Okay, folks. Nearly a week after everyone else, I have finally seen Infinity War.
Most people loved it. Some people really didn’t. And I’m pretty much right where I expected to be: firmly in the middle. Try and contain your shock.
Oh man. So many SPOILERS, everyone, like, it’s a veritable SPOILER PALOOZA up in here. And not just for Marvel movies, either; nope, I’ve somehow managed to rope in implied spoilers for Return of the King, too. My brain is a gift.
Thanos (Josh Brolin), having already collected one Infinity Stone, is now out to collect the whole set, which he plans to use to wipe out half the population of, well, everyone everywhere. Scarcity of resources, see. Naturally, heroes from multiple franchises try to stop him. Heavy emphasis on the try.
1. Before we dive into the movie proper, permit me that brief digression into LOTR territory, for it is with Return of the King that Mekaela and I may have made our very first Chart of Death.
Okay, I don’t think we actually, like, printed out a Chart of Death–although honestly, it sounds like the kind of thing we’d do. But because neither of us had read the books prior to the film, we had no idea who was gonna make it out alive after the end of RotK, and the answer–practically everybody–simply did not occur to us. Both Mek and I had anticipated an epically heavy death toll and we spent a lot of time analyzing who was the likeliest to go. I can’t remember everyone I thought would bite it, but I do know Merry was on that list for sure. The point is we vastly overestimated the death toll of this film.
With Infinity War, I’m afraid rather the opposite happened.
2. So, here is my conflict: for all of its ridiculous runtime, Infinity War feels like half a movie to me. Or–no, perhaps that’s not fair. The conclusion is a tragic cliffhanger, certainly, but structurally, it’s totally sound; structure, actually, is surprisingly one of this film’s biggest strengths.
No, I think my problem is that how I feel about this film is ultimately gonna depend on how the next film turns out, specifically, how much of it gets rewritten. Because, as everyone else under the sun has pointed out, Infinity War 2 (or whatever it actually ends up being called) is obviously going to include a serious level of Do Over, considering there’s already a Spider-Man 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 in development, not to mention Marvel would have to be the dumbest company in existence not to follow up on the success of Black Panther–all of which is currently hard to do, since Peter Parker is dead, T’Challa is dead, and literally everyone except Rocket and Nebula from GotG is dead.
This film, man. Something less than an upper.
And yet. For most of Infinity War, I felt emotionally removed from the vast slaughter of our heroes, and I think that might be my biggest problem with the movie. It’s not that I didn’t care at all, just . . . not as much as I was obviously supposed to. I’ve been trying to decide why that is, exactly, because I don’t think it’s just that so many of the deaths are obviously temporary. I mean, that’s probably part of it, sure, but considering the one death that did completely, utterly wreck me?
I mean, we all know this kid’s coming back, but that didn’t stop my heart from being all, NOOOOOOOO! Not him, not Peter Parker! Goddamn it, HE DOESN’T WANT TO GO.
So, what’s causing my apathy, then, if it’s not the multiple Disney Deaths? Well, another causal factor, I suppose, is that after a week of “holy shit WHAT” and “okay, someone hold me” reactions, I’d kinda steeled myself for the inevitably downer ending. Like, I worked hard to keep from getting spoiled on any specific plot point, but even the most careful of scrolling couldn’t save me from seeing people’s basic impressions of the film. And sure, that’s on me for not seeing the Biggest Movie in the World until the following Tuesday evening. Still, it’s not like I wasn’t expecting a serious downer ending with a heavy side of cliffhanger well before the film came out, cause, like, structure, right? This was obviously gonna be Empire. So, I don’t think my emotional distance from the film can really be entirely blamed on that, either.
3. No, I’m pretty sure my biggest problem with Infinity War arises from the very first ten minutes of the movie.
There’s this trope. I’ve probably complained about it before because it easily, easily makes my Top 5 Least Favorite Tropes Ever: Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome. If you’re unfamiliar with the term and don’t feel like clicking on links today, well, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a character survives whatever battles or horrors happened in the last film, only to be unceremoniously and immediately killed off in the next. And sometimes there are different reasons for this (a lead actor bowed out, a character needs to die to provide the hero proper Vengeance Motivation, etc.), but–with literally one and only one exception–I pretty much always hate this trope whenever it plays out. Cause, you know, it’s one thing for a character to make it through hell, realize they have to head back into hell for whatever glorious/terrible purpose, and ultimately die in a fitting moment as a result. It’s quite something else when that character has barely made it two steps outta the darkness before the Big Bad pops up, yells “FOOLED YOU,” and dropkicks their asses off a cliff back into the eternal hot basement of death.
Infinity War uses this trope essentially three times in ten minutes. Not only does Thanos kill Heimdall (NO), not only does Thanos kill Loki (okay, kind of expected, but NO, come on, Loki is not this dumb) . . . he also slaughters half the Asgardian people–who, you’ll remember, literally just survived the mother of all apocalyptic events, you know, the one that completely obliterated their planet and home. But, like, it was supposed to be okay because Asgard isn’t a place; it’s a people–or it was, anyway. Asgard WAS a people. Now they’re mostly dead people, so yeah. Good luck ever watching Ragnarok again without the lingering sense of existential dread that comes with knowing that two seconds after the credits roll, it’s all death and suffering for our plucky comedic heroes and the innocent bystanders they protect.
And look, I get it: Infinity War is purposefully using Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome to set the film’s tone and stakes: shit is DARK, man, and literally anyone can die. And to an extent, that’s successful; by insta-killing Heimdall, Loki, and a fuck ton of Asgardians, I got the message: no one is safe. But at the same time, I was so irritated at how these deaths were handled that my little bitter heart just closed off, like, if you’re gonna casually disregard these characters like they don’t matter–and that’s pretty much what you’re telling me when you kill off someone in the first ten minutes, that they don’t matter–then I don’t have to act like they do, either. I’m not gonna get emotionally invested cause fuck it, right?
And therein lies my real problem with using SSDS to set a film’s stakes: instead of being all, oh shit, who will die next, OMG, my heart can’t take it, my brain’s more like, oh, look, now you killed Gamora. Yeah, that’s kind of sad, I guess. Which is so deeply frustrating because if Gamora had died in, say, Guardians of the Galaxy, Part II, I’d probably have been devastated. But here, after that opener? More like an inevitable shrug. Every death for me was sad-ish, but not that sad, not until Tom Holland, anyway, because he’s all young and adorable and he didn’t want to let go and Tony didn’t want to let him go and I love the dynamic between these two and GAH.
So, yeah, Spider-Man’s death? Genuinely great. Loved it to pieces, even as it broke my heart. But in a movie that killed off 16 goddamn characters (Heimdall, Loki, Gamora, Vision, Scarlet Witch, T’Challa, Falcon, Bucky, Doctor Strange, Peter Parker, Peter Quill, Drax, Mantis, Groot, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill), the fact that only one death scene actually moved me? I think that’s a problem. I just could not shake the barrier I felt between me and the emotional core of this movie.
4. That all being said, Infinity War is entertaining. The action scenes are, as they have been in every Russo Brothers film, massively fun. Many of the team-ups are spectacular: I’m all about seeing Okoye and Black Widow fighting together, Tony Stark and Dr. Strange play off each other surprisingly well, and Thor and Rocket are easily this film’s Greatest Unexpected Duo, like, I really enjoyed the hell out of them, especially that scene where Thor’s basically explaining what a completely sucktastic life he’s had, but also trying to convince himself that he’s destined to survive and kill Thanos and totally isn’t struggling with fear or doubt or a massive overload of grief . I mean, damn. That’s easily one of my favorite Thor scenes of all time.
And though the movie is undeniably overstuffed, I’m genuinely surprised by how much of it really works for me. I’ve seen films with half as many characters stumble harder on the whole balancing act, like, sure, Captain America gets surprisingly little to do, but I expect he’ll make up for that in the next movie–you know, where he inevitably dies for realsies, since he didn’t even pretend to this go around. And yeah, I wish some scenes had been cut to shave down that ridiculous run time, but honestly? Not as many as you might think for a 2 hour, 40 minute film.
Still. While we’re talking about scenes or subplots that don’t work for me?
4A. While I really like that Thor gets more time to shine in this movie (especially considering what happens in the beginning), the whole ‘forging the magic axe’ bit felt unnecessarily stretched out, like, once we hit the second complication, I was like, Okay, dudes. That’s enough. I definitely don’t want to delete it, just trim it up a bit.
4B. Considering Infinity War is nearly a three-hour merciless onslaught of death, it really does need all the comedy it can get. Unfortunately, not all the jokes land for me, particularly Super Awkward Bruce Banner.
Since Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel appears to only be doubling down on Super Awkward Bruce Banner, something I personally find highly disappointing because a) oh my God, it’s SO PAINFUL, and b) the Bruce Banner I fell in love with was wry, sarcastic, extremely guarded and always angry. This guy? Yeah, not so much, and while I’m all about character growth over time, this feels less like “growth” and more like “descent into super lame comic relief.” Much as it hurts me, I’d straight cut a ton of Bruce’s lines here. Or at least rewrite the hell out of them.
4C. And speaking of comedy that doesn’t quite play for me . . .
How do you solve a problem like Peter Quill?
Truthfully, I’ve always liked Quill; he has–unlike other Chris Pratt characters I could name–usually fallen just on the good side of Funny Cocky Dude Heroes. In Infinity War, though, I find I have a lot less patience for him, either because he actually is acting more dickish and immature than usual, or because I just can’t bring myself to care about him being an insecure man child when, like, THANOS IS FUCKING COMING. And because Quill’s annoying me more than he normally does, I’m considerably less inclined to forgive him for, you know, fucking up the plan and getting half of everyone dead.
Like, I get it: Quill reacts badly in the moment, as you might when you find out that your friend/love interest/long-term-booty-call has been murdered, but dude, this fuckup is HUGE. And since he never really has time to acknowledge this completely huge fuckup, I don’t know. It makes me like him even less, like, when he’s disintegrating along with nearly everyone else in his franchise (not to mention the universe), Quill’s all, “Did we just lose?” and I’m like, “No fucking shit, star boy, and guess who’s to blame for that?”
5. Quill’s best moment, honestly, is probably when he tries to kill Gamora, something that surprised me because I honestly didn’t think he’d be able to go through with it. Of course, it didn’t work but still; I was genuinely surprised. I mostly bring it up now because Infinity War has a veritable shitload of a) attempted heroic sacrifices that don’t work, and b) heroes who give into Thanos because they simply can’t sacrifice their loved ones. A recap:
Quill tries to kill Gamora to stop Thanos, no dice. Gamora tries to kill herself to stop Thanos, no dice. Scarlet Witch does kill Vision, but he gets resurrected long enough that Thanos gets the mind stone and kills him again anyway. Loki gives up the space stone because he can’t let Thor die. Gamora gives up the soul stone’s location because she can’t let Nebula die. Dr. Strange gives up the time stone because he can’t let Tony Stark die*. The only person who actually successfully sacrifices anyone is Thanos when he throws Gamora’s ass off a cliff.
I’m saying, thematic shit may be happening here. I’ll leave it to someone else to work out exactly what.
*Okay, so I’m about 107% sure Dr. Strange actually gives up the time stone because it’s the only way that leads to the One Possible Future Scenario where the Avengers and Co–what’s left of them, anyway–actually beat Thanos. Otherwise, Strange’s decision makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, cause, seriously. No way he makes that call just for Tony. Still, it goes along with the “failed sacrifice” motif.
6. As far as our Big Bad is concerned?
Thanos is okay. I think Josh Brolin acts through the CGI pretty well, although I still find it a bit hard to take that chin seriously. His motivation is fine, though. Like, I saw someone on Twitter say that he was Marvel’s first real sympathetic villain, and I was like, Uh, no, I think that’s a pretty big stretch? Unsympathetic genocide aside, though, Thanos has clear goals that I haven’t seen done twenty times over in a superhero film, so that’s a big plus in his favor.
Still, for a dude who killed half the universe, Thanos is probably a middling villain for me. Totally decent, but never making the Top 5. That’s pretty accurate for how I feel about this movie as a whole, honestly, at least without having seen Part II.
7. Finally, for a bunch of random notes:
7A. I feel bad for what happens to Vision and Scarlet Witch because, dude, having to nobly sacrifice yourself (or having to nobly murder your boyfriend), all for absolutely nothing? I mean, that just sucks. Still, I don’t actually care about these two as characters or their relationship at all and would likely have been unmoved by their deaths even if my heart had been fully engaged with this film throughout.
7B. So, Red Skull’s still alive? That’s . . . cool, I guess?
7C. A big part of me is ridiculously relieved that, AFAIK, Tony Stark is in no way responsible for the destruction of Thanos’s homeworld. I’ve been pretty over “this is all Tony’s fault” stories for a while now. (I guess that means it’s Peter Quill’s turn?)
7D. So, is Wong still chilling at the Sanctum Santorum? Is this a part of Dr. Strange’s secret plan to fight
inflation Thanos? (Folks, I can’t help myself: I am legally obligated to make that joke whenever I write “secret plan.” I don’t care how long it’s been since The West Wing; I have to do it, or a baby Spider-Man dies. Well, another one.) Meanwhile, will Valkyrie and the other Asgardians swing by and pick Tony and Nebula up? And while yes, Ant-Man and the Wasp looks like a delightfully cheerful antidote to this downer of a movie, um, exactly how much time has passed between this one and that one? Cause it takes a very skillful hand to spin a playful romp in a world that just lost half its population.
7E. Peter Dinklage! I totally forgot you were gonna be in this! Super pleasant surprise.
7F. I can’t say I care all that much about the Bruce/Natasha ship anymore, considering both how long it’s been and how they handled it in Age of Ultron, but one thing’s for sure: Steve Rogers still totally ships it. Don’t @ me.
7G. Mantis’s “mean face” is just the best. She definitely needs to get resurrected, and GotG: Volume 3 needs to do right by her this time around.
7H. I’m trying to decide exactly how I want this whole resurrection business to go. The most popular theory seems to be that everyone who died when Thanos snapped his fingers will come back, but anybody before that will stay dead. I suspect that will still be a problem for me, partially because of how much I hate those first ten minutes and partially because I’m not really in love with Cliff Side Sacrifice being Gamora’s true death. But like I said, it’s hard to judge at this point. It’s still a big waiting game.
7I. Okay, I don’t want anything to happen to Aunt May, but also can Tony and Pepper adopt Peter Parker when he inevitably gets resurrected, please and thank you.
7J. Finally, not to brag or anything, but just so you know?
I’m just saying. I SURVIVED THE ALIEN RAPTURE. Did you?
Also . . . do you think Thanos spared Kevin Bacon? Inquiring minds want to know.
Peter Quill: “I’m going to ask you one last time: where is Gamora?”
Iron Man: “Yeah, I’ll do you one better: who is Gamora?”
Drax: “I’ll do you one better: why is Gamora?”
Groot: “I am Groot.”
Captain America: “I am Steve Rogers.”
Okoye: “When you said you were going to open Wakanda to the rest of the world, this is not what I imagined.”
T’Challa: “What did you imagine?”
Okoye: “The Olympics. Maybe even a Starbucks.”
Peter Parker: “I’m Peter.
Dr. Strange: “I’m Dr. Strange.”
Peter Parker: “Oh, we’re using our made-up names? In that case, I am Spider-Man.”
Peter Quill: “The Avengers?”
Thor: “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”
Mantis: “Like Kevin Bacon?”
Thor: “He may be on the team, I don’t know. Haven’t been there in a while.”
Loki: “I do have a bit of experience in that area.”
Thanos: “If you consider ‘failure’ experience.”
Loki: “I consider ‘experience’ experience.”
Dr. Strange: “You don’t have any money?”
Wong: “Attachment to the material is detachment from the spiritual.”
Dr. Strange: “I’ll tell the guys at the deli. Maybe they’ll make you a metaphysical ham and rye.”
Spider-Man: “What is this guy’s problem?”
Iron Man: “He’s from space. He came to steal a necklace from a wizard.”
Drax (about Thor): “It’s like a pirate had a baby with an angel.”
Rocket: “You speak Groot?”
Thor: “Yes. It was taught on Asgard. It was an elective.”
Captain America: “New haircut?”
Thor: “Looks like you’ve copied my beard.”
Tony Stark: “The Avengers broke up. We’re toast.”
Bruce Banner: “Broke up? Like a band? Like the Beatles?”
Thor: “The rabbit is correct and clearly the smartest among you.”
Iron Man: “If you throw another moon at me, I’m gonna lose it.”
Eitri: “It will kill you.”
Thor: “Only if I die.”
Eitri: “Yes, that’s what killing you means . . .”
Okoye: “Why was she up there the whole time?”
Peter Parker: “Mr. Stark, I don’t wanna go.”
Thor: “More power, rabbit!”
Yeah, I’m struggling with this one. The movie was entertaining enough. Shocking, in some ways, and I appreciated a lot of the structure and scope. And yet . . . I had problems, too, problems I really don’t think I can fully judge until I see the follow-up. Which makes grading this a tremendous pain in the ass.
I considered Tom Holland and I considered Robert Downey Jr. because they’re both excellent, but this time around, I think I’m giving it to Chris Hemsworth. He’s pretty fantastic in this.
Oh, I don’t know. Maybe stick to the fucking plan, Quill.
Also, always aim for the head.