We’re ten years into the Marvel Cinematic Universe now, and during that time, we’ve been introduced to a wide range of colorful and lovable individuals all over the place. Some of them have met before in larger team-up movies, while others have stuck to their own small scale movies and have never even heard of the Avengers. But Infinity War promised to be the one to finally bring them all together – everyone who’s been introduced in the past decade was finally going to be in the same movie together. It promised to be like an epic, explosive series finale for the whole franchise, when everything came to a head. And you know what, that’s pretty much exactly what it is.
If you want a definitive ending, you’ll probably have to wait for the fourth Avengers movie, which will be coming out just next year (as opposed to the three we’ve had to wait since Age of Ultron), since there aren’t too many loose ends tied up here and the ending asks way more questions than it answers. However, there are some huge moments that will echo throughout the MCU going forward. Kevin Feige has already warned fans that whoever dies in the movie will stay dead for good. Thanos himself even makes a meta reference to this at the very beginning when he says, “No resurrections this time.”
So, one big question among fans was that of who would get the chop. Luckily, the movie doesn’t end with Thanos lining up the Avengers and taking one of them down with his baseball bat in a P.O.V. shot (that’s a Walking Dead reference). We know who dies – there’s no ambiguity or teasing – and the writers’ choices were very interesting, because they weren’t any of the most widely predicted deaths. But also, the character deaths felt more like they were just cleaning up the overstuffed cast by cutting out anyone who was uninteresting or non-essential or overdone. Still, there are a few that are shocking or tug at the heartstrings, so be prepared for that.
– Did it live up to the hype?
Well, yes and no. Of course, it’s fun to see everyone meet up with each other in the first hour or so of the movie. With almost a hundred different superheroes across the whole universe, it would’ve been impossible to get them all together in the same place in the same scene at the same time. They wouldn’t all fit in the frame, there wouldn’t be any focus – it would all just suck. So, it was a smart move not to even attempt that and to keep them separate in different handfuls of people across the cosmos, occasionally ducking in and out of the different groups to help the plot to advance. In other words, the writers have given the narrative priority over making sure certain characters meet – and that was a smart decision.
These groups seem to have been pulled out of a hat to get three random bunches of characters together, each led by Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man (i.e. the three most important and popular Avengers who have been there since the beginning), respectively. But somehow, it all works! The writers made these groups bounce off of each other and advance the narrative in very exciting and inventive ways. For example, man of science Iron Man is at odds with man of faith Doctor Strange, while Peter Parker gets a chance to develop his surrogate father-son relationship with Stark. And that’s just one example of how these characters relate to one another.
– Inorganic plot development lets Infinity War down
Unfortunately, the movie relies a little too heavily on coincidences to get these characters together. Hulk falls from the middle of outer space and lands very conveniently in Doctor Strange’s house. I mean, for him to land in New York alone would be an amazing coincidence, but literally in the guy’s house? That’s a step too far out of reality, even for this universe. And Thor just happens to land on the Guardians of the Galaxy’s windshield while he’s floating through space.
But these are minor gripes, because once these characters are all together, the plot really opens up. Once Thor meets up with the Guardians, he develops an immediate partnership with Rocket (who he continually calls a rabbit – it’s a bit of a running gag). Thor always seems to have an endearing sidekick in some form or another. And watching Peter Quill’s ego and Tony Stark’s ego clash is always a delight. Certain things are forgotten about, like War Machine and the Falcon are friends again, all of a sudden, and the fact that the latter disabled the former by getting him shot out of the sky in an intense battle is just swept under the rug and left unmentioned.
– The action is phenomenal
There have been some really great action sequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They have the perfection combination of money and talent to create stunning, action-packed spectacles for their audiences to feast their eyes on. Among the best of the bunch have been the fight between Captain America and Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk in the gladiatorial arena, the Battle of New York, T’Challa’s fight for his throne, Iron Man and War Machine fending off drones – and of course, that intense airport battle in Civil War.
But the final battle sequence in Infinity War, on the battlefields of Wakanda, may just be the most spectacular and exciting and beautifully staged action sequence to feature in any of the past decade of Marvel movies. The stakes are extremely high, the odds are stacked against the Avengers, the camera angles vary from wide shots to show just how terrifying the threat is and closeups that show us the nitty gritty of what being amid this chaos is actually like for the individuals involved. The Russos have basically given us a battle scene to rival those of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s amazing!
– The character arcs are a mixed bag – but Hulk’s is great!
With the MCU movies featuring a bunch of characters, everyone has to have their own character arc to give them some internal and external conflict. Peter Parker’s is great, as he realizes he’s bitten off more than he can chew by making the transition from protecting his little neighborhood in Queens to trying to save the whole universe. Doctor Strange’s motivations are kept hidden at times – and his feelings about the Time Stone change radically at the drop of a dime – but that will probably all get explained in Avengers 4. But the arc of Thor’s character from a broken man who has lost everything (his family, his home, his eye, his hammer etc.) to a badass warrior who has nothing to lose is a joy to watch. Captain America has gotten darker and more grizzled in his time off the grid – and his character has never been better! He has a beard, he doesn’t mind bending the rules, he beats up whoever he wants and doesn’t bat an eye – mountain man Cap is the best!
The Bruce Banner/Hulk storyline was interesting. Normally, when the Hulk is up on the silver screen, his character arc is the Jekyll and Hyde struggle that the two share in the effort to balance their existence within one body. However, usually, that struggle is Banner trying to reclaim his life as a human from the Hulk, and this time, he’s desperately trying to get the Hulk to come out and fight so he can join the battle, but he won’t! It was a nice subversion of a story we’ve seen a bunch of different time, and as a nice bonus, it also gave the great and usually underutilized Mark Ruffalo a chance to actually act without a blue leotard and ping pong balls all over his body.
Now, with Thanos finally taking center stage, the MCU had the chance to fix its villain problem (aside from Kilgrave and Loki, none of them are particularly special or memorable). The Russo brothers’ intentions with Thanos were to make him the new Darth Vader as far as iconic cinematic bad guys are remembered. With the real Vader, George Lucas introduced him as pure, faceless evil, but developed him by bringing his family into it and showing that he actually does have a moral compass and is capable of redemption. The sheer power and evil of Thanos is introduced in the first couple of minutes of the movie. This is a good way to demonstrate just how strong a villain is. Infinity War picks up where the post-credits scene of Thor: Ragnarok with Thanos’ ship decimating Thor’s, and within moments, Thanos has beaten the crap out of the Hulk! That’s when we realize just how ominous this threat is. But Thanos is even worse than Vader, because he’s willing to make certain sacrifices for the sake of power that even Vader wouldn’t make, and yet his soft side does come through sometimes which keeps him grounded like our favorite Sith Lord (although it could’ve been handled with a little more subtlety – he literally breaks down crying at one point before doing his most horrifying deed).
Vision’s character arc is one of the points where the movie suffers. It seems like too much screen time is dedicated to him, especially since he hardly does anything. He has one of the Infinity Stones in his head, so Thanos is after him, but the movie never lets him be a part of the action at all, and when he does get a couple of seconds to shine, he only uses his fists and has to be saved. This is Vision! He’s one of the most powerful characters in a movie with like 70 superpowered characters and he never gets to use them! Vision is not that interesting of a character as he is, so aside from the practical reasoning, some action would have at least made his scenes more exciting.
– This so-called ‘finale’ asks more questions than it answers
Marvel and the movie’s producers have removed “Part 1” from the title of Infinity War and withheld the new title of the next one altogether for the time being in order to get the message across that they are both standalone stories. They are not a first and second part of the same story. That’s what they wanted to tell people. So, then why does this one end with the mother of all cliffhangers? It feels an awful lot like the first part of a larger story, with a problem with a lot of MCU movies – they’re either the first part of a big story or a bridge between two other stories, and we still don’t have any definitive conclusions.
There’s nothing wrong with cliffhanger endings if they’re excited (and there’s probably never been a cliffhanger ending that leaves the stakes so high or packs as much of the shock factor as this one), but the only problem is, this isn’t TV. We don’t just have to wait until next week to find out what happens – we have to wait until next year! But at the end of the day, this is a small, nit-picky problem. It’ll keep us excited all year, guessing what the answers to all our burning questions are going to be, and the movie has enough going for it – the cast, the action sequences, the character dynamics – that it is still a satisfying experience and still feels like the culmination of everything that has come before it. This is the most important film in the MCU so far, so be sure to check it out. In fact, there is so much brilliant stuff packed in here that you’ll probably need to watch it a few times.
Also, if you’re looking forward to next year’s Captain Marvel or even if you’re just a fan of Nick Fury and miss his presence in the MCU, stick around for the post-credits scene (there’s only one this time) for an exciting teaser!