed [Tom Holland] to act like he doesn’t want to leave, it was Holland who decided to ad-lib his lines: “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel good” and the now iconic “I don’t want to go” phrase.

It's likely that Holland, not being one of the writers nor a director, either did not know how the movie's other deaths played out, or in the spur of the moment did not consider that those lines made his death scene seem slightly different. At any rate, it was so well acted that obviously the directors chose to keep it in the movie.

In Universe

From an in-universe perspective, the difference could have a couple explanations:

  1. We don't know what's going through the characters' heads for sure when they are "dusted." It could be that the other characters did experience it the same way as Peter Parker, but chose not to express it.
  2. With real illnesses or injuries, two people with the exact same condition still might not experience it the same way, due to physiological differences from person to person. As others have pointed out, Peter Parker has his own unique set of spider powers including spider sense, which could have had an effect on his experience.
  • 5
    We also (presumably) see the Spidey-sense near the start of the movie, when the hairs on Peter’s arm stand up as the space ship arrives in Manhattan. I’m not sure we actually saw it portrayed in Homecoming. – Paul D. Waite May 11 '18 at 14:31
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    When you get a performance like that on film, you keep it and let the geeks argue about it as much as they want. – Chris B. Behrens May 22 '18 at 17:38
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First of all, the obvious theory is that his Spider-sense was overflowing him with warning signals, because of the imminent mortal danger, but as opposed to the usual cases, there was absolutely nothing he could do, consciously or instinctively, to dodge or stop that danger.

Furthermore, Most characters seemed to go painlessly, sometimes without suspectign anything was wrong until they were gone, as you can see in Bucky, who saw his arm disappearing, casually told Steve, and was gone. T'Challa is trying to help a companion get up, and is completely unaware of his own death.

The characters who seem to know it's coming before literally seeing parts of them gone are Spider-man, Groot, Mantis and Strange. All of them can be explained.

Dr Strange probably saw it happening and expected to disappear with the rest, maybe with precise timing.

Mantis has some sort of connexion with feelings and emotions, and might have felt trillions disappearing. While this doesn't explain her own disappearance, she hasn't said anything suggesting she was aware of her own death, as opposed to aware of some deaths.

Groot fell down, and even said "Dad" before disappearing. Groot has a Healing factor, just like Spider-Man.

Maybe the disappearance gets rid of nerves at the same time as the rest, which is why nobody feels any pain. Given how important nerves are for avoiding danger, they might regenerate very fast, as some sort of priority, for characters with a Healing factor. This might be why Groot and Spider-man seemed to be in pain. Their Healing factor was trying to regenrate their nerves (with the rest), but couldn't keep up. Alternatively, the Healing factor itself "notived" it had to regenerate things, and this created a subconscious feeling of pain or fear, that was not present in people like Bucky or Sam.

Last but not least, of all the people we saw die, Spider-man was probably the youngest. Imagine a teenager who suddenly finds himself superpowers, and probably felt some "I'm invincible adrenaline" in addition to hormones and extreme stress, suddenly realizing he is dying and can't do anything to prevent it. Peter is Desesperate, panicking, and extremely scared. Of course his reaction is perfectly realistic in that situation. The other times he's been in danger, especially in Homecoming, Tony always had a trick to save him and fix things. His first instinct is to cry out to Tony to save him (he even says "Please Mr Stark"). He desesperately wants to be saved, like that time with the parachute or on the ferry, but deep down he knows there's nothing this time.

tl;dr: Peter knew it was coming due to spider-sense, was probably in pain due to his healing factor, and was already way over his head in a horrible and dangerous situation since several hours ago, so was extremely stressed. His reaction is to be expected.

  • "Dr Strange probably saw it happening and expected to disappear with the rest, maybe with precise timing." Yes, I have to imagine this is the one (in 4 million or whatever it was) timeline Strange saw where they had a chance to beat Thanos (I believe this is also backed up by him telling Tony he would never give up the Time stone to save Tony, yet ultimately doing exactly that). So yes, I think Strange fully knew what was going to happen, but presumably has seen some future where there's a way to undo what has been done (or at least prevent something worse). – delinear May 21 '18 at 10:56
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Other characters also experienced it, but for most it seemed to be a sense of shock/fear/confusion. They were more mature, had experienced more, and were maybe even trying to come to terms with what was happening or if there was anything they could do.

Spiderman is much younger, less mature, more talkative, and less sure of himself. He's asked Tony for help many times and reacted with fear and asking for help from his hero who always had before.

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Although I cannot provide a solid answer, I would say it was just a plot device for character building; they formed the relationship between Tony and Peter like a step-dad/step-son sort of thing there so it would be heartbreaking and impactful to see Peter die in Tony's arms.

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I think the spidey-sense answer has it, but it's worth remembering that most of the people who "died" were highly trained soldiers in a warzone that had been recently affected by the Reality Stone. If they felt something odd, they might assume that they'd been targeting by some strange new weapon or by Thanos changing reality on them, and would be trying to locate the source of the attack when they vanished. Peter Parker, Dr. Strange, Bruce Banner and young!Groot are the only non-soldier types in the group who would panic instead, and Strange already knows what is going to happen.

4

Spider man is wearing a nano-tech suit that we have seen repairing flesh. It may be trying to repair the flesh that is dissolving. Combine this with the spider sense from Yakk's answer it gives Spider man just a few moments more to realize/feel what's going on.

3

During an interview with HuffPost, the directors Joe and Anthony Russo claim it was Spider-Man's spider sense which allowed him to feel this moment:

In an interview with HuffPost, directors Joe and Anthony Russo confirmed the reason: It was due to his Spidey sense, his ability to perceive danger before it hits.

“That’s correct,” Joe Russo said after I asked if Peter Parker’s Spidey sense was behind the early warning. “He was aware of something.”
HuffPost - What You Missed About The Saddest Death In ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

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One reason might be attributed to a combination of his healing factor and spidey-sense. From his spidey-senses he's very aware of his body/surroundings and it could be that as his body was disintegrating, he could feel his body constantly trying to repair and heal itself but failing.

  • Makes me wonder if it happened to Deadpool, would his insane healing factor outrace it? – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 16 '18 at 3:24
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Spidey is pretty much the comic relief, always joking character and has always been. He inserts jokes where appropriate and not. Sometimes he's funny, sometimes you roll eyes at the attempt. I think him saying something to the effect of "Wo-oh! Something's wrong!" is 100% in character for him. Either to lighten the mood, or just because he can't help saying things like that.

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