Warning: MAJOR spoilers ahead for Avengers: Infinity War! Don't say that we didn't warn you!
It is no secret that Avengers: Infinity War is jam-packed with shocking moments, but few can compare to the return of Red Skull (Ross Marquand). The former Nazi scientist shows up on Vormir as a ghost-like apparition who helps Thanos (Josh Brolin) obtain the Soul Stone, and it is one of the film's most divisive moments. The return of Red Skull was necessary because directors Joe and Anthony Russo needed a gatekeeper for the Soul Stone, and in a recent interview they opened up and explained that a villain who had a "tragic" history with the Infinity Stones was the perfect choice for that gatekeeper role. The Russos addressed the presence of Johann Shmidt in the film and explained:
Joe Russo: Who felt credible to the audience. And a character who has been trapped -- the Red Skull has been turned into this wraith who now guards the Soul Stone and distributes the rules to whoever shows up their trying to obtain it. It felt like there was more credibility than just a random character.
Anthony Russo: Somebody who has a history with the stones may seem like they have a little more authority in terms of their experience -- especially a tragic experience.
In a few words, the directors have revealed they felt the guardian of the Soul Stone could not just be some random character or a nobody that audiences had never seen before. As Joe and Anthony Russo laid out in their remarks to Uproxx, they noted they wanted someone with a sense of "credibility," a person the audience would recognize. From there, the choice to include Red Skull became the right choice because of the finale of Captain America: The First Avenger, which saw the character blasted into space by one of the stones (in that instance, the Tesseract) -- thus resulting in his imprisonment on Vormir.
Of course, it remains to be seen if Red Skull will ever appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe again. The way the Russos frame him in the sequence (and in their recent remarks) is that this is now a prison for the character, and he is very much trapped on Vormir. Nevertheless, it is hard to deny the fact that it would make quite a bit of sense -- as well as be fun for the audience -- to see one more showdown between Captain America (Chris Evans) and his arch nemesis before Phase 3 comes to a close.
If you want to see that showstopper Soul Stone sequence for yourself, then take a look at CinemaBlend's full review of Avengers: Infinity War and make sure to check it out! The film is doing absolutely insane box office business right now, and we will have to wait and see how the Infinity Stone storyline ultimately pays off Phase 3 when Avengers 4 debuts next year on May 3, 2019.