Now that we’ve seen Avengers: Infinity War for the second time, we can finally sit down and offer some thoughts and reflections on the biggest, most incredible, most mind-blowing super-hero movie ever. (We would have done it after the first time, but, well, we were too preoccupied with having our minds blown.)
So let’s begin with the usual spoilers warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD, yada, yada, yada. MAJOR SPOILERS, blah, blah, blah. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK, and so on and so forth.
Now, on to business, and in no particular order . . .
- Game, set and match, Marvel. We don’t usually like to get involved in fan wars because they tend to be childish and immature. Still, in terms of superhero movies in general, Marvel could be forgiven if they wanted to take something of a victory lap. With Infinity Wars, the studio has capped off 10 years and 19 films that represent a project unprecedented in cinema history, let alone within the genre. So move over SONY, forget about it FOX, and as far as DC goes . . . well, you had your chance, and with the notable exceptions of Wonder Woman (please make more Wonder Woman films by Patty Jenkins) and the Dark Knight trilogy, you’ve proven that the thing you’re best at is not being able to figure out how to get out of your own way. Marvel is now the undisputed champion of the genre, and it’s hard to imagine anyone catching up, let alone surpassing them.
- Marvel does dark just fine. One of the things I commonly heard from DC fans was that their movies were “dark,” and therefore “realistic,” while Marvel made “fun, kiddie movies.” Yeah, all that’s pretty much done with. Infinity War is about as gut-wrenching an experience one can expect from a superhero flick—not so much because so many characters die, but because of the anguish, the characters themselves go through. From the opening scene on the Asgardian Sanctuary ship, to Peter’s loss of Gamora, to the Scarlet Witch’s loss of the Vision (twice), to Tony Stark’s watching Peter Parker die in his arms, to Cap’s anguished “Oh, God,” when he realizes that the good guys have been defeated, this movie is a cavalcade of horrible pain for many of its major players.
- These actors have some chops. I can point out several performances in which the Infinity War actors are doing their finest Marvel work, but I’m just going to highlight the one that stood out for me: Chris Hemsworth as Thor discussing why Fate has preserved him to do battle with Thanos, even though he’s been forced to witness not only the death of his entire family but the destruction of his homeworld and the murder of half its citizens. It’s a moment when the Thunder God’s veneer of bravado is at its most paper-thin, and the tears that Thor sheds are as genuine as anything we’ve seen in the MCU to date.
- It hurts to be a hero. For that matter, Infinity War drives home the point that to be a hero in the MCU, you have to have experienced soul-crushing loss in your life. Look at Thor. Look at Star-Lord. Look at Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Look at Gamora. Look at Black Widow and Scarlet Witch. Their heroism is almost all born of the pain of loss. So boo-hoo, Bruce Wayne, your parents were murdered . . . and then you were raised in a mansion with a butler to see to your every need. Suck it up, buttercup. Go through what some of these heroes have gone through and then get back to me.
- This studio has some frijoles. OK, so we know that many of the characters who bit the dust (and who literally turned to dust) are going to come back to life in the next Avengers movie. Then again, some won’t. Either way, it took some pretty substantial guts on Marvel’s part to spend $300 million plus on a movie that ends with so much death and defeat—a movie in which the heroes fight a losing battle for two-plus hours, only to fade out with the biggest, baddest movie villain in generations sitting on his porch and basking in a beautiful sunset. Usually, to craft a hit film, the good guys have to win in the end. Whatever happens in Avengers 4, Marvel rolled the dice big-time on making this movie such an emotional mind-bend. Fortunately for all of us, the gamble paid off.
- Let the conjecture begin. So now, let’s sit back and enjoy 12 excruciating months of fan speculation, conjecture and pure wild-ass guessing as to how the MCU will right itself and set sail into the next 10 years of new stories and characters. I think we can all agree that somehow this will hinge on Doctor Strange, who has already seen the ending, but having dissolved is unavailable for comment. And yes, Captain Marvel will more than likely have something to do with it as well, having been summoned in the final frames of the post-credit sequence. But I’ll leave you with one more tidbit that I’ve yet to see any nerdy newscaster report. Consider this: Tony Stark is stranded on Titan. Just about all of the Guardians of the Galaxy have disintegrated . . . except one. Nebula. Nebula didn’t disintegrate. Nebula is a cyborg—in fact, the filmmakers twice went out of their way to emphasize her cyborg-ness: once in her torture scenes, and again when Thanos said that killing her would be “a waste of parts.” So here’s a cyborg stranded on the ruined surface of Titan with Earth’s greatest technological genius not named Shuri. Might this play a role in de-snafu-ing the damage that Thanos has wrought? Let’s get in line now for Avengers 4 so we can find out!