Hoo Boy. let’s do this. BEWARE SPOILERS!
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Overview: Thanos rampages across the galaxy collecting the Infinity stones, and Earth’s greatest heroes must set aside their differences and come together to stop him and his army before he assembles all five of the gems and gains the power to control reality.
Seeing as how this movie’s main cast stretches into the double digits, I’m really impressed that they managed to balance all the characters fairly evenly. Some characters get more action than others, but everyone gets good moments.
There’s a great blend of humor and drama, though I will say that the film’s very nature keeps the ending from hitting as hard as it should. We know there’s going to be a part two, and we know that there are planned films featuring characters who die down the road, so the really emotional beats at the end feel more like a, “Come back next time to learn how this all gets fixed” rather than a shocking, “What? They died!?” moment.
The cliffhanger is genuinely a really good one, probably one of the best cliffhangers to show up in a long time. Kudos to the producers for taking such a bold approach.
I’m also really impressed with how the script balances all the threads it’s juggling. It never really drowns the audience in exposition, assuming that they’ve all seen the films that lead up to it.
Up until this point, the MCU has operated in two separate worlds, the technologically enhanced version of Earth where holograms and transparent cell phones are the norm, and the technicolor world of space where wacky aliens and big bads in enormous ships do their thing.
The Guardians of the Galaxy films and Thor: Ragnarok had a much goofier and more colorful aesthetic than grittier earth-based films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Black Panther, but Infinity War does a great job of bringing those two worlds together in a way that make sense. We get plenty of sweeping alien vistas as well as lots of Earth locales, but nothing feels rehashed or familiar. We visit Wakanda again, which is always fantastic, but I like how this film takes the action into a more open natural setting rather than the urban destruction we’ve seen so much of already. It feels fresh and visually interesting.
Also, the score is one of the best in the series. The themes all come and go, signalling each hero or group, but the new Thanos themes have all kinds of impact, especially in the end. The end credits (which against form, are played as simple white words against a black background rather than a visual spectacle of iconography and animation) feature very little in the way of heroic fanfare. It’s a funeral dirge, and it just slaps the audience in the face with the inevitability of what just happened. I love how the music is used.
The Villain: 9/10
Thanos is a legitimately well-written villain, and I like how the script devotes a great deal to his arc, to the point where he feels more like the main character and everyone else are supporting players.
There are a few beats to his character that feel either poorly developed or dependent on more information that we don’t yet have. The main one is his relationship with Gamora. I just can’t believe that he truly loved her to the point where her sacrifice meant anything at all to him. Perhaps she reminds him of someone he lost long ago, and his love for that person is transferred to Gamora to the point where his killing of her is enough to merit getting the soul stone.
Either way, it’s not clear why he felt so drawn to her as a child and why she became so meaningful to her when her sister Nebula holds so little meaning to him that he would violently torture her to convince Gamora to tell him what she knows. A man who is willing to torture his daughters and then kill one to feed his own ambition would have a hard time feeling any real remorse, but he acts as though he’s given up something meaningful to him. I feel like there’s another part of his character we’re not seeing yet. I haven’t read the comics, so I’m not sure where this is heading, but I’m curious to see how Endgame (the rumored title of the next Avengers film) deepens his character.
There are plenty of spectacular explosions, and they are all absolutely essential to the story.
Favorite Explosion: Not really an explosion per se, but the reignition of the dead star so Thor could forge his new weapon was AWESOME.
I literally cheered (quietly) when Thor made his heroic return to Earth armed with his new axe.
The Hero’s Journey: 7/10
*takes a deep breath*
Let’s start with the characters who grow or change.
Thor’s redemption arc is wonderful. He gets his weapon back (after his hammer was destroyed) and he finds himself the last member of a rabidly dwindling race. He is motivated and optimistic, but he still addresses the great tragedy that he’s faced. His conversation about how everyone in his family is dead with Rocket is perfect. It’s emotional, but he keeps trying to brush it all off.
Dr. Strange has probably the hardest decision to make. He knows how they can defeat Thanos (it was only one out of 14 billion possibilities) but in doing so, he has to give the time stone to him. I totally believed him when he said that he would let Tony or Peter die to protect the stone, so his giving up the stone to save Tony means that Iron Man is an essential part of defeating Thanos down the road.
Tony Stark is very much still the conscience of the group, so I like how most of his inner conflict comes from his desire to fix things on his own, coming to realize after the fact that he can’t do anything without others. His acceptance of his death up until Strange trades his life for the time stone is a really powerful moment because I expected him to not survive that at all. He doesn’t have much of an arc, per se, but his characterization si strong and we’re given a lot of insight into his mindset.
I like how, after being trapped in permanent Hulk mode for so long, Bruce Banner has a hard time getting Hulk to come back. He’s no longer an uncontrolled aspect of his personality, he’s a true alter ego who can choose when to manifest. This means that Bruce is much more in control of his own emotions, but he’s weaker in times of crisis. So we get to see Bruce solving problems with his mind rather than surrendering to the Hulk when he needs something smashed.
This is definitely Peter Parker’s greatest challenge. He finds himself completely out-classed, and he keeps turning to Tony as a father figure, but Tony ultimately isn’t able to save Peter, which leads to one of the film’s most heart-wrenching scenes where a dissolving Peter is clutching at Tony, begging him to save him even though Tony has no idea how to do anything useful.
Vision also has a great arc since his entire existence stems from an infinity stone, so his life is in danger moreso than anyone else. I like how he is probably one of the most powerful Avengers, but he is the most vulnerable of the bunch. His ultimate death (both of them) is harrowing.
The rest of the cast isn’t given a whole lot to do, sadly.
Captain America does make his homecoming, but there’s no real consequences to his doing so aside from his call with Ross. It’s not like he would choose not to help if there was a need, so there’s not a whole lot of conflict with him. Though I will say that the dark hair/beard combo is a VERY good look for Steve.
Black Panther is TRAGICALLY underused. He has a great entrance when they go to Wakanda, obviously, but I’m super mad that he’s sidelined a much as he is during the fighting. Sure he fights, but he’s always in the background like Falcon in Civil War. His movie is still in theaters making tons of money, and I wish he was a more integral part of the script. I know the script couldn’t give equal time to everyone, but he DESERVES to be an essential part of the story.
The Guardians of the Galaxy are mostly comic relief except for Rocket, who has that great scene with Thor, and Gamora, who is essential to the plot as Thanos’ daughter. Gamora and Thanos’ interactions and relationship are given a lot of time, even though I feel like there’s an element missing from it, as I said. Groot is strictly a background character aside from one moment where he contributes (an arm) to the plot. Peter Quill is pretty much only there to be a foil for Tony, but he isn’t given much of an arc at all. Drax is…well Drax. Mantis has a cool moment where she tries to subdue Thanos, but that’s about all she has to do.
Black Widow, War Machine, Falcon, and Winter Soldier are basically just there in the background with maybe a few lines each. Sigh.
And…*lip quivers* I don’t want to talk about Loki…
But I know it will be OK eventually. It has to be.
Part 2 is on its way!
Score and Rank
- Black Panther (50/50)
- Captain America: Civil War (49/50)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (46/50)
- The Avengers (45/50)
- Avengers: Infinity War (44/50) A top 5 contender! Nicely done. Hopefully part two will eventually fill this spot.
- Iron Man (43/50)
- Thor: Ragnarok (43/50)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (43/50)
- Doctor Strange (42/50)
- Iron Man 3 (42/50)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (41/50)
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (41/50)
- Captain America: The First Avenger (40/50)
- Thor (39/50)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (39/50)
- Ant-Man (38/50)
- Thor: The Dark World (36/50)
- The Incredible Hulk (34/50)
- Iron Man 2 (33/50)
Next up, we’ll be returning to Spielberg By Numbers with The Post