Almost goes without saying, massive spoilers herein forewarned.
Do not read ahead unless you’ve already seen.
Upon seeing this ditty little epic film last Wednesday night, I do have more than a few things I desperately need to get off my chest. Here I go, no turning back now.
First, the context. As we all should know by now, Infinity War has officially become the biggest movies of all time and has surpassed The Force Awakens for most profitable opening weekend. I think this is deserved as it’s clearly better. But this is not a Star Wars rant, it’s a Marvel rant.
In anticipation of the cinematic event of a lifetime, my girlfriend and I have spent the past month watching all eighteen of the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Some may be a bit worse than others, but pretty much all are entertaining (indeed, every single one is very funny) and most make you truly grow to truly love these characters. Not to mention my special love superhero comics over my whole life, particularly the Thanos cosmic sagas, and suffice to say I was really looking forward to this film.
Usually, hype is a negative thing and makes the viewing experience worse. But it’s so unavoidable with this one, it’s like an ingrained part of the process. All that has come before is a part of it (as well as what will come). The pressures on this film to succeed are like nothing else ever attempted in cinema.
Now that I’ve seen it and even had a few days to reflect, my main takeaway is still… this is such a strange film. There is nothing else like it. It’s surely incredibly entertaining and fast-paced and action-packed but somehow not bloated and mostly it works. But it’s more like the climax to a sequential prestige television series than it is a film with a traditional three-act structure. In that sense, it’s not a “real movie.”
Like, it’s one thing to have an ensemble cast instead of one protagonist, but this borders on ridiculous. If I may attempt to simplify the storyline: For the most part the Infinity War plot centers on Iron and Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy, each of whom have overlapping adventures in outer space fighting Thanos and his acolytes. There’s also basically the Secret Avengers, basically led by Nomad, in the D-plot over on Earth as they try to protect the Vision’s mcguffin I mean stone, but that latter plot has the least focus–though it does give us the final Wakanda battle scene so prevalent in the trailers (yes those trailers that disappointingly lied about the Hulk actually being in this story). Don’t get me wrong, it’s still extremely fun to see so many characters interact again however briefly. Even if missing Hawkeye and Ant-Man. The crossover appeal is resoundingly successful.
I must admit it, no other word comes to mind other than awesome. I got serious chills when from the get-go Spider-man is immediately teaming up with Iron Man and Dr. Strange to fight aliens in the middle of New York. That is truly what superheroing should be all about.
Some criticisms are deserved, for example with the women characters which hasn’t always been Marvel Studios best aspect. Black Widow was approvingly badass—almost too strong, perhaps she had a robosuit of some sort—but not very fleshed out considering she’s supposed to be the premier heroine of the franchise. Gamora was the more major female lead, and she should have been in the middle of the poster, though that ultimately got rather women-in-refrigeratory. Then there’s Scarlet Witch, who had to focus on the romance angle with her will-she-won’t-she destroy her boyfriend inner conflict, which shouldn’t have been so conflicting considering the fate of the universe. If only Wasp could have made it in by now. We shall see how it goes with Captain Marvel soon enough.
On this I know no one else will care, but the science fiction made no sense whatsoever. Not even a passing mention of universal translators or scanning the atmosphere before disembarking. Everyone speaks English, every planet has breathable air, and in particular the scale of the weird mechanical star where Peter Dinklage lived really wasn’t clear. I wouldn’t have minded a little zero gravity and wormholes. At least make it more of a big deal for so many humans to realize that they’re talking to aliens for the first time. But of course all that is forgiven; it’s a space opera but a fantastical one and it just kinda works for the tone of it all. (And I said it before and I’ll say it again, the Guardians of the Galaxy world is now better than Star Wars’…)
Don’t get me wrong, still gotta love Infinity War. Yet above all, and you knew this was coming, it is the ending that really throws one off! Let’s just say it: Thanos won. He completed his Infinity Gauntlet set, and snapped his fingers at the last possible moment and half of the universe apparently disappeared. It is a profoundly strange ending, one that I didn’t see coming. Even in the comics source material, all resolved within its own mini-series, half the universe disappeared in the first issue and nobody ever expected such deaths to have staying power whether on a cliffhanger or not.
Watching the film with my girlfriend, who certainly enjoys the movies but is not quite the fanboy that I am, gave me an interesting perspective. She had her heart broken when Black Panther and so many others faded into ash. It left her with a great feeling of betrayal, after investing so much, and even though I reassured her that all those who have sequels in development will obviously come back to life—funny how the production backstory can’t be escaped right, again this movie can never just stand on its own—I still can’t deny that it’s such a downer of an ending. Plus note the non-Gauntlet deaths will likely stay dead. It is fair to ask, how will mainstream audiences take this?
Storytelling-wise, I’ve since realized it only makes sense when you realize that Thanos is the actual protagonist. I guess thinking of it that way leaves some sense closure. Honestly though, it’s not an indie tragedy about a true story or something like that, it’s supposed to be superhero genre. Can they really sell such a movie to millions of movie fans? And, am I going to be able to watch this movie again and again now that I know? The answer turns out to be yes.
Marvel sure takes risks, that’s for sure. Personally, it’s been great but I simply can’t get over how surreal it was to see the bad guy win in a hundred-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster. Like they were just trolling the audience, fucking with us all. I can’t really be living in a world where big budget movies break that many rules, can I? Frankly, it eerily reminded me of the infamous election night. I eternally feel like I’m in an alternate reality.
An allegory I came up with that sums it up best, albeit this is crass, is that the experience of watching Infinity War is like having an incredible sexual fantasy come true. Supermodel orgy level fantasy, the best ever that you never thought would come true. But then… you don’t cum in the end. So, overwhelmingly great as the ride was, if there’s no ending than what’s the point? Why do it at all? And thus, left with epic blue balls.
It’s going to be a long year waiting for this story to be resolved. And in the meantime, although there’s a couple of film in-between, that’s even more for the next iteration to live up to. It better be good.
Well, the next one is apparently going to incorporate time travel. A genre not yet explored, I approve. I also predict that it will be called Avengers Forever and will feature Kang. I certainly hope so. Do remember the part when Dr. Strange meditated on millions of possible futures, and said “it was the only way,” that’s key… Also, maybe everyone is in the soul stone, like Adam Warlock was in the comic (Gamora?). It’s so fun to guess! For a whole year!
Above all, I hope the untitled Avengers 4 big finale will be epic, break new records, engorgingly feed my inner child, and also somehow complete this incredible barely-probable story in a satisfying way that makes all the fans and critics and geeks happy.
Pressure much, Marvel?