Avengers: Infinity War — a movie review

InfinityWar

Confession is good for the soul, they say.

I’m still not current on Phase 3 of the MCU. I haven’t watched Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (at least, not all of it) or Black Panther yet (ditto). I plan to cross those off the list this month. I also haven’t watched the two MCU movies that came out after this one, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel. I’m probably cheating a bit to skip ahead to Avengers: Infinity War, but there’s always the chance I’ll motivate myself to see Avengers: Endgame or Spider-Man: Far from Home when they come out in the theaters. If I’m not caught up by the time that happens, I don’t think I’ll have missed much, continuity-wise.

I’ve never really been a Captain Marvel fan, in any incarnation. I’m not going to put a rush on watching that one. The second Ant-Man is still on Netflix, I believe, and I like Paul Rudd. I’ll try to squeeze that one in this month as well, Or maybe in May.

I’m operating on the premise that you’ve already watched this movie or are savvy enough to know how to avoid SPOILERS. I’m not holding anything back in this review.

This is a long movie. At 149 minutes, it should feel even longer, but the quick pace of the editing and event-filled script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who also wrote all of the Captain America movies) make the movie feel shorter than it is.

I like this movie more than Avengers: Age of Ultron, but not quite as much as The Avengers.

When I was a comic-reading youngster, I loved those huge super-sized books that involved team-ups of my favorite superheroes. When someone like John Byrne or George Perez was doing the artwork on them, to name just two of my favorite artists (both of whom, incidentally, have worked for Marvel and DC Comics), these could be especially dazzling. There is still a tendency to lose individual characterization in the spectacle of it all. A failure to see the individual trees for the forest.

Markus and McFeely adroitly avoid this potential sand trap in Infinity. The breadth of the MCU has allowed a depth of characterization that no other movie franchise can approach. The DCEU can’t even come close. Of all the main Marvel characters in this movie, only Bruce Banner feels slightly off to me, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. Even the Guardians of the Galaxy, whose cinematic exploits have a different tone than the rest of the MCU, remain true to their characters. When they first appear on screen, we even get a snippet of The Spinners’ “The Rubberband Man,” which surprisingly doesn’t feel out of place with the rest of the orchestral soundtrack.

Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye doesn’t make an appearance at all. So you might say his characterization was weaker than Banner’s. Seriously, where was Hawkeye, and why am I just now noticing he was missing? Maybe he’s with Ant-Man somewhere. Hey, Ant-Man was missing, too.

The creative forces behind the MCU don’t insult our intelligence. They assume we’ve been paying attention over the years and understand what’s going on with Thanos’ implacable drive to obtain all of the infinity stones. A superhero team-up is only as good as the super-villain they are teaming up to defeat. And Thanos, with a superb motion-capture performance by Josh Brolin, is arguably the best Marvel villain we’ve seen on-screen to date. It turns out that he was even the puppet master pulling Loki’s strings in the first Avengers movie.

There’s a lot of fighting as Thanos completes his collection of stones, and an epic boss battle in Wakanda that results in Thanos’s ultimate victory.

During the course of this movie, many major characters are killed or magically turned to ash like Lot’s wife when Thanos uses the full power of his glove. Loki and Heimdall die early on. Gamora is sacrificed by Thanos to obtain the Soul Stone. The Vision also receives Thanos’ hands-on attention and is left lifeless on the ground.

The following characters disintegrate when Thanos makes his Mass-Effect-3-style choice at the end of the movie.

Black Panther. Spider-Man. Doctor Strange. Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier. Falcon. Scarlet Witch. Star-Lord, Groot, Drax and Mantis (only Rocket Raccoon remains from the Guardians). Nick Fury and Maria Hill (in the post-credit scene). I’m also told that the Wasp and her parents disintegrate in a mid-credit scene in Ant Man and the Wasp. I’ll confirm that soon.

I’d be a fool to believe than any or all of these characters are truly dead, even the ones killed prior to the Infinity Gauntlet mass kill. A third Guardians movie is already confirmed, and Rocket can’t carry that entirely on his small furry back. Plus, there’s another Spider-Man movie coming out soon after Avengers: Endgame. This is a stunt. I believe all of the lost lives will be restored by the conclusion of the next Avengers movie. Any death that occurs at the conclusion of that movie might be of a more permanent nature. The viewing public won’t allow that trick to keep getting played.

Many people have complained about the cliffhanger structure of Avengers: Infinity War. I understand that complaint, because if you look at this movie as the story of how the Avengers (and their friends) defeat Thanos, you come out of it less than satisfied.

I don’t believe that is the story arc of this movie. Infinity War is entirely Thanos’ story. His motivation to restore balance to the universe by killing off half of its sentient population is believable, even if subjectively evil. In order to accomplish this, he has to obtain the stones, having the gauntlet made by Asgardian dwarves, and sacrificing the one thing he loves—Gamora. He activates the gauntlet shortly after obtaining the final stone from the Vision’s head. Then people begin to vanish like ashes in the breeze.

This is the story that was told. In some ways, Thanos even becomes a sympathetic character. In his mind, these are the steps he has to take to save the universe. From the Thanos viewpoint, this is a tale of his ultimate victory. The sequel will be about his downfall. Of that, there can be no doubt.

The conclusion of this movie is just the midpoint of the second act of the longer story, and our heroes in that story are at their lowest point. The sequel will be about the rising action to the heroes’ victory.

I think this is masterful storytelling. If I had watched this movie when it first came out, I might be a complainer as well. As it stands, I don’t have long to wait to see the sequel. The characters won’t have been dead to me as long as they have to some of you. Regardless, I look forward to seeing how they come back to life.

Avengers: Infinity War was a lot of fun for me. I wholeheartedly recommend it to you if you’ve enjoyed any of the Marvel movies.

Firewater’s Movie Report Card: A

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