Well, folks. Here we are. The first half of the culmination of the mad experiment that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe has arrived in the form of Avengers: Infinity War. After ten years and nineteen movies we’re nearing a sort of conclusion to this insane serialized story. Thing won’t really reach their crescendo until next year when we get to see whatever they have in store for us in the next Avengers film, but we’re certainly starting to get an idea. And it may not be pretty. I’ve been a mark for these MCU films since the very beginning, and it’s been a fascinating experience watching this universe evolve over the past decade. I’ve always been a fan of superheroes, and Marvel was my particular brand. So, to see a series of films that unabashedly loved these stories and heroes in the way that I did, telling their stories in ways that honored their comic book roots while innovating and using the tropes of the genre to tackle some rather insightful topics that you may not expect them to examine. I know some people haven’t clicked with these films, seeing them as hollow excuses for marketing. But, personally, they’ve almost all worked. They’re light and fun blockbusters that use that easily digestible format to examine some core human themes like family, hope, heroism, purpose, and duty. We’ve grown to love these characters, seeing them as figures of perseverance, true heroes who are willing to sacrifice themselves in order to protect the innocent. And its all been leading up to this. Now, personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the character Thanos, but it’s hard to deny the logic in making him the endgame for this series. He, and his Infinity Stones, served as perfect MacGuffins to tie these disparate heroes together over the years, giving them a common threat in which to finally be wrapped together. They’ve spent ten years establishing that any one of these Stones will be powerful enough to revolve a whole film around, so what’s going to happen when all six are involved? Well, it’s pretty insane. Now, I’m planning on diving deep into this film in this article, so if you have any desire to remain unspoiled I highly recommend seeing the film before reading about it. This movie goes to some pretty crazy places and keeping them a secret for others is going to be difficult, but it’s well worth it to see the film as fresh as possible.
Infinity War pick up directly after the events of Thor: Ragnarok, with Thanos’ ship assaulting the surviving Asgardians. Thanos himself, along with his personal group of killers, attack the Asgardians, defeating Hulk and Thor, killing Heimdall and countless Asgardians, and taking Loki hostage. Thanos has already acquired the Power Stone from Xandar, and now wants the Space Stone, which Loki has in the form of the Tesseract. Loki attempts to screw Thanos over to save Thor, but ends up being killed in the process, giving Thanos exactly what he wanted. But, right before Thanos destroys the Asgardian ship Heimdall is able to use the last of his powers to send the Hulk careening through space, hurtling back to Earth. He crashes into the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange, reverting back to Bruce Banner in time to tell Strange and Wong what is going on. Unfortunately, Banner wasn’t able to get there much faster than Thanos’ men. Two of his soldiers, the brutish Black Dwarf and the telekenetic Ebony Maw arrive on Earth to take the Time Stone from Strange. Their appearance draws the attention of Iron Man and Spider-Man who both come to the aid of Strange, fighting off the villains while Banner fails to become he Hulk again. It’s a hard-fought battle, but the Maw ends up succeeding, and captures Strange. Strange, Iron Man, and Spider-Man end up inside the Maw’s ship, heading to Thano’s home-world of Titan, and after a brief fight that kills the Maw, the trio decide to continue on the path, and attempt to get the best of Thanos on his home turf.
Meanwhile, the Guardians of the Galaxy respond to the distress signal of the Asgardians, only to find the ship destroyed with only one survivor. Thor himself. They pull him aboard their ship and he explains what’s going on. The Guardians realize that Thanos is now the most dangerous being in the universe, and agree to split up. Rocket, Groot, and Thor head to an ancient Dwarven forge to create Thor a new weapon that will be capable of killing Thanos while Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis head to Knowhere to get the Reality Stone from the Collector where the Asgardians left it. However, when they get to Knowhere they find themselves too late. Thanos is there, he’s killed the Collector, and has gotten the Stone. And, when he finds Gamora, he realizes he has a source to the only unknown Stone. He knows that Gamora once found the location of the Soul Stone, and kidnaps her from the rest of the Guardians to find it, leaving them no choice but to also head to Titan. Thor, Rocket, and Groot though do manage to find their way to the Dwarven forge, and work together with the Dwarf Eitri to create Thor a new ax, the Stormbreaker. But, while all of this is going on Thanos and Gamora arrive at the planet that contains the Soul Stone, which she was initially reluctant to do until he threatens to kill her sister Nebula. And, once arriving on the planet of the Soul Stone, and after random meeting the Red Skull who was apparently teleported here by the Space Stone as punishment, Thanos finds that the only way to acquire the Soul Stone is by killing the thing that means the most to him. So, to fulfill what he thinks is his purpose, he kills his favorite “daughter,” Gamora, and acquires the Soul Stone.
Back on Earth, a group of heroes including Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, and Scarlet Witch face off against the rest of Thanos’ minions before realizing that they’re after the Mind Stone, which is in Vision’s head. But, some research makes them realize that Scarlet Witch’s powers could be capable to destroying the Mind Stone, they just need to get it off Vision without killing him. So, the group head to Wakanda to get the help of Black Panther’s sister Shuri, who does seem confident that she can remove the Stone. But, Thanos’ soldiers find Wakanda, and it becomes the final stand as our heroes and the Wakandans fight against the hordes of Thanos. But, while all of this is going on we find what’s left of the Guardians and the heroes who were aboard the Maw’s ship meeting on Titan. They devise a plan and wait for Thanos to arrive for the Soul Stone. And it almost works. They engage in a powerful fight, and manage to subdue Thanos, almost pulling the Gauntlet from his hand. But, in the process Star Lord learns that Thanos has killed Gamora, and loses his cool. Thanos takes advantage of that anger, and ends up breaking his bind, defeating the heroes, and taking the Time Stone from Strange. Thanos then teleports back to Earth, ready to take the final Stone. The heroes fight against Thanos and his army, including Thor, Rocket, and Groot who arrive with the new weapon. Thanos fight the heroes, and ends up arriving just too late. The Scarlet Witch destroys the Mind Stone, and kills the Vision. However, Thanos is now the wielder of the Time Stone, and he uses it to rewind time and get the Stone from vision before it can be destroyed. And, just like that, Thanos has become the most powerful being in the universe. The heroes attempt to fight him, and Thor is even able to deal a seemingly mortal wound to him. But, Thanos is still able to fulfill his quest. He uses the Gauntlet to kill half of the sentient life in the universe, including quite a few of our heroes, and teleports himself away to another world, pleased in his success.
Going into this film, I had some expectations. I kind of assumed I knew hat this film was going to do. And, for the most part, I was wrong. I never thought that this film would end with the famous snapping of the fingers, I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to pull off the staggering amount of interpersonal relationships that would be presented in the story, and I had dire concerns that they’d never be able to make Thanos the slightest bit interesting. And, here I am, having been proven wrong on every single one of those counts. The odds that this film would have worked seem astronomically low, and yet, they succeeded. It’s an enormous and action-packed film that lets each of the characters behave in the way that you’d want them to while being as emotional, funny, and clever as we want them to be. No character gets short shrift in this film, they’re all given the characterization that you’d expect them to, and it all comes together far better than you’d ever think it would. It’s not perfect. By no means is it perfect. It suffers from a lot of narrative glut that somehow manages to feel both rushed and plodding at times. It really is the cinematic equivalent of a big comic book event. For better or for worse. But, I think it’s mostly for better. There’s more to this movie that I enjoyed that has an issue with, and it overall worked like gangbusters for me. It’s hard to believe that they pulled it off, and that they made it end in such an incredibly bleak manner. I mean, it’s obvious that by the next film Thanos’ evil machinations will be reversed, more than likely almost everyone who died in this film will be revived, and order will be brought back to the Marvel Universe. Who knows if they’ll have a complete wipe like in the comic that this is all loosely based on, reverting things to the way they were right before the film even began so that it will essentially never have happened. But, it’s clear that at least some of it will be undone. Which can make the stakes a little hard to deal with. It is interesting that we have all of our original Avengers ready to go into the final film, having wiped away only the folks who have arrived after the first Avengers movie, ready to close things out with a bang. So, while this movie will possibly be outshone by its second half, there’s no denying that this movie is going to take a very odd and unique place in the history of the MCU. It’s the darkest moments, all perpetrated by a surprisingly well-executed villain.
There’s a thought process that villains so often seem to have in stories that can be described as emotionless logic. Characters that are robots, computers, or some other form of artificial intelligence often get saddled with this thought process, but this film gives us a bit of a deviation by letting a seemingly normal being have it. It’s the idea that the best thing to do to fix a problem is what pure, cold, brutal logic dictates. Thanos is presented in this film in a way that I’ve never seen him before, and it’s the first time I’ve ever really appreciated the character. In the comics Thanos is often just an asshole who wants to kill people in order to impress the woman he has a crush on. It’s a tremendously weak motivation, and leaves Thanos taking up a narrative position not unlike one of these incel idiots on the internet. But this Thanos is different. He’s not setting out to kill half the sentient life in the universe because of a rush, he’s doing it because he truly and whole-heartedly believes that it’s the right thing to do. Thanos believes that he’s done the math, and that the only way to save the many is to kill the few. And, he thinks of himself as a bringer of mercy. He does want to be a genocidal maniac, he wants to be a savior. But, he’s not. I’ve seen some people refer to Thanos as a sympathetic villain, and I certainly wouldn’t agree with that. He’s not a misunderstood person trying to do the right thing. He’s a monster. He’s blinded by logic. He doesn’t care that what he’s doing will kill untold amounts of people. He doesn’t care that he may be killing someone who will have a better solution to his problem. He doesn’t care that there may be other solutions to his problem. He doesn’t care about anything other than what hes decided is right. And, in that way, Thanos has become one of the most dreadfully human and recognizable villains that Marvel has ever created. And it’s not because he has a fist full of world-altering magic stones. It’s because he lacks empathy. And, as time goes on, it becomes more and more clear that the lack of empathy is one of the most damning, damaging, and ruthless attributes that a person have have. Thanos is that dark, evil desire in our minds to do whatever we want, regardless of how it affects other people. Showing us how simple life could be if we just gave in, and didn’t care about others. And seeing the culmination of this franchise be a group of people selflessly defeating him, because their lives are fully built around the protection of innocents and others, will be an amazingly cathartic experience.
Avengers: Infinity War was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, and released by the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2018.
Categories: Reel Talk