Fri. Dec 9th, 2022

Yesterday after work, I saw “Avengers: Infinity War” … and I freaking loved it. Honestly, I’m unsure how to review this without spoilers, but I’m going to try (and then I’ll review it with spoilers). So … here goes.

First, it’s frankly kind of amazing they managed to get this far. Ten years ago, Iron Man came out and from that, we’ve added a gajillion movies of varying quality – as much as I loved A:IW, I still think Captain America: The Winter Soldier is hands-down the best movie in the MCU – and so many of them have led to this. They teased Thanos in the first Avengers movie, but this is the first time we’ve seen him in action and boy, does he deliver. If you saw Thor: Ragnarok and sat through the credits, you likely know how this movie begins and within the first 20 minutes, Thanos is definitely established as a force to be reckoned with.

Second, it’s kind of amazing that the directors – the Russo Brothers, who did The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War – managed to handle all of the characters without seeming to short-change many. As a big Cap fan, I did notice he was definitely not as prominent as one would expect – ditto that with Black Widow and Falcon – but he had several moments of pure awesome: there’s this quick little bit in the Wakanda fight that’s all over the trailers where he and Black Panther are sprinting ahead of everyone else and it’s wicked cool (also very evocative of The Incredible Hulk (the one with Edward Norton that is actually part of the MCU) when the Abomination (can’t recall his civvie id; the guy Tim Roth played) is still human and races ahead of the soldiers. There are like a billion characters in this movie – no Hawkeye or Ant-Man (though they’re both mentioned) – and they juggle them really well principally by splitting them up into smaller teams. Off the top of my head, I think there is just one bit with a single Hero character where they’re by themselves and even then, Thanos is there so …

Ultimately, this is Thanos’ movie. He’s essentially the main character in this flick though Iron Man and Thor are also very prominent and are likely the characters with the second most screen-time. Since it’s Thanos’ movie, it basically becomes … well … it’s sort of a chase movie. Thanos is moving to seize the Infinity Stones because he’s basically a radical environmental nutjob who wants to wipe out half of the life in the universe so all of the universe’s resources won’t be consumed. Meanwhile, there are various teams are arrayed against him as they try to stop him. Keep in mind that two heroes have stones – Doctor Strange has the Eye of Agamotto which house the Time Stone and Vision has the … Mind Stone, I think? in his head. So naturally, they’re going to run afoul of him.

I’m unsure at this point if it was just the theater I saw it at, but the visuals were really dark at times so it was difficult to fully understand what was happening during at least one action scene I can think of. That said, it could have just been the mediocre theater – I’ll amend this after I see the movie a second time in a far better one. There was also a few instances of strange CGI for me, principally around Thanos himself – sometimes he just looks … weird, which admittedly probably should be the case for a giant purple alien dude with a weird-ass chin.

This is also a very fast-paced movie. A friend of mine who went with me to see it has already griped about the timeline not quite meshing for him, but I think that’s nitpicking because it was intentionally meant to feel fast for urgency’s sake. There are several major action set pieces in this – there were … five, I think? Maybe only four – which has really big fights. From the trailers, you can identify three of them easily – New York with Iron Man & Doctor Strange; Wakanda with Cap, Widow, Panther, and all the rest; the alien planet with Iron Man, Strange, Spidey, & the Guardians vs Thanos – and they’re all fairly well done with some genuine “Oh, crap … are they really going to …” moments throughout. There are also a couple of … let’s call them minor skirmishes along the way that don’t quite count as full-on action pieces, but exist to push the narrative along.

I was also surprised with how adeptly the Russo brothers juggled the humor. There’s still the trademark Marvel jokes scattered throughout – Thor consistently calls Rocket “Rabbit” and it’s funny each time – although I will admit that there were a couple of moments (principally surrounding Starlord’s initial attempts to out alpha male Thor) where it sort of fell flat for me, but overall, it was pretty solid and amusing.

And ultimately, this movie definitely does not end with the usual “The good guys kick a lot of butt and then soundly defeat the bad guy(s).” I’ve seen people refer to this as the Empire Strikes Back of the MCU movies and yeah … it does have that kind of vibe. Some people have mixed feelings about how this ended but knowing that Avengers 4 comes out next year and is basically Part 2 of this, I’m satisfied.

So overall, I loved this movie. I give it a solid 8.5 to 9 out of 10 (points off for some weirdness with the CG in a few places, a couple of failed jokes, and the darkness on the screen … which admittedly may have been the crappy theater.) It is, IMO, one of the best MCU flicks they’ve made mostly because Thanos lived up to his rep…

And now … SPOILERS…

You’ve been warned.

Seriously. You’ve been warned.

Upon your head it be.

Right. Okay. Where to start? Plot sequence? Nah. You can get that by going to the wiki – I will make some comments about the various sequences though and am following along with the sequence:

We pick up right where Thor: Ragnarok ended, with Thanos & Co. having butchered a bunch of Asgardians – no sign of Valkyrie, so we don’t know if she kicked it or not – because he’s here for the Tesseract that Loki nabbed from Odin’s vault in T:Ragnarok. This leads to the funny callback to Avengers 1 only this time it is Loki saying “We have a Hulk” – that was pretty cool, though seeing the big green guy get thoroughly demolished by Thanos pretty much set the stage for what was to come. I actually wasn’t that surprised when Loki was killed but Heimdall’s death did catch me a little off-guard.

As a fan of the original Infinity Gauntlet comic, I was amused by how Hulk replaced the Silver Surfer in crashing into Strange’s Sanctum with the “Oh, crap! Thanos is coming!” bits. Stark is quickly brought into the story – I was a little unclear about his exact status with regards to Pepper; this seemed to imply that they’re married now? That sort of fits with Spider-Man: Homecoming & the ring bit at the end, but again, I wasn’t sure if Strange’s brief “Congrats on the wedding” was supposed to be a “Hey, I can peer into the future & I know you’re getting married” or if they already tied the knot. Going to presume the latter.

Anyway, this quick recap – Banner: Thanos is coming! Thanos is coming! We’re all doomed! – leads to the first major set piece in New York as well as the reveal that Banner can’t seem to transform back into the Hulk. This was never explained, so I’m just presuming that Hulk is terrified by Thanos after being curbstomped by him. Spidey gets involved – nice way to involve Ned, however briefly; I really liked their friendship in Homecoming so seeing it again was cool – and this led to the Iron Spider suit … which was rather interesting to see. Not something I would want him to wear all the time – honestly, I liked the Stark-built suit in Homecoming but would have liked most of the tech in it stripped out somewhat. So now Iron Man, Spidey, and Doc Strange are off-world…

I think we jumped to the Guardians here … may get the exact sequence confused so some of the stuff may be out of sequence. I was really impressed with how well the Russo brothers managed to emulate the tone of those movies with this bit. Funniest background event for me here was after Starlord told everyone to put on their “mean faces,” Mantis could be seen behind him making a positively TERRIBLE “mean” face which totally tracks with her character. Intro Thor who survived the prologue & then everyone admiring his awesome muscles while mocking Quill. This leads to another quick data-dump and is where some of the comedy fell flat for me with Quill trying to out-macho Thor. It fit his character, but still, it just didn’t quite work for me. The team splits up – Rocket (who Thor calls and keeps calling “Rabbit” through the rest of the movie, much to my hilarity) and teenage Groot go with Thor to … Nidavellir (had to look up the spelling) so he can get a new hammer while the rest of the Guardians go to Knowhere in an attempt to retrieve the Infinity Stone that Odin (or was it Loki Disguised as Odin? Not sure) sent to the Collector at the end of Thor: The Dark World.

Jump to Scotland where we reveal Vision & Scarlet Witch are a couple. This was a nice callback to the comics where their counterparts married. Two more of Thanos’ “children” show up and kick them around a bit … until my boy, Cap, shows up with his work-wife & their flying sidekick. Nice, quick fight here that highlights how utterly badass these Secret Avengers are. I really, really liked the quick displays of teamwork they showed – honestly, I kind of want a short movie that just has them kicking everyone’s ass like this because it was neat. They all go to New York where Rhodes is talking to holographic Secretary Ross – nice bit with Ross ordering Rhodes to arrest them all, but him basically ignoring the guy. Banner is back and, as someone who really didn’t like the whole Black Widow/Hulk near-romance in Avengers: Age of Ultron, I was rather glad they didn’t even bother touching on that more than Nat saying “Hello, Bruce” & Falcon murmuring that this was awkward. What’s awkward, Bird Boy? The fact that they pretty much always had Nat standing alongside her work-husband, Steve? Heh.

Thor ends up with a new hammer – Stormbreaker, which is the name of the hammer that Beta-Ray Bill had in the comics, though this one looks a little more like Ultimate Thor’s version of Mjollnir. The handle is made of Groot arm, which was pretty cool (but does lead to an interesting question later.)

Gamora ends being killed by Thanos so he can recover the Soul Stone – this had a neat (and surprising) cameo by the Red Skull who is now quite a bit older (and sadly but not surprisingly, portrayed by someone other than Hugo Weaving who notoriously loathed the makeup process so badly he said ‘never again.’) Her death later causes problems as the characters on Titan – Stark & Co. plus the Guardians – ambush Thanos with a plan that comes very close to succeeding … until Mantis (who is using her mind powers to incapacitate Thanos while others try to pry the Gauntlet off) reveals that Thanos is grieving & Nebula (blue Amy Pond & Gamora’s sister) realizes that Gamora is dead. This results in Starlord freaking out and punching Thanos … which knocks Mantis free. Things go … poorly from that point. Thanos kicks much ass here, up to and including him throwing a moon at the heroes. Highlight of this for me was that Spidey immediately went into life-saving mode – as I recall, he rescued an unconscious Mantis like four times, as well as Drax & Starlord, which was pretty awesome. Eventually, it came down to Thanos vs Strange (Thanos won), then Thanos vs Iron Man (Thanos won again) – the latter bit ended with Thanos stabbing Stark rather seriously which made me wonder if they’d actually have the stones to kill him off right there … until I remember the set leaks for Avengers 4 that have Stark in them. Strange surrendered the Time Stone to Thanos in exchange for Stark’s life … which leads me to believe that this is part of the “only one good future where they win” that he mentions earlier in the Titan scene.

Finally, the big battle in Wakanda. The trailers that have a bunch of people running forward, including the Hulk? You know, the one that I used on this? They’re a lie. Banner NEVER Hulks out again after getting curbstomped by Thanos early on which is touched on but not explained. In fact, that running scene never happens. Banner is in the Hulkbuster armor though. Some highlights of this Wakanda fight for me are (as stated) Cap and Panther sprinting super fast ahead of everyone else, and then Thor shows up with his new hammer to start curbstomping the enemy army while bellowing “Bring me Thanos!” – Nice bit here. When the Bifrost opens and the lightning starts raining down, Banner pops open his helmet and shouts that they’re all screwed now. He knows what’s coming. And brother, Thor brings the whoop-ass. Another hysterical moment has Rocket (on Earth) and shooting at the bad guys – he’s about to be overwhelmed when Bucky grabs him with his robot arm, then begins to spin while shooting his machine gun in the other arm while Rocket continues to shoot. Very funny.

And then, Thanos arrives. Wanda blows up the stone in Vision’s head (at his request & much to her anguish), but Thanos has the Time Stone now, so he backs it up, then yanks the unbroken stone free, killing Vision in the process. Now he’s got the whole Gauntlet … and then Thor arrives to plunge the axe portion of Stormbreaker into his chest. In a lesser flick, this is literally the deus ex machina (since Thor is technically a “god”) … but Thanos tells him he should have aimed for the head. He snaps the fingers on his Gauntleted hand and teleports away. A moment later, people start disintegrating. Not everyone – curiously, ALL of the original Avengers present in this movie (Cap, Widow, IM, Thor, Banner) survive but nearly all of the other hero characters die. Bucky. Falcon. Groot. Starlord. Mantis. Black Panther. Scarlet Witch (who was cradling Vision’s body and almost looked relieved to be dying.) Drax. Spider-Man. And then in the final scene (after some seriously long credits), Maria Hill and Nick Fury himself!

I actually think they missed an opportunity at the end. Everyone in Wakanda is looking at Cap and saying ‘What happened?’ and he says “Oh, God…” – I think they should have done a callback to the first Avengers and have him say “We lost…” (if you recall A1, when they woke Tony with Hulk’s yell, Steve said “We won…”)

Right. So the casualties. Holy crap, that was a lot of dead people. Now obviously, a lot of them aren’t going to stay dead – Black Panther and Spider-Man both have sequels greenlit so they aren’t staying dead – and it seems clear to me that this is the only way to “victory” based on Strange’s comment, but I figure that all of the deaths pre-finger snap are here to stay. So Loki is dead (which causes millions of fangirls all across the world to scream in anguish), as is Heimdall, Gamora, and Vision. (Don’t think any of the others were killed prior to the finger-snap.) Unclear is Valkyrie (since we didn’t see her in the open)

But yeah. Definitely a downer ending. The Villain won! And a lot of people died.

And it was glorious…