Well this is the big one. The one we’ve all been waiting for, the film teased and hinted at, the payoff to a long, long ten year build up. Infinity War is finally in theaters, and I’m here to talk about it. Usually when I review these films I give little spoiler disclaimers. The more I think about Infinity War the more I realize I can’t really say anything about the film without telling you far too much about the plot. If you’re like me you’d like to know as little as possible, simply that Thanos is coming and every available super hero has to do what they can to stop him.
So I had to sleep on this movie, and thanks to a long discussion about it I’m more and more convinced that this is probably the best Marvel movie yet made. That’s a statement I don’t like to make immediately after seeing a movie, considering there’s about 18 or so Marvel movies so far and I’ve seen about 15 of them more than once. Ten years of these films has conditioned me to some degree. I know more or less what to expect. The formula is usually: 1. Opening fight scene establishing powers/bad-ass-ness. 2. Character building including at least one shirtless scene with our hero. 3. Oh wow (insert villain) is way more powerful than we thought. 4. Giant CGI fight with massive destruction of property which may or may not contain generic space bugs.
Infinity War sidesteps a few of these cliches mercifully. We actually miss the opening fight scene. The film opens with Thor’s ship carrying Asgardians already destroyed. We get a little of Hulk vs. Thanos and Loki doing Loki things but the main battle happens off-screen. I also counted zero scenes of shirtless super heroes showing off their god-like physiques. That doesn’t mean there isn’t the character developing part of the film, but this is so brief for the most part. We’re tying up loose ends and so much time is spent going back and forth between heroes that we’re left with mostly all killer and no filler. The only character who is really developed in this film is Thanos.
I nearly pissed myself at the end of Avengers when Thanos appeared post-credits. Guardians of the Galaxy has more Thanos but off camera and in shadows, but this is the payoff. To take ten years in a film plot and to have this character show up 6 years after his first post-credit tease is an exercise in patience. When I saw CGI Josh Brolin in promo stills looking like a mix between a buff Grimace and a California Raisin I was a little worried. Much to my delight about 2 minutes into the movie this bothered me not. This was Thanos, sure slightly modified from his classic comic look, but the Thanos I grew up with and my favorite villain brought to life.
|So much gold in this scene|
It was hard to even personally describe my level of anticipation for this film. Sure I’ve been dreaming of the day they made a movie where Thanos gets the Infinity Gauntlet and fights the entire universe since I was probably 9 or 10, but I know the hard lesson of tempering expectations. Marvel movies in particular have been solid and enjoyable but seem incapable of going all out. This film does go all out, in a way that shatters the cinematic universe without making us feel like they’re just endlessly setting up the next chapter. Sure this film does leave you thinking more has to come, but there is a finality to it. Also (SUPER SPOILER PLEASE STOP READING EVEN THOUGH I ALREADY WARNED YOU) Thanos wins. He gets all the stones and he totally does wipe out half of the population of the universe.
This alone is very new territory for the MCU and the one significant deviation from the formula. The bad guy wins, not everybody bands together and defeats the evil doer through teamwork or believing in themselves or whatever. Sure there is a second Infinity War film that should come out next year, but this is the first self contained film where the heroes most definitely lose. Towards the end as half of our heroes started to disappear, I began passing my own judgement on each character. It was somewhat morbid to look at each hero and think, how do I feel about them disintegrating?
This does come with a grain of salt. In comic books dead people rarely stay dead, and in the MCU it is probably no different. I have no doubt that the second Infinity War movie will bring back our missing super heroes, but rarely has a Marvel movie ended with heroes staying dead. There is precedent though in the last couple of releases. *More spoilers for other Marvel movies if you aren’t caught up* In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Yondu dies. In Thor: Ragnarorok Sif, Odin, and a whole bunch of people die and stay dead. In Black Panther Killmonger dies but it isn’t exactly too rare for a villain to die at the end of a movie. We also had Quicksilver get the Joss Whedon treatment in Age of Ultron, but for the most part it's a bullshit cop-out like Nick Fury in Winter Soldier.
So again you always have to wonder when someone dies if they’re really going to stay dead. There is a great line when Thor is mourning the death of Loki and mentions it isn’t the first time he’s died. Loki, Heimdall, Vision, and Gamora are the casualties who aren’t part of Thanos’s final solution half the population plan. It will be interesting to see whether or not those characters wind up staying dead. The fact that there is a third Guardians of the Galaxy film planned makes me think something has to change because that team was left a little depleted at the end of this film.
Now enough about death lets get into the film itself. The Russo brothers handled this quite well, and they showed in Civil War that they are adept at incorporating multiple heroes together. Whereas that film seemed to have questionable motivation with everybody just punching their disagreements away, they were much more united here. There wasn’t any sitting it out nonsense that you often get in these films when some character decides it isn’t their fight only to show up last second like they were bailing out Jon Snow. They did rather quickly explain why Hawkeye and Ant-Man didn’t sign on to appear in this film, but considering how little either character was missed it doesn’t really matter. However their reference to Ant-Man made me feel like I missed something, which might explain why the upcoming Ant-Man and Wasp movie is supposed to take place before this film.
|So this shot is totally not in the movie|
I was trying to think of my minor complaints and other than massive faceless CGI space bugs, the only one I really had leaving the theater was the repetitive nature of Thanos acquiring the stones. Basically he just tortured someone until someone else gave up their stone. Loki hands his over pretty easily, the Collector didn’t or couldn’t put up much of a fight, Gamora gives him the location of the soul stone after he tortures Nebula, and the most perplexing at the time was Dr. Strange giving up the time stone to save Tony Stark. The last one at the time angered me because it’s so unlike Dr. Strange and made no sense until I thought about it. Earlier we saw Dr. Strange run through all the possible outcomes and said only one would work. At first we’re lead to believe it is the plan that backfires when Quill loses his shit over Thanos killing Gamora. The only way it makes sense that he would give up the stone so easily to spare Tony is because THAT is the one outcome where they win. For some reason Thanos needs all the stones, Dr. Strange needs to die, and Tony Stark at least needs to survive. I anticipate this is going to be a payoff in the next film and helped turn my only real complaint into a positive.
Often times when dealing with an ensemble cast you might find yourself waiting for them to hurry up and get back to a more interesting sub-plot. It’s one of the things that can make the pacing in a show like Game of Thrones a little tedious. Here however it felt like the opposite. I didn’t seem to want them to cut away from anyone. There were moments that surprised me just how much I liked them. When Vision and Scarlet Witch are fighting in Scotland, the shot of Captain America behind the train gave me chills. Didn’t think I’d give a shit if Captain America showed up, but damn was that effective. Unlike The Last Jedi which felt like a chore full of unnecessary subplots designed to make the movie longer, this film flew by at 2 hours and 40 minutes.
I’m not sure if this is a complaint or not, but I don’t know how this film works for people who haven’t seen the rest of the MCU. It’s easy for me to get on board with this movie because of my investment in all of the characters. If I was coming into this cold without any prior knowledge it might be a bit baffling and the running time would either seem grossly insignificant or far too long. So it is interesting to think how I would react to the film particularly if I was coming at it from a comic standpoint. I’ve read Infinity Guantlet several times as well as Thanos’ Quest and I’ve learned enough from these films to take them as a separate entity. Again though I can’t really put myself in the shoes of someone who isn’t familiar with these films. I can say this film is entertaining on it’s own merits but much more so if you are caught up with what’s going on.
For a bit of randomness I’d like to list some of my favorite scenes.
1. Star Lord lowering his voice to sound like Thor, and them comparing their complicated family situation.
2. Spider Man and Star Lord discussing Footloose and the Guardians thinking Kevin Bacon is a real super hero.
3. Spider Man assuming Dr. Strange was a made up name.
4. That aforementioned sweet Cap reveal, and the later scene where he and Thor compare beards.
5. Thanos messing with the reality stone.
6. Fucking Red Skull, how random and awesome?
7. The absence of Hawkeye
8. Thor showing up in Wakanda with Stormbringer
9. Star Lord's joke about serving Jesus.
|The original ending|
Now seeing this in Oakland meant that there was quite the thunderous applause when they eventually make it to Wakanda. Conversely there were some people who didn’t want to accept T’Challa being one of the super heroes to vanish. In general though the crowd for this film was loud and kinda stupid so it was occasionally distracting. There was a decent amount of laughter intentional or not, which makes me look forward to watching this again either in a much less crowded theater or in the comfort of my own home in a few months. This definitely was a different experience than seeing Black Panther, which we watched at the same theater. Black Panther worked partially because it stood on it’s own. We didn’t really need to see Civil War to know about the character, and everything wrapped up somewhat nicely. This film obviously lacks some of the cultural significance of BP, but as a well rounded overall film there is really no comparison. This is the Marvel movie we’ve all been waiting for and god damn did it deliver.