Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War
Ok so it took me a little while to write this but I did it intentionally…why? Well because you all would have hated me since I cannot see me writing anything about this film without spoilers. So be warned…SPOILER ALERT!
So it has been a decade since Tony Stark first appeared on the large screen exposing us all to what is now the modern comic film. Yes there were plenty of others before Iron Man, but this was the one that stared the Marvel Universe as we know it to day and well has since made DC play catch up. In the last 10 years Marvel has pumped out a total of 18 films for the MCU. The have presented us with a world that has been pretty much ours. Form the first one Iron Man where we see Tony stark for what he is, a billionaire pompous weapons dealer with an ego. Followed by Bruce Banner who is already on the run and popsicle Steve Rogers. We have seen aliens drop out of a hole in the sky, Hydra compromised our military and murderous robots dropped a European city on itself. We have been introduced to real gods, and then they prepped us by finally showing us the greatness that is Wakanda. Marvel has been setting the stage for Infinity War for 10 years; and as I walked into that theater I had my doubts that it would all come together, or at least in a way it would work on film.
Well, they pulled it off!
If I am so bold to say, this is the Empire Strikes Back of the Marvel Cinematic Universe period. Everything they have done as a franchise lands on the heroes’ they have shared with us shoulders and quite heavily. Everything has been built to this, and they somehow make it feel like a story and not a whole mess of fan service thrown together in a comic Jambalaya. I believe that reactions to this film will be different. Most long time fans will walk in thinking they know what is going to happen, that will not be the case. This film is not too concerned about adapting any past takes on Thanos or his quest for the Infinity Stones. Although Thanos still wants to kill half of the universe as in the comics, the reason has been re-imagined, and the version of the characters, the relationships, and the history was been carefully orchestrated over the last decade.
Plot is not what matters here. Broken down to the essentials, you already know the plot. There is a bad guy. He wants to do something. The heroes don’t want him to do the thing. So they all head off in different directions to get the things to stop him, and they have to race the clock to come together and save the day. That’s the plot of every movie like this, and it will likely continue to be the plot of every movie like this. Avengers Infinity War simply does it on a larger scale.
What I found most interesting was how the film managed to make most of its 19 million characters feel essential. Far more of a sequel to Thor:Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 than Black Panther or even the other Avengers films, Avengers Infinity War does a remarkable job of juggling all of the different tones and characters that Marvel has introduced. When we’re in Doctor Strange’s Sanctum, it feels like we’re in Doctor Strange. When we cut to space, it feels like you’re watching Guardians of the Galaxy. The stuff inside Wakanda has its own feel, its own style. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo haven’t just made a Marvel movie that pays full respect to the various characters in it. They’ve also made a Marvel movie that pays tribute to the filmmakers who got them here. It is more than a greatest hits or another crossover. It is a movie that finally pulls back far enough for us to glimpse the full scope of the Marvel Universe that’s been created, even as it is all put to the test.
2018 will be remembered as the year that Marvel nailed the bad guy. First there was Killmonger in Black Panther beautifully written and masterfully played by Michael B. Jordan. What made Killmonger so provocative was how clearly he made the case for his anger. His fury was justified, even if his actions weren’t. Here, Josh Brolin’s Thanos emerges as the most fully-written bad guy any of the Marvel heroes have had to face, and I was surprised by how quickly the performance capture creation of Thanos stopped looking like an effect and started feeling like a performance. Brolin makes a captivating case for the Mad Titan as genuinely believing that killing half of the universe will deliver the other half to a paradise where they no longer have to fight for survival. Because his fight is a righteous one, Thanos is as driven by his own moral compass as the Avengers are, and that’s what makes him especially dangerous. Thanos doesn’t want to rule. He doesn’t want power for the sake of it. He’s not looking for praise or worship. What he wants is simply to redistribute the wealth of the universe through one act of sheer brute force.
It’s strange to think there was a time when playing a superhero was silly, when the entire genre was approached with a good degree of skepticism. The list of actors who are all giving this film everything they’ve got is impressive: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Paul Bettany… at this point, it’s almost impossible to make a film and not have some sort of overlap with someone from the Marvel Universe. Johansson feels like she’s the most short-changed of the longtime franchise regulars here. There’s a quick nod at resolving some of the dangling story threads between her and Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner, but the end of the world hardly seems like the time for them to clarify whether or not they’re dating. Not having powers is one of the things that makes me like Black Widow overall in this series, because she’s putting herself in harm’s way knowing full well that she’s the least equipped person on the battlefield, every single time. She’s long since established herself as loyal and brave and capable, but in some ways, her normalcy is what hinders her in terms of being valuable to the Russos and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
That’s especially true here, because Avengers Infinity War is the most comic booky comic book movie that Marvel has ever attempted, and it’s not a film they could have gotten away with ten years ago. They had to use a decade of these movies to slowly educate the mainstream audience about what kinds of things might happen here, and it feels like they have been saving up moments they could finally drop here. A good portion of the fun simply comes from seeing these characters all finally meet one another. Some of those meetings go well. Others decidedly do not. But because we’ve gotten to know everyone, all of the meetings ring true. In some cases, our knowledge of what’s come before helps set up the reactions the characters have, and in some cases, the characters have been forewarned about each other, leading to fun friction. The honesty of the reactions also extends to the way they fragment the various groups into new configurations. For the most part, it makes sense for characters to end up divided the way they are. It works because it pushes familiar characters into new contexts, and it sets new characters right up against beloved oldies in ways that make them both seem fresh.
As someone who fell head over heels for Spider-Man all those years ago, and who still considers Peter Parker to be the perfect Marvel creation, I was delighted to see how well Spider-Man is used in the film, and how well Tom Holland embodies the character. He continues to be a perfect foil for Robert Downey Jr’s. Tony Stark, and I’m impressed by how well they pay off the storyline about the PTSD that Tony’s been grappling with since the Battle of New York back in the original Avengers film. After all, Stark was our way into this new movie universe in the first place, and it makes sense to keep his emotional journey front and center here. The film also nimbly exploits the bonds between the Guardians of the Galaxy characters and Thanos, and while the Guardians provide some of the film’s biggest laughs, their story arc also provides some of the most difficult, emotional material. I have a soft spot for the Guardians, since they are the Broken Toys of the Marvel universe, the team that shouldn’t work at all, and it feels like the Russos know just how much the emotional well-being of that team matters to us as viewers.
One of the best big action scenes in the film comes early in New York, but every single set piece here offers a wealth of things to love. Seeing the various combinations work together, seeing how they try to problem-solve their way through the sequences, it’s clear that they’ve worked hard to justify every character’s inclusion. The sheer size of the final sequence in Wakanda is too much for all of it to register, and there’s a surprising amount of what feels like The Phantom Menace influence in the way it’s been staged. Even so, the film keeps throwing oversized gauntlet-sized punches right to the end of the closing credits, landing the majority of them. Where I think some mainstream audiences may be confounded is with the way this film closes. It is not a conventional choice, nor will it be a popular choice. But it’s the right choice, and it is a huge provocation. I can’t wait to see Captain Marvel and Ant-Man and the Wasp and see how they play with us as an audience, because one thing’s for sure: Marvel is still just warming up and stretching their legs. By building this world the way they have, and by bringing to life this incredibly deep bench of characters, they have built the single biggest playground in pop culture.
Now in my opinion this is the film that will cement Marvel’s franchise as an eternal Juggernaut, or perhaps make it crumble. I’m cheering for the first choice…even if they did just burn the whole damn thing down.
by Hiram Trillo