Movie Review: "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018)
Ten years. 17 films to the "first payoff". 12 billion dollars in box office. Dozens of characters crossing dozens of storylines with bold decisions and the occasional misfire (though only one real dud...I'm talking to you, Ed Norton's Hulk). The time has come.
Thanos has arrived. The Mad Titan finally gets his movie in the MCU, and make no mistake about it: it's his movie.
Sure, this is an Avengers film. We get to see the onscreen meeting of the Guardians of the Galaxy with the Avengers. The Kingdom of Wakanda goes front and center. Old grudges are settled. Civil War wounds are healed. I'm not downplaying any of that because it's beautifully done and you will feel that shit. However........
There's a moment that comes during Thanos' hunt for the Infinity Stones that fully completed my emotional investment in these characters and (more importantly) established Thanos as THE villain to end all other villains. In storytelling, you want to humanize your villains to some degree but it's a dangerous endeavor. Make them too human and you lose the menace; too remote and insane and they become a caricature. As Run DMC would say, "It's tricky".
I could feel it coming and I found myself taking shorter breaths. As it became more clearly defined I was already fighting back tears. The tension combined with the anticipation and the emotion to be a physical pain in the middle of my chest. And then he did it.
It's the dominant theme of the whole movie for me. There isn't a "safe space" here. Heroes will die wholesale. You'd better strap in and get ready for some carnage. You will find yourself saying "did they really just do that?!"
Yes. Yes, they did. Thanos isn't pulling punches. He's the villain who truly has the courage of his convictions. He's a shockingly human villain for a big, purple Titan. You can feel where he's torn, & your eyes widen when he comes to each decision. Josh Brolin kills it in big ways here.
And that's where the writing pays huge dividends. Ever since Loki brought the Chitauri to NYC in the first Avengers film the underlying theme simmering in each film is DOING WHAT YOU TRULY BELIEVE IS RIGHT. Whether it is Thanos attempting to kill 1/2 the population of the entire universe, Hydra going full Minority Report on steroids, Captain America protecting Bucky Barnes against crazy evidence, or Tony Stark creating Ultron as a means of ultimate protection the message is clear:
True conviction is terrifying.
As for the finer points? There's so much good shit to love here.
- Every interaction between Rocket Raccoon and Thor.
- Drax still gets the best lines: "Pirate Angel", "Demon blanket".
- Captain America's beard will make you question your sexuality.
- I like Black Widow better as a redhead. That's as close as I get to criticizing Scarlett Johansson.
- "We don't trade lives"
- Wakanda is flat-out breathtaking.
- Vision is criminally underappreciated. I fell in love with that character.
- How many more iterations of the Iron Man suit can there possibly be? Seriously. It's nuts.
- "I am Groot!"....."I took that as an elective".
- That ending.
Speaking of that ending that everyone keeps talking about: the balls of that!! I love it. I will repeat: I LOVE IT!!! This is the Empire Strikes Back of the MCU. Period. Remember the wisdom of Randall in Clerks: "Empire had the better ending- Luke gets his hand cut off, finds out Vader's his father, Han gets frozen and taken away by Boba Fett. It ends on such a down note. I mean, that's what life is: a series of down endings. All Jedi had was a bunch of Muppets!"
This is your Empire, MCU fans. Don't be afraid. The best stories are tragedies. You can't have the light without the dark. At some point you have to pay off the threat. Get ready and be brave.