Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of 10 years and 18 movies’ worth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and stars… far too many people to list. Almost every important character from the MCU pops up in this film to face the might of Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his minions/children in the Mad Titan’s quest to restore cosmic balance by murdering half the universe. And it is… good. Very good, even. But sadly, it’s not exactly “great’.

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It has all the usual strengths you’d expect from a Marvel movie: solid performances, compelling characters, amazing special effects, and impressive actions scenes, as well as the bonus of Thanos actually being a strong villain in a franchise known for its lackluster foes. Both in terms of menace and the threat he poses, as well as the depth of characterization and the mesmerizing performance Brolin brings to the table, Thanos is an enemy who’s sympathetic yet scary, and a welcome addition.

Unfortunately, Infinity War is also a film that has its share of flaws, and while the film is exhilarating and emotional at its very best, it’s also a bit lacking at times, detracting from the overall experience and taking you out of the movie almost as often as it draws you in. It’s far from the worst movie Marvel has to offer, and given its ambitious scope, a certain level of leeway should be given to it; all the same, mistakes were made and the film fails to reach the heights it could and should have been aiming for.

Spoilers follow…

The first flaw is more of a meta-problem: the movie carries on the tradition of taking something teased or left over from previous Marvel movies and squandering or undoing it. The opening scene, for example, is the aftermath of Thanos and his underlings attacking the Asgardian refugee ship from the end of Thor: Ragnarok and slaughtering everyone onboard, sans Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who’s saved by Heimdall, who’s then murdered by Thanos in retaliation (yes, the black dude died first, but at least Idris Elba is happy he doesn’t have to be in these films anymore), along with a repentant Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

And while this scene is something that was expected from as early as the post-credits scene of Ragnarok itself, it’s still something that will rub a lot of people the wrong way. You can’t really watch that movie again without it hitting you that almost everybody they save in that film will be dead at the start of this one. (Also, Valkyrie and Korg are nowhere to be seen for some reason; did they die off-screen?) Granted, we’re led to believe there were some survivors, but Thanos’ massacre is a pretty heavy blow to the already endangered Asgardian race.

Civil War gets a similar treatment, though it really shouldn’t be all that surprising. The rift between Team Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Team Captain America (Chris Evans) is given a few passing mentions, but it doesn’t really factor into the story all that much, other than making sure that these characters are in different places at different times to better serve the plot. Tony Stark might have been willing to kill Steve Rogers at the end of that film, but he still kept his phone number in case of emergencies, so the resolution of Civil War seems a bit pointless now. Though, it is established that Ant-Man and Hawkeye are both under house arrest so they can be with their families, and they’ll be two of the few who won’t be showing up in this one. For that matter, Captain America himself and nearly every member of his team get short-changed here. Yes, they show up, but they aren’t really given all that much to do, so things seem a bit mismanaged here.

Other characters fare better: The Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) have a nice burgeoning romantic arc, and are two of the more important characters in the story, with the former being the keeper of the Mind Stone that Thanos is after and thus a target to be protected (though, Vision is given more to “say” than “do” in this film, as he’s wounded early on). Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and Tony Stark have a nice dynamic going on as they bicker about strategy and try to keep Strange’s Time Stone from falling into enemy hands.

Thor mourns the fact that over the last few years he’s systematically lost his mother, father, and brother (more than once), and now most of his people, and he might have nothing left but revenge. He’s comforted by Guardians of the Galaxy members Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot, whose companions Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Thanos’ adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) are out to kill the genocidal madman before it’s too late. This is a film that lives and dies on the performances of and chemistry between its actors, and fortunately everybody involved gives their best, even if some have a lot less to do than others.

Yet, at the same time, there’s an unfortunate amount of meandering in this film. While this is used well enough at times to give us, for instance, some nice interaction between Thanos and Gamora, or Tony and Peter Parker, there are a lot of lulls in the story where characters simply talk a lot about the importance of stopping Thanos, or the damage that Thanos has done or whatever, rather than actually showing us all that much. Which is not helped by the fact that his own minions, the Children of Thanos, are mostly just boring CGI creatures with little development of their own, nor by the fact that too many sets in this film feel very empty.

For what’s supposedly the biggest cast in a Marvel film ever, there’s a noticeable absence of extras in way too many scenes: the streets of New York City are quickly abandoned before the heroes fight the alien invaders; the fight in Edinburgh takes place at night, so nobody is around to begin with; and the alien worlds we visit are either long dead wastelands like Titan, or recently devastated husks like Knowhere from the first Guardians movie. And that last one is particularly noticeable, as in its first appearance it was a bustling metropolis floating in space, but now Thanos has either killed or chased off everyone before the heroes even arrive.

It’s either a very PG, family-friendly way of dealing with an impending apocalypse, or Marvel spent so much money hiring these big-name actors that they had little to spend on anyone else. Either way, it’s distracting and disappointing that so much of this film looks devoid of life, particularly given that the whole point of Thanos is that he’s threatening to wipe out half of it; this only lowers the stakes and adds to the sense that this is a film playing it just a bit too safe. The scope and scale are there in some parts, such as in the effects, the cast, and the running time, but lacking in others, and it could have added so much more to the story to see a universe teeming with life rather than seemingly devoid of it.

Also, the fact that we don’t get to see Thanos assaulting Xanadar to get the Power Stone (something that Thor knows about, but the Guardians don’t, for some reason) is another missed opportunity, and would have driven the threat home a bit more. I would have much rather seen a large scale-battle between Thanos and the forces of Xanadar than what happened on Knowhere with the not-quite Collector (Benicio del Toro).

Yes, I get that the budget was probably stretched thin by that point, and the film was already pretty long too, but it feels like so many unnecessary things happened prior to this, and so many more important scenes are missing: the Avengers taking a hurt Vision to HQ wasn’t needed, except to give Don Cheadle’s War Machine and William Hurt’s General Ross a chance to banter; they could have gone straight to Wakanda and saved us some time. Similarly, Thor going through all that trouble to acquire a new weapon to replace Mjolnir just feels like they needed to give him something to do while everyone else was dealing with Thanos more directly. Bruce Banner’s inability to become the Hulk was interesting at first, but he turned into a running joke by the end. And Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) felt like she was just there as well; her relationship with Bruce is basically given just a quick acknowledgement and could have used some more screen time, too.

Indeed, the film veered just a little too much into Ragnarok/Guardians 2 “drama-killing humor” territory, undermining the tension one too many times. A film as ambitious as this might be intimidating to even the most seasoned directors, but unfortunately it often feels like the Russo brothers could have managed it better and used the running time more efficiently. I was never bored, and the film went by pretty fast, but it doesn’t change the fact that my immediate thoughts about the film were that it could’ve been better.

And before I wrap up, I want to talk about Thanos. As I said, Josh Brolin is excellent in the role, and this film is best watched as a Thanos movie rather than an Avengers movie; he really is the main character, and he’s terrific whenever he appears. Even so, I can’t help but feel that someone read the original comic where his motivations for intergalactic genocide amounted to “I want to impress a girl” and thought, “okay, thats just too silly” and cooked up some half-baked backstory that, on paper, seemed like it made more sense… but unfortunately, like many other Marvel comic villains, just raises more questions the more you think about it.

Thanos, a bit like General Zod in Man of Steel, feels like his home world of Titan died because his ruthless strategies to save it (“kill half the population so we don’t all starve to death”) were never implemented, and consequently has developed a monomaniacal obsession with “balancing” the universe by killing half of its population because he thinks there just aren’t enough resources to go around. On the one hand, this is tragic and sympathetic as he’s shown to really, truly believe he’s doing the right thing, even if he goes to unacceptable extremes… but on the other, it does require you to forget just how frigging huge the universe actually is, and how unlikely it is that this situation would arise even in a comic book movie. It sits as odds with Thanos living on a dead world, hanging around with monsters, torturing his own daughters, and generally being an utter dick, and ultimately might make less sense than the more straightforward tale of a psycho who only wants to sleep with Death. I appreciate the effort put forth to make Thanos a more nuanced, well-rounded bad guy, and thanks to Josh Brolin it largely succeeds… but all the same, you do need to ignore the details for it to work properly.

Despite all of my complaints, I won’t deny that I did enjoy this film. I laughed, I cried, I felt exhilaration, and I’m looking forward to the next one. It’s a flawed film and I’m not sure how well it will hold up to repeat viewings, but the good does mostly outweigh the bad in the final analysis. It’s just a pity that with all this time, all this hype, and all this preparation, they undercut their own movie with some rather elementary flaws.

Tag: Marvel Cinematic Universe

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  • Jordon Davis

    I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to infer that Valkyrie led the retreat of what few Asgardians were left.

    And now enough people are out of the way so that we can finally get that Hawkeye standalone we’ve all been hoping for.

    • Thomas Stockel

      No, I’d rather believe that Valkyrie and Korg are dead, floating corpsicles in space. They were two of my least favorite parts of Ragnarok so good riddance.

  • KirbyRules

    Thanos could have just used the friggin plot glove to, oh I don’t know, feed and provide those needed resources. Darskeid, his furies, and Dasaad….I mean, Thanos, his black mercs, and squidword were ok, though.

  • BigJilm

    Loved the political message: evil uses infinite power to destroy life rather than fix the resources problem.

  • I take a strangely differing view on a few of your insights. As a result I liked the movie more than you did.

    I thought the minions of Thanos had a lot of visual personality, and when it comes to elite mini-bosses all you really need is a memorable look. Sure I am referring to them as “big guy” “space wizard” “gremlin” and “devil lady”… But you know who I am referring to when I do so.

    I also keep seeing the “Does Thanos not know how big space is” or “Why not just double all the resources” things as refutations of his plan… Guys, he is a space monster who believes culling intelligent life is a good idea, it is not that he hasn’t thought of your suggestions, it is that he is evil and thinks that his solution is better for whatever reason. He’s nuts! You are not suppossed to look at his plan and think, “hold on big guy, let’s brain storm some alternative solutions” you are supposed to think, “we better punch him to death before he gets all his stones in a row”.

    Beyond that, I want to say that I loved the ending. I can imagine 7 year old me seeing this and crying as Spider-Man died begging for his life, and that thought to me seems daring. People complain, “Oh, it will all be reset, so why does it matter.” Hey, if you are going to take that stance, keep in mind, none of it actually happened at all, cause it is a movie, like all fiction you can take or leave the story based on your own preferences, but to say none of this matters because an inevitable happier ending is on the horizon… that is disingenuous. Going to dark places is not invalidated or cheapened just because the ultimate point of the story is to get out of that darkness. THE BELLY OF THE WHALE IS NOT THE END OF THE STORY.

    • Thanos_is_Darkseid_Lite

      But all his plan is doing is kicking the can down the road, because eventually, the universe will repopulate and he’d need to do this treatment again. Talk about attacking the symptom rather than the disease. But yes, such is the logic of mad titans and mad men alike.

    • Jonathan Campbell

      It’s not just his solution I’m criticising- the problem itself is questionable. And I’d argue that the movie, while not exactly endorsing his ideas, gives the impression that they actually work- for instance, he tells Gamora that her home planet is blossoming now because of what he did, and nobody ever tries to pick his arguments apart beyond “you’re crazy” or “you’re evil”.

      So yes, I know you aren’t supposed to endorse him , but the movie gives the impression that he’s more right than he logically should be.

      • PhysUnknown

        I got the impression that his methods DID work, on a small scale (though possibly only in the short term), but took too long for him to implement, and thus, he sought the power to do it all at once, thinking it his “grand mission”. This might have been conveyed better had they had Thanos show Gamora her home planet actually thriving, or him ever actually following up on his acts of “mercy”.

        • Jonathan Campbell

          His solutions actually working is one of the problems I had with this movie. Such measures as he takes might work SOME of the time, horrible as they are, but no way would they be a carte blanche solution to everything. Especially since he seems to be applying it to worlds that don’t even have the same problems that Titan did.

          • Again, evil monster to be punched to death before he pulls off his plan.

          • PhysUnknown

            I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think he’s doing it to save individual planets, but the universe as a whole. He kills Groot, who’s the last of his species. Presumably, he also wipes out half of the remaining people from planets he already “saved”.

            Also, the more I think about it, the more I think it doesn’t matter to him if his small-scale solutions actually worked. I think he’s so driven by what happened to Titan when they didn’t listen to him that he’d keep pressing on, and probably blame the survivors for screwing up. In the 1st Guardians movie, I think Gamora claims to be the last of her species. I know Thanos claims they thrived after he left, but did they really? Did they thrive for a while, then die out? Or, did he mean the planet thrived, not actually caring what happened to the people?

            Another question: am I putting more thought into this than the filmmakers?

          • Michael Weyer

            The guy is called the “MAD Titan” for a reason.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            His plan is not “comic book paper thin”, because in the actual comic book his plan was different and much more straightfoward- kill a whole bunch of people to impress a girl.

            Yes, I know he is the Mad Titan and being batsh8t crazy could explain his motives, but the logic of his plan is so friggin dumb that I would expect other characters to challenge it…but they don’t. He’s vague on the details but we are led to believe that he really is making a positive difference with his actions, when in reality the sheer vastness of the universe and the ABUNDANCE of resources makes both problem and solution questionable in themselves.

            And this is very easy to explain- he had a different motive in the comic for killing half the universe, and they felt they had to change it to something more sympathetic…even if it ultimately made no sense and just raises all kind of questions. And to be honest, not the first time the Russos have had this problem in their movies either.

            I’m not sure that Groot was the last of his species- don’t think that was said anywhere but could be wrong. However, pretty sure that Thanos didn’t decide WHO lived or died, so not really the point. He could have wiped out every world he previoisly “saved” for all he knows.

      • Tim

        Yes. Yes, everything you say about Thanos plan is correct.

        But… I have to point out – a big space psychopath that wants to double the resources of the universe isn’t a movie. When it comes to that particular thing, you kinda have to hit a big red “I Believe” button because without Thanos’s desire to kill half the universe then the movie doesn’t happen and there is no story or reason to fight against him.

        Yes the plan Thanos has is paper thin – comic book paper thin. And that’s kind of okay since, in the end, this is a live action comic book.

        • People also mention the doubling resources thing.
          Are we just basing that off what we know about the comics?
          Like, do they state that the gems can do ANYTHING in the movies?
          Because they all seem very weapon oriented in this continuity and also limited by the imagination of the wielder.
          I can by that a wiser person could do something more constructive with them (Hello Captain America) but the small minded tunnel vision of guys like Ronan, Malakith, and Thanos is what prevents them from being little more than weapons.

      • CaptainCalvinCat

        I think, that’s the point, good Jonathan. The plan does indeed work – at least, from where he comes from and all you can do, if plans are working, but are horrible ideas, is to say “You’re evil” or “you’re crazy”. He is right, his people didn’t listen to him, so he had to take drastical steps to save the rest of the universe. But his methods are all f*cked up. He’s like an accountant – the numbers say, that 50 Percent of the workforce has to be fired, in order to have a company work in a sustaining way. You can yell at him, why Aunt Maggie had to be the one, who was fired, she is 65 years old, there is little to no way, that she can continue her live as she had lived it until you mad accountant came along and fired her. But the accountant will point at the numbers and say: ‘What can I do? I did the math, I looked at the figures, that’s the only way, that our company can survive on the market. Your Aunt is just one of the ones, that was selected to be fired.”

        You can yell at him, all the way you want, you can fight him, you can swear murderous revenge at him – he’ll shrug all this of and say: “Sorry, Bub, that’s just the way it is. It is my job to make sure, that our company survives. We can choose not to implement my solutions, but that would lead to this company going bankrupt in 5 months.”

    • PhysUnknown

      I was shocked by who died at the end, and reasoned that most, if not all, would be back. Then, I realized that those left are going to have to defeat Thanos without half of their fellow heroes. Given how poorly they failed with the full complement, the task seems even more futile now.

      On a more personal level, I love Tom Holland as Parker, so him not being in the next one saddens me.

  • StarlightForPrincess

    I’d definitely call the movie amazing

  • Münchner Kindl

    I liked the visual effects – like Black Panther, they’re really impressive now. But it still drives home that good effects do not make a good movie: a dumb script cheapens both good actors and good effects.
    And I found too many plotholes and problems there:
    – Stark mentions that Chitauri Invasion was 6 years ago – so Thanos already had the mind Stone in Lokis scepter 6 years ago, allowed Loki to take it away, and didn’t do anything in between, when now, with the power Stone, he curbstomps everybody (Avengers, Asgardians, Guardians) in a matter of days (However Long time flows)? Was he taking a nap? At first I thought the Stones had to be searched for (a Quest like for the Hallows), but the way Thanos’ minions easily follow Vision around on Earth, apparently the Stones can be sensed.
    – Not only was Thanos Claims never seriously debated (if the heroes thought that debating a madman is useless, there should’ve been a line to that effect), I wondered if the whole talk about “limited resources” was meant as a dig against the enviromental movement?
    It was also never questioned why having all 6 Stones gave Thanos unlimited power – Dr. Strange and Thor gave some Background, but nobody questioned how much science + Facts, and how much guesswork + mystic belief was behind that.
    It was also never addressed what could kill or at least cut Thanos, aside from Thor’s specially “forged” axe: knowing what worked and what didn’t would’ve cut the battle between Thanos and Iron Man Group on Titan a bit, and made them look less dumb by trying and failing. (Also: dropping tons of matter on Thanos doesn’t faze him; lasers/ repulsors can’t cut him, but pulling the gauntlet off almost works??)
    – If Titan is a dead world, why is there Oxygen for the humans and other creatures when they fight Thanos?
    – I agree that too many serious moments were derailed by the banter. (I also disliked turning Banner/ Hulk into a joke; I guess Hulk doesn’t want to come out because his whole reason is to protect Banner, but Thanos curbstomped him, and since Hulk is still at a Toddler-Level mentally, he doesn’t know how to deal with being unable to protect, so he just stays inside. Still, Dr. Strange and Rhodey could’ve given Banner some nice clothes at least.)
    – The Wakandans come off as being really dumb tactically: no Long-distance weapons (neither bow+arrows, despite spears, nor futuristic guns), and, once the dome is opened, they rush the opponents, instead of letting them come.
    – Everything screams reset button, at first, there’s the Relativity Stone, and then we see the Time Stone, so it’s hard to take all the deaths seriously. (also, while the visuals were impressive, not even a corpse makes it harder to connect
    – The sacrifice was overdone for me: first Starlord has to kill Gamora, only it doesn’t work; Vision wants to sacrifice himself, and then Wanda has to kill him, anyway (but he might live) – too often the same theme.
    – Gamora and Thanos (granted I didn’t see Guardians): it’s meant to be a very emotional Moment when he sacrifices her for the Soul Stone, but I didn’t for a Moment believe that he really loved her, or mourned her. In real life, there are ten thousands of parents in the US alone who kick their Kids out of their home because their ideology is more important, even if minors without a Roof and a Job are likely to be assaulted, raped and starve, so Thanos, obsessed with his ideology, mourning, I didn’t buy.
    – Strange’s ominous lines: he will rather let Stark or Spiderman be killed than Hand over the time Stone; he sees “14 Million futures” (Which would take years…) and one where they win – so why not implement that right away? – so him caving in to save Stark can only be part of some plan (esp. since he already tried to hide the Stone seperate from the medallion).
    – Hulk loosing against Thanos: Reminded me of the fight between Abomination and Hulk (although I don’t know if that’s MCU Canon?): two big guys who are “invulnerable and incredibly strong” – how are we Viewers to know that one time, Hulk wins, but this time, Thanos wins? It seems to be decided by the plot; we can’t see why this time Hulk is not the strongest. (In TIH, it was just unbelievable that a soldier with decades of experience in fighting techniques and Spikes would loose against the Hulk with the experience of a civilian.)
    – The whole Forge Scene is just dumb: a “star” that restarts in minutes; metal that melts in minutes, the whole “making a weapon from pouring metal instead of actually forging = hammering it” nonsense (there have been several articles on why swords are always hammered, never poured), and of course Thor still survives
    – Thor squandering that important Moment to not cut off the Hand with the gauntlet first, and then the head on the backstrocke – shouldn’t a warrior centuries old know better?

    • PhysUnknown

      From The Avengers: “Last time I was in New York, I broke Harlem.” The Incredible Hulk is canon (not to mention Ross shows up in Civil War and Infinity War.

  • Murry Chang

    Yeah, I’m with you about Thanos’s plan. He’s more like ‘The Stupid Titan’ than ‘The Mad Titan’ in this one…not a bad film but his motivation was deeply stupid.

    And, to be honest, if they’d had started hinting about Thanos courting Death from his first appearance, I think I would have bought it. Yeah, it’s comic booky, but it makes sense for a madman to court death like that.

  • Kapt Blasto

    And here I was wanting to do a Superman III remake, with Loreli being the true Brainiac and the Fembot2.0-Vera being her wanna-be that she surprisingly dispatches….

    How about instead. We have URSA go undercover as Loreli (we can Time Travel it, if you like….) and for years and years she’s Loreli (read Circe) and she forgets she’s Ursa, until the Synthetic Kryptonite starts to work its way into her mind, stripping out the pretenses, Until she’s faced with the fact that not only was she Lara’s secret Daughter, with Zod, before she met Jor-El (ala Hela in Ragnarok)….but now as Loreli she’s pregnant with Superman’s Baby!

    Now THAT would be crazy!

    (EDIT: I know I am stuck on that movie……I can’t help it! Ursa always gives off the evil Joan-Jett vibe that you as the audience member want make turn good….for your OWN nefarious purposes…..)
    :)