I’ve thought about it, and I don’t think there is any way to talk about this movie without massive spoilers sooooo if you haven’t seen Infinity War yet, avert your eyes, because this article is going to SPOIL EVERYTHING.
Ok, you’ve seen Infinity War? Good. Me too.
…And holy shit, Thanos just killed half the people in the universe. This likely isn’t permanent, but for at least a year, Black Panther, 70% of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange, Nick Fury, and so, so many more have been reduced to dust with the click of Thanos’s giant fingers. And this movie freakin’ earned it.
I believe the success of the film rests on the foundation of one brilliant decision – making Thanos the main character. Post-credits tease Thanos has never really interested me, so I will admit to being apprehensive going into Infinity War. How could a giant purple CGI man with a stripey chin possibly be the villain that can hold their own against every Marvel hero? Marvel has certainly listened to criticism that their villains tended to be the weakest parts of their films. Their most recent villains: Ego, Vulture, Hela, and, most notably, Killmonger, have all been significantly more fleshed out than previous big bads. It now seems that this was all leading up to Infinity War, where Thanos has the most satisfying character arc of anyone in the movie, and is brought to photo-realistic life by the amazing folks at ILM, who manage to capture every nuance of Josh Brolin’s surprisingly contained performance.
I should note at this point that I am a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve seen every movie at least once and find even my least favourite, Iron Man 2, to be pretty entertaining. Kevin Feige and company have brought the world of Marvel comics to life in a way I didn’t think was possible, and have created films that are, for the most part, distinct from each other, while still feeling like part of a greater whole. This interconnectedness was most felt in Avengers 1 & 2, and Captain America: Civil War, but those movies could still be watched and appreciated by a non-Marvel fan. The same cannot be said for Infinity War. For better or worse, if you haven’t seen at least most of the Marvel movies, you are going to be really, really lost watching this one. Personally, I think that’s OK. Short of a quick “Previously On” most TV series don’t bother catching you up on who everyone is either.
So let’s get back to the plot, which ends with a jaw-dropping finale that just HAS to be experienced with an audience. Like all great endings, once we get there we realize that everything we’ve seen before has been leading to it. For two and a half hours we watch Thanos best our favourite heroes, in increasingly devastating ways; it only stands to reason that he would find a way to best them one last time. It’s often been said that the most powerful way to make an argument is to present the strongest possible version of your opponent’s point, then demonstrate why it’s false. Marvel did this perfectly in Black Panther, where Killmonger’s position is completely understandable, but the film (I think, rightly) points out that he would simply be replacing one oppressor with another. In Infinity War, as I came to understand Thanos’s reasoning behind his plan, I couldn’t help but recognize the demented logic of it. He’s a monster of course, but his unwavering sense of purpose, and the resulting humanity that Brolin conveys, carries us through a film that could have so easily been a complete mess.
Our heroes play varying degrees of supporting characters to Thanos, and most are well served. The Guardians of the Galaxy are given the most to do, and their weird brand of humour somehow meshed beautifully with every hero they encountered. My favourite exchange in the entire movie goes to Captain America’s response to “I am Groot” – “I am Steve Rogers.” Zoe Saldana is an incredible actor, and her portrayal of Gamora has never been better than it is here. Her scenes with Star Lord, and with Thanos, form the emotional heart of the movie, and are a staggering culmination of her character’s arc in the Guardians films. Also, she says that she loves Star Lord more than anything and it caused me to burst into happy-tears. Spider-Man has quickly become one of my favourite Avengers, and he steals every scene he’s in. His emotional death scene was the most affecting in the movie for me. Star Lord and Thor have some great banter – the scene where they compare tragic backstories is hilarious and genuinely poignant at the same time. Okoye delivers her lines with impeccable comic timing, and Red Skull shows up for a great cameo that I never saw coming. The only character who I truly feel is short changed is Captain America.
Iron Man and Captain America’s fight at the end of Civil War ends with what I consider to be a real misstep for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rather than having all their anger come to a head in some way, they just…stop fighting, and the final scene of the film implies that they apparently aren’t that mad at each other anymore. It’s a supremely unsatisfying ending to what would otherwise be one of my favourite Marvel movies. The ramification of this choice is definitely felt in Infinity War; Captain America has almost nothing to do, so all the scenes with him and the other disavowed Avengers feel largely empty. This is the main flaw in what I would describe as a flawed masterpiece.
Having only seen the movie once, and, of course, not having the benefit of hindsight when the sequel comes out next year, it may be too early to be throwing around the word “masterpiece.” And yet this is how I feel. I think the Marvel Cinematic Universe is something very special, that I perhaps haven’t fully appreciated over the years. Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of some truly masterful long-form storytelling, on a scale never before attempted. I will certainly watch this film several more times, and my opinion may change with subsequent rewatches, but right now, four days removed, I goddamn love this movie.