Avengers: Infinity War

 

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Geoff Harris

Thanos The Mad Titan is possessed with finding and collecting the six Infinity Stones. If you have no idea who he is or what an Infinity Stone is, stop reading immediately! Go to Netflix or download the entire run of Marvel movies and watch them, in order, until you have caught up with 98% of the rest of us who have been debating over these movies since Iron Man. Okay, are we good? Infinity War is a mega-crossover featuring damn near every character from all those movies jumbled up into a giant wad of crazy and then split into three segments. Each segment followed the exploits of different heroes dealing with or learning about Thanos and his master plan to eradicate one half of all existing life in the universe.

There was a time in Hollywood when movies were EPICS. Bigger than life stories so bold and wide sweeping it took hours to tell the whole story. Big A-List stars were cast in multiple lead roles and the sets were expansive and often cost thousands of dollars. Now we have CGI and a whole new batch of stars to fill the screen, and that’s what we get. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building and building to a kind of critical mass. I think the bubble has burst. Infinity War is so huge, so massive, it burns with the power of a sun. And all suns eventually collapse. Thanos’s plan to kill half the universe is not fully fleshed out beyond “Because I feel like it and I’m a God so go away.” He honestly believes the Universe will be a better place after he’s made more room. Now, in the comics, it is an established trope that Thanos is literally in love with Death, who subsequently has a “persona” it manifests to interact with others. He only wants to make her happy and if that means feeding her souls then that is what he’ll do. Well, no She-Death here. Just a very overpowered nut who could have used the gems combined powers to MAKE NEW WORLDS…RESOURCES…WHAT HAVE YOU…instead of just wiping out a metric cosmic shit ton of living beings.

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the movie. The interaction between characters was fun at times and it was refreshing that just because we’re heroes doesn’t mean we’re automatically going to become the best of friends on a first meeting. Spider-Man was a tad too sycophantic for my taste. I get it. He’s a kid. He’s green as the fields of Ireland. Can we lay off the “Mr.Stark” bullshit? It was getting really old really quick. Thor and Rocket are a show unto themselves. All in all, this was Marvel’s Empire Strikes Back. Bad Guys win. Go home and lick your wounds. I would probably watch this again for two reasons: one, if i was binging Marvel movies and wanted to keep continuity and two, there is so much going on that it was just overwhelming the first time through. You do get almost three movies slammed into one. That is a pretty good deal for a one ticket trip but I really wanted less pow and more character development. I know in the comics Vision and Scarlet Witch hooked up and even got married. A bit of shocker to see them together with only a reference to two years of shagging and being in a relationship. Yeah, spoilers. I give it a solid 3 and half out of 5. Lots of bang but we all know this is a colossal cock tease to bring in the next wave of movies we were already going to go see anyway.

 

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Phantom of the Cineplex

The restorative powers of a medically induced coma cannot be overstated.  But my therapeutic regimen now calls for the sort of strength-building exercises which will really test my limits.  I may, someday, be ready to return to my regular routine, though I will always be diminished by that one horrific experience which changed my life forever.  Though I will likely never be able to watch a Star Wars movie again, I think I can, just for today, manage to take a small dose of Marvel MCU.

Small steps…small steps, at first

The Email exchange with my editor went like this:

Me:  “Avengers:  Infinity War is basically about a fictional world inhabited by super-powered beings none of whom have played Valve’s Portal games or know how to use their portaling abilities effectively.
…In before How It Should Have Ended makes a whole episode about it.”

Editor:  “Is this your review for the website?”

Marvel Studio’s “Avengers:  Infinity War” is a loose adaptation of the early ’90s maxiseries and crossover event branded “Infinity Gauntlet” which, itself, is widely regarded as Marvel Comics’ high-water mark and often credited with either forestalling or exasperating the collapse of the comic print industry later that decade (hey, I wonder what could happen to hero flicks after the conclusion of Phase Three — hrmm).  It varies greatly from the source material with regard to the particulars of lineup and situation, but sticks to the basic waypoints of the original story outline.  Given the foundation upon which this house is built (Phases One, Two, and the rest of Three) the changes where both necessary and welcome, even if the inclusion of the Guardians was a bit hamfisted (insert missing rant about how Adam Warlock would have been the perfect vehicle for introducing that team of vagabonds to the Avengers, and how “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” should have been about protecting and stealing a Warlock-incubating cocoon and not a couple of stupid pocket-sized batteries).  One unnecessary change which needlessly lengthened and cluttered the film was the battle of Wakanda, the conclusion of which was exactly the same (story wise) as would have eventuated otherwise, but which was forced in for no other reason than that the concurrent filming of “Black Panther” allowed the use this (uh!) synergistic development.

Unfortunately, for a movie about brand breadth and inclusion, the most conspicuous casting and lineup choices are the missing ones.  Not only is Adam Warlock (you know, the protagonist of the original story) not even referenced, but (SPOILERS) none of the Fox acquisitions appear in any way.  I understand that the recovery of those properties occurred relatively recently and that shoehorning those characters into a mostly shot film project would have been both clunky and expensive but, really, they could have made some passing reference to Reed Richards in any of the throwaway dialogue of any pick-up scene.  While I was not expecting to see anything like a Wolverine cameo, not even the Silver Surfer, the linchpin character in the Infinity Gauntlet print and a wholly drag-and-droppable CGI creation, was seen to so much as just streak across camera.  There is a very specific scene in which I was really hoping to see the Surfer just fly by (readers of the original story know EXACTLY which scene I mean) and I can guarantee that, if he had appeared at that instant, the audience with which I was viewing the movie would have leapt from the seats.  Of course, Cable and Johnny Storm had the good taste to not show THEIR faces, either.

Surprisingly, there is a lot of character growth and development in this ensemble.  We really see Spider-man make some good decisions contrary to his guidance, we see Doctor Strange humbled, we see Stark lose the last of his unjustified triumphalism, and we see Hulk/Banner continue to decline as Thor (Rune Thor, perhaps) rises to even greater heights of power.  Most importantly, we see the transformation of Thanos from a shallow plotting Fu Manchu type with vague ambitions of power into a complex and thoughtful actor whose self-set purpose is understandable.  He’s an environmentalist…or an economist.  Whatever, I declare Marvel’s “villain problem” over.  This Thanos is very different from his earlier appearances and much more like the central character from the comic series.

Speaking of Thanos,  I want to comment on the CGI mastery demonstrated in bringing this monster to the screen.  To the utter humiliation of Warner Brothers’ special effects posers, Marvel Studios shows how to hold the folks at ILM or Weta or wherever to modern day expected standards of acceptability — no, they SURPASSED expectations.  Thanos seems weighty and present.  He does not float, superimposed, across the landscape.  He really seems to be on set among the human actors.  A triumph in entertainment technology, they seem to have crafted a body proportionate to Josh Brolin’s head, his tragic deformity becoming all the more apparent when one compares this to his Cable depiction.  Seriously, go look.

Honestly, plot and development are incidental to the enjoyment of a movie like this.  We really just go to see the interplay among previously separated characters and see them showboat their powers.  However, it was very frustrating to watch all of these collective heroes fail, continually, to employ their assembled powers effectively.  Heimdall, it turns out, could have rainbow-bridged everyone directly to Earth at the end of GoTGv2, but elects to only save Banner after it is really too late to do any good (you had one job).  Stark’s plan was to single-handedly defeat Thanos on his homeworld with one beat up power suit that had already proven ineffectual against his lackeys.  Strange seemingly forgets that he can travel straight back to Earth when he finds himself on an autopiloted spaceship, or that he can safely travel to the surface of Titan when the ship is about to crash there.  He even forgets that closing his portals can amputate limbs (useful in scenarios such as, oh, I don’t know, needing to remove the grasping gauntleted hand of someone trying to grab you).  There is a very stupid sequence in which Thor restarts a neutron star-powered forge to start (I am not kidding) a small fire under a crucible, apparently forgetting that he is a portable arch furnace, himself.  The guy with the Mind Stone IN HIS HEAD critically failed his roll and did not know he was about to be ambushed in a sneak attack.  Even Thanos, who DID use the gems when he could, commented that Strange had failed to simply use the Time Stone to, you know, just stop what was happening.  Of course, this is the same Thanos who could have solved all of the problems about which he was so concerned by doubling all the resources in the universe…or killing half of all life.  Toss of the coin, man.

I did like the movie and would gladly go watch it again in theatrical release.  I will surely purchase the Blu Ray.  A large part of the movie-going population seems to agree;  “Avengers:  Infinity War” has broken all previous standing records for opening day and opening weekend in attendance and revenues.  The concessions tell the tale.  I was informed that ALL of the collectable branded concession merch was sold out after two early showings Thursday evening, BEFORE proper opening day Friday.  Thursday…Thuuuursdaaaay…

You know who did know how to portal?  Wong.  Not Benedict Wong, the actor playing Wong, but the character Wong played by Wong, the actor.  Wong did it [JOKE REDACTED] and used portals to redirect attacks back at attackers.  That’s how you do one job right, Heimdall.  Oh, and Thor, who proved that Asgardian Bifrost cuts through Wakandan shields like tissue.  Wakanda whatever!

 

Drew's Hi-Res headshot
Drew Russom

This review will be split into two parts: no spoilers and filled with spoilers. I want to be able to send people to the theater to this amazing film without giving away any details that do not wish to know. Not only would that be just rude to the viewer, but it would be a great injustice to this film that has been in making for the past ten years. Since 2008, when Tony Stark first dawned the Iron Man armor, we have been introduced to a slew of characters that have shown us what it means to be a hero. With this next major event movie in this epic saga, the stakes have never been higher with every ones head on the proverbial chopping block. However, as stated earlier, I will begin with the spoiler free portion first.

The start of the film perfectly sets up the tone of the film, and the threat that is Thanos. Josh Brolin is an imposing figure as the purple titan, and one of my worries was that with so many years of expectations that no one was going to live up to the hype. I am glad to say that Thanos was exactly how I imagined him, and surprisingly more depth added to his character then I anticipated from the antagonist. Marvel has had more villains that have had weak motivations, uninteresting desires, or just uninspired back stories, but with the last few films: Civil War, Black Panther, etc, the villains have become more fleshed out and relatable to the audience. Thanos here is not like his comic book counterpart, he is not the demigod that hungers for the attention of Mistress Death, but a man that desires to accomplish a goal, and will do anything to achieve said goal.

One thing that I can point out is my perspective on what films are necessary to see prior to see Infinity War. Prior to this film, I could list out what particular films that you can miss considering they have no relative connection on the road to Avengers, or Age of Ultron. Post Infinity War, all of the films are necessary to see because it all adds to the emotional impact of this movie. If you miss out on Spiderman: Homecoming, events in the film that involve Spidey will still make sense, but they will not have you as engaged on a subconscious level. So, now that I have hopefully enticed you into going to see the film, now I can do a spoiler review for those of us that have already seen the film.

When I said that the beginning of the movie set up the tone perfectly, I was not exaggerating that statement. Within the first fifteen minutes, Hulk taps out of his boxing match with Thanos, the Asgardian ship at the end of Thor: Ragnorok is decimated, Heimdall is killed, Loki is chocked to death and Thor is left to die in the vacuum of space. Thor is picked up by the Guardians of The Galaxy to then commandeering a pod so that he can venture to the Dwarven forge the once made his hammer. Mean while, Hulk being whisked away by Heimdall, lands literally at Dr. Strangers’ door step.

Now begins the ordeal on Earth with the capture of Steven Strange by Thanos’s Inquisitor, Bruce Banner unable to transform into the Hulk, all while Vision and Scarlett which for their lives during their romantic getaway. Here the Avengers, minus Tony Stark, finally reunite after two years on the run as fugitives of International Law. Our heroes retreat to Wakanda to seek asylum from the authorities, and to see if the mind stone implanted in Vision’s head can be removed without killing him. Tony gives chase after Strange, who is currently in possession of the time stone, and along with a stow away Spider Man, they defeat the Inquisitor with a pop culture reference, but can’t prevent themselves from crashing on a desolate planet. Thanos then captures his adopted daughter, Gamora, taking her to the hidden space for the soul stone, but in order to acquire it Thanos must give a life to gain the stone.

Thanos’s motivation to bring balance to the universe through his genocidal means, is the worst way to solve a very understandable problem. His own home planet was shown to suffer to over population and a the complete depletion of the planet’s resources. This issue is something that we are dealing with currently in our own world today, so the film already has a connection the audience can grasp and relate in the end. Thanos also has a very compassionate side with Gamora. When she needed to be sacrificed to gain the soul stone, Thanos sheds tears for what he feels he must do to bring balance to the Universe.

The final battle in Wakanda was great. With Thanos in possession of almost all of the stones, he makes his assault upon the Avengers, leaving Stark, Strange, Spider Man, and the Guardians of The Galaxy on Titan. Time is of the essence as the battle rages on, and Shuri, Black Panther’s sister, attempts to remove the stone from Vision. Minions of Thanos are dispatched as Thor enters the battle with Storm Bringer, his new battle axe created by the newly revitalized forge. Thanos also enters the battle dispatching the Avengers with ease just as Scarlett Witch destroys the stone, but with the Time Stone, given to Thanos by Dr. Strange, the tyrant simply reverses time, and plucks the stone from Visions skull. With the snap of his fingers, most of our heroes are literally turned to dust, leaving only the original members of the Avengers present with no real reason to who was taken or left to exist.

Most of the people that were dusted were shocking, but Peter was the tear jerking moment. He was the one character that only wants to be a part of the team, and impress his mentor, Tony Stark. I have not seen a film that has left me wanting questions answered at the end in a long time. So many questions and theories about Infinity War part two: where did Thanos go to at the end of the film, will the heroes that were dusted return in later movies, how do the next few movies fit into the timeline that will appear before the next Avengers movie? At the end all I can say is, go see this movie, if you haven’t seen any Marvel movie before, better get started you have quite a journey ahead of you.

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