Movie Musings - Avengers: Infinity War

Updated: Jul 7



(Marvel Studios, 2018 - Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo)

It’s being called the largest cinematic undertaking of all time, a culmination of every Marvel movie of the last decade and a reset button on the franchise. It’s all those things and more. If you haven’t seen Infinity War yet -- for one, don’t read this first because spoilers abound -- go see it immediately. This is a movie that’s going to be talked about with bated breath for decades to come. You'll wanna say you saw it in theaters first.

It checks all the boxes: It's got high octane action and the kind of visual effects only Disney can give us. It’s got emotional attachment and character development. It’s got a cliff-hanger that still delivers a sense of conclusion.

It lived up to the hype in way that few franchises can. Well played Marvel. Well fucking played.

Below is a list of the things I liked or didn't like about the film, in no particular order. Share this article and comment about what you agree or disagree with!

I'll say it once more, turn back to avoid spoilers!

LIKES

1) This is the story of a... Titan

It’s a bold choice to make the villain the protagonist of an ensemble installment like The Avengers. It’s a choice that pays off.

The Russo Brothers at the helm gave him the biggest story arc and really developed his origins, despite so much else going on in this film. His relationship with Gamora is given some depth and the entire plot of the movie revolves around his mission. We finally got to see the Mad Titan that has been built up across more than five years of Marvel productions.

I will say, however, I wanted to actually see the moment that drove Thanos to his evil worldview. They try to explain with a line of dialogue about his home, Titan, becoming overpopulated, but we still never see the moment that pushed Thanos to seeing non-existence as "mercy." Showing that would have made him an even more sympathetic character.

But that's nitpicking, because such a flashback would have taken precious time and this movie was all about timing.

I certainly left the theater happy, regardless. They did an incredible job with his character and we do see a lot of his development with the film as-is. Watching Thanos just sit back and admire his work at the end was a phenomenal creative choice. When all is said and done, Thanos is just a guy (albeit a purple one) who’s got a fucked up view of the universe. He bleeds, he laughs, he cries, and he takes pride in his work, as evil as it may be.

An aside: the detail that the effects artists managed with the motion capture made the emotion of Josh Brolin’s performance really powerful, adding depth to a villain in a way that some Marvel outings in the past have failed to do (ahem, Ultron…)

2) Pace Yourselves

The pacing was my main concern going into this movie. How are they going to weave so many storylines and characters into a cohesive movie that isn’t boring or mind-numbing?

Somehow, they pulled it off. Infinity War found a way to jam a balance of action and character moments into a film that managed to not feel as long as it is (160 minutes.)

We get a lot of great action interspersed with palate-cleanser moments where we get to see characters interact who have never gotten the chance to before (Stark and Strange!)

They also trusted the audience to know some dynamics already, allowing for emotional exchanges to just play out and not have to be justified within the plot of this 19th installment in the MCU. This is what ultimately makes the numerous losses in the film resonate, some more so than others depending on how many of the 18 other Marvel movies you’ve watched up to this point.

3) Take it back. Take it way, way back.

Infinity War is richly informed by the movies and comics that came before it (except in one glaring case we’ll get to later.) As such, it contains callbacks and surprises from previous movies that we may have forgotten about.

Red Skull is the best example, as he’s sort of a gatekeeper of the Soul Stone. This allows for a cool interaction between a villain from Phase I with an even scarier baddie in Thanos.

In that scene, there was also a PERFECT allusion to Death, who in the comics was an actual character who convinced Thanos to go on this quest. Infinity War doesn’t get into all that weird romance with Death stuff like the comics, but there’s a clear awareness of the backstory and lore surrounding the Mad Titan in general. Plus, the visual payoff of that floating cloaked figure on a staircase is just worth it.

4) The Ending

Anyone who left the theater surprised hasn’t been paying attention.

Everyone knew the stakes were going way up for this movie (this is the turning point for the entire MCU going forward!) and you can’t have thought there weren’t going to be a lot of tough losses.

Yes, losing half of the Avengers in one fell snap was still grand in scope, but it’s about what we should have been prepared for. They talked about Thanos’ fateful snapping of fingers about a thousand times, so we all knew that was going to happen.

This was the Mad Titan’s story and it stands to reason the resolution belongs to him as well.

But let’s be honest, those characters aren’t actually dead -- at least not permanently. We already know the Guardians of the Galaxy are getting a third movie and that Spider-Man and Black Panther are both getting sequels. We also already know that the next Avengers (release date only a year from now!) will continue the story of Infinity War.

So, the choice of who faded out of existence was mainly to counteract the assumption that the OG Avengers would be the ones to croak, allowing the new characters that 2016-2018 gave us to set things right. They instead took out all the new stars, leaving most of the original characters to lead the next charge (and why the HELL did they keep War Machine around?)

The real task is going to be finding a way to reverse the effects of Thanos’ victory in a way that doesn’t take all of the gravity out of Infinity War. There are heroes who were irreversibly killed, like Vision and Loki (hero is a strong word) but those who were victims of the deadly snap are probably hanging out in some alternate reality or trapped in the Infinity Stones themselves.

I don’t envy the task for Marvel, because the instinct is to just reverse time to undo Thanos’ mission. But that's a huge cop-out, especially considering that's how Thanos pulled it off in the first place.

5) Roll Credits

I am a huge advocate of doing away with post credit scenes entirely. They make it harder to get up to empty my bladder once the movie ends because everyone’s knees are still splayed outta their seats. More than that, you get one movie, guys -- say what you need to say during the runtime or find another game to play. Also! YouTube exists, why are you saps sticking around for the after-movie traffic when you can literally look up all the post-credit scenes online?

I digress. This film actually used the post credit scene to its fullest -- more so than other Marvel outings have.

Showing Nick Fury and Maria Hill (hello, more callbacks) reacting to the chaos of half the world fading away adds some gravitas to the climax of the film. It also contains a perfect table-setting for introducing Captain Marvel, which was the logo shown on the pager that Fury drops, in case you didn’t catch it.

This throws a ton of foreshadowing into a short scene. We know that Captain Marvel (by many accounts the strongest Avenger of them all) will play a key role in the next Avengers film. We know that a standalone Captain Marvel movie is slated for March 2019 (starring the incredible Brie Larson) that will be a nice centerpiece to the events of Infinity War.

If you’re asking me, my money’s on the fact that since Captain Marvel gets her powers from the Infinity Stones, she could reverse the effects of the Soul Stone the same way Scarlet Witch could destroy and alter the Mind Stone in Vision's forehead (Because she got her own powers from that Stone.)

6) Let them act!

What really sells this film is the emotional stakes. To do that you need believable emotions.

Not to say that previous films haven’t given actors room to shine, but too often these big-budget effects movies (Marvel’s included) just treat them as green screen props.

The payoff of not doing that in this film is the reason why we heard sniffles all around the auditorium when people started to crumble before our eyes. We really feel for our heroes as they fade away, not to mention the ones left behind to mourn them.

Furthermore, we don’t get the same types of sorrow throughout the film. Star Lord is blinded by rage at the loss of Gamora. Thanos is beset by solemn resolve. Okoye is shocked and baffled at the sudden loss of her king. Tony Stark is shattered and broken by not being able to protect Peter Parker.

You get the point. They are all stellar performances.

DISLIKES

1) Was there a point to Captain America: Civil War? Other than badass fight scenes, that is.

This is the question everyone is grappling with. Civil War was a good Marvel movie, don’t get me wrong, but what did it really accomplish in terms of overall franchise arc?

I was hoping Infinity War would hit the ball that Civil War teed up, showing us that leftover strife caused from heroes taking up against heroes.

Infinity War tries but never capitalizes. We get a couple of scenes where Iron Man and Cap talk about the hard feelings and then… well, nothing. There’s not much consequence resulting from the last ensemble outing, they all just band together again like heroes do.

That’s what should happen, obviously, in an Avengers movie -- but because the story keeps key characters separate throughout and has so much else going on, we don’t get to actually grapple much with the aftermath of Civil War.

The result is the feeling that Civil War was kind of a blip in the larger Avengers saga, mostly used as a way to introduce Spider-Man and Black Panther. That may be good enough for you, and if so, that’s fine. But for me, the massive weight of that movie was that the Avengers split up. But clearly that didn’t happen so… what?

This film says, “Because, Thanos,” which is valid. But let's see more of the division first.

This may well be picked up again in Avengers 4 (as-yet-untitled) next year, but I really felt left hanging as we move on to the bigger fight in Infinity War.

2) The Stormbreaker Plot

This an area I may get shit for talking shit. I wasn’t a fan of this plotline.

First of all, how dare they put Peter Dinklage in such a dumb role. It’s too jarring and underwritten. The only thing I could think about as I watched is a joke about his character being giant when in life he’s a little person. Then, they gave him nothing interesting to say, save for one cheap laugh.

This isn’t Peter Dinklage’s fault by any means, it’s a directorial and writing choice that they didn't develop. A lot of people I’ve talked to liked this sequence. But if we’re being honest, it was included as a way for the audience to say, “Hey look, it’s Tyrion Lannister… but he’s big,” and not much else.

Next, no one seems to be able to decide how strong Thor is. We see him already beaten to shit in the opening scene of the movie, no match for Thanos. Okay, cool, so that sets up the need to forge a new god weapon. Then he survives a blast from a star by himself and this seems to unravel the premise. And wasn’t the whole theme of last year’s Ragnarok that Thor was strong enough without a weapon? Pick a motif and stick with it.

Lastly, since when is Groot’s body so indestructible? I know the twig man’s survived a lot, but Groot is still made of simple wood. It’s not, like, indestructible wood or anything.

That same wood that blew up in the first GOTG and is constantly getting shot up by guns is able to withstand a molten god metal and become Stormbreaker’s handle? Why, how, and what’s the point? It wasn't that way in any comic I know of and it just doesn’t make enough sense to justify that choice.

The weapon itself is crazy cool and definitely makes an impact, but this was far and away the weakest side plot in the film. With so many creative choices to make in a film of this magnitude, one storyline was bound to be shitty. Too bad it was the God of Thunder’s.

3) Bruce Banner

Since I gushed about the acting and character opportunities in this movie, let me point out the exception to the rule. They finally gave Mark Ruffalo an entire movie as Bruce Banner and all they used him for was comic relief. BORING!

They even had all the pieces there to do something interesting with his character: A power struggle with his green alter ego, him being the messenger of Thanos’ coming, a reunion with Black Widow. With all those pieces, the most they had him do was, “Derp, this Hulkbuster suit’s cool!”

This is by no means a reflection on Ruffalo, who’s a steller actor. No, much like Dinklage, they just didn’t write the part well.

I’ll bet what happened is they decided that since Hulk wasn’t making a full appearance, we didn’t care about his character. But it was the opposite. This was the film to reinstate Bruce Banner as a key member of the team after years apart, especially after the Hulk-centric plot of Thor:Ragnarok. Instead, he’s just background noise in this movie.

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