This article comes from Den of Geek UK. It contains MAJOR Avengers: Infinity War spoilers.
After years of speculation, it feels a bit surreal to have actually seen Avengers: Infinity War. For what seemed like an eternity, Marvel Cinematic Universe fans pored over posters searching for Hawkeye, painstakingly speculated on the location of the Soul Stone, and argued at length about which Avengers would make the ultimate sacrifice in Infinity War.
Now that we know the answers to all of our Infinity War questions, we’ve found them replaced with a similarly sizeable stack of Avengers 4 questions. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a few minutes to really look at Avengers: Infinity War. It is a film that succeeded on so many levels, and does a strong job of juggling all those balls and delivering a payoff to ten years of shared universe storytelling.
The baseline layer of fun
One of the biggest achievements of Avengers: Infinity War is that, despite the constant barrage of death and destruction, it still feels like a Marvel Studios movie. The Guardians Of The Galaxy cast got to sing a song in the Milano, the Avengers got to quibble, and the laughs came thick and fast despite the film’s morbid themes.
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely had one of the hardest screenplay-writing jobs in history with this one, and they somehow managed to maintain Marvel’s baseline layer of fun without compromising Infinity War’s stakes and surprises. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo also did a wonderful job, bringing all of the ideas from the script onto the big screen, without making the planet-hopping antics seem confusing or uninteresting.
Although Infinity War’s ending is inevitably a huge talking point, let’s not forget everything that came before it. Particular comedic highlights included Chris Pratt doing a British accent, Chris Evans’ Captain America introducing himself to Groot, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man remembering another ‘really old movie’, and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor genuinely believing that Kevin Bacon might be an Avenger.
This film had lots of heavy lifting to do with regards to galactic-scale plot movements, but it didn’t forget its place as an event movie in a universe that fans have come to expect certain things from. Making room for silly call-backs and jokey bantering might not have been a priority with other filmmakers at the helm, but we’re very glad these writers and directors didn’t lose sight of the MCU’s overarching tone.
Cameos, teases and absences
It also wouldn’t be an MCU movie without a few surprise cameos. These days, with so many press outlets reporting on Marvel Studios’ every move, it can’t be easy for Kevin Feige and his cohorts to keep things under wraps. But thankfully for our squeeing needs, Infinity War delivered on this front.
The biggest surprise was that the Red Skull returned for the first time since his debut in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. He was zapped into the Tesseract at the end of that movie, and now we know that he ended up on the other side of space, wearing a hoody and guarding the Soul Stone. Here’s a fun fact for you, though: apparently Hugo Weaving didn’t reprise his role, leaving The Walking Dead actor Ross Marquand to step in and do his best impression. Makeup and CGI did a fine job of making Marquand look like Weaving’s Red Skull, and his big reveal moment seems to be earning whispered murmurs of approval in theaters.
The film’s single post-credits scene was also a treat for the fans. Harking all the way back to 2008’s Iron Man, we got a surprise appearance from Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill was there too, turning to dust shortly before her old SHIELD boss. Before he disintegrated, Fury managed to send a page to Captain Marvel, Brie Larson’s fighter-pilot-turned-superhero who will get her own solo movie next year before showing up in Avengers 4.
In terms of who didn’t make an appearance in Infinity War, two of Earth’s mightiest heroes didn’t get involved this time around: both Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man sat this one out, under house arrest, chilling with their families after handing themselves over to the authorities post-Civil War. They still got namedropped, though it’s unclear whether either of them got turned into dust when Thanos snapped his fingers at the end of the film.
The overtones of utter misery
Even with a generous dose of jokes and surprises on display, Infinity War was just as grim and deadly as it needed to be. Thanos couldn’t just be a standard MCU baddie after all of his hype; if he was as quip-happy as Ultron or as easy-to-Hulk-smash as Loki, there would be nothing to make this film any bigger or better than the previous Avengers outings.
To make Thanos a genuinely galaxy-threatening menace, he had to seem utterly unstoppable and relentless. The quickest way to achieve this was to show him killing a being as powerful as Loki and physically despatching Thor and Hulk. Thanos cannot be tricked and Thanos cannot be beaten up, which puts the MCU’s collection of heroes in a tricky spot. (Maybe they should have tried the dance-off idea, after all?)
The beating heart of all this misery, surprisingly enough after his last solo outing, was Thor. It’s a turn-on-sixpence mood swing that Marvel asked of Hemsworth between Ragnarok and Infinity War, and the ever-impressive Aussie actor really managed to pull it off.
The scene where Thor sits down with Rocket and talks about revenge being a great motivator and Loki’s latest death feeling more permanent than the last one was surprisingly emotional, especially for a discourse between a hammer-throwing god and an anthropomorphic ‘rabbit’. This is a prime example of how far this shared universe has come: both of these characters seemed like outsider bets when Marvel first introduced them to the big screen, but here we are now hanging on their every word and genuinely feeling their pain.
Thanos and Gamora
There simply wasn’t time for every character to have an arc in Infinity War: Black Panther, Black Widow, and plenty of others were just along for the ride this time. I’ve seen this cited as a flaw in the film in some reviews around the web, but I’d argue that sending some characters to the sidelines allowed other ones to shine.
It was vital, given how little we’ve seen of him before, that Josh Brolin’s Thanos was given some time to establish his motivations and explore his relationship with both his home planet and his favourite daughter. Where before the purple space bastard felt a little uninspired, now he feels like one of the most fully fleshed out evildoers to ever to set foot in the MCU.
The flashback to the first meeting between Thanos and Gamora is a scene that a lesser version of this film might have left on the cutting room floor. But by leaving it in, the filmmakers made these characters’ shared backstory seem far more real than it did before. It’s all well and good saying that Gamora is the adopted daughter of Thanos and that The Mad Titan murdered her parents in front of her – and indeed, both of those facts have been stated in the Guardians films – but to actually see how that happened adds so much more emotional resonance to the present day scenes between the pair.
Gamora is a cocktail of confused emotions in the film, attempting to murder her father one minute and crying about losing him the next. Her feelings are real, which elevates Infinity War to an emotional plane where not many comic book movies reside. Saldana’s performance here is the best work she’s done on the blockbuster stage, and Brolin’s turn is very impressive as well.
The scene where Thanos chose to throw Gamora off a cliff in order to earn the Soul Stone was the moment when the Mad Titan became one of the great villains in MCU history. On one level he didn’t want to do it, but on another he was determined to be iron willed and see his crazy plan through to fruition. This conflict within Thanos stays with him right until the film’s final shot, where his little smile appears to be a little bit forced. Beneath layers of CGI magic, Brolin does some very fine work.
Fake-out deaths and last-minute rescues
Infinity War also had a lot of fun playing with people’s expectations. After all the rumors of Cap and Tony biting the bullet, we saw one of them being overrun by space zombies and the other being impaled by Thanos within minutes of each other. Both heroes were saved by last minute rescues, with Thor bifrosting in to turn the tide of the Wakanda battle and Strange bargaining with Thanos to save Tony’s life.
Earlier on the film, Thanos put on a little show to let Gamora think she had killed him. No one really believed she had succeeded, but it was good to know that Gamora wouldn’t hesitate if given that chance. It was also nice to see Benicio del Toro back in the MCU, even though – as Peter Quill pointed out – it wasn’t a very smart move on Thor’s part to leave an Infinity Stone with him.
We also saw Doctor Strange nearly killed by sci-fi acupuncture, Drax cut into cubes by Thanos and Mantis reduced to ribbons. These nearly fatal moments almost had us thinking that none of our heroes were actually going to die, which lulled us nicely into false sense of security as Infinity War careened into its final third. And boy, what a final third it was.
The third act of Avengers: Infinity War included loads of great moments. Elisabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch and Paul Bettany’s Vision had an emotional farewell/head explosion in the woods, only for Thanos to use the Time Stone. He turned back time to reinstate the Mind Stone, and then he pried it in a brutal fashion from Vision’s head. This is a film that doesn’t pull any punches.
Also in the third act, Mark Ruffalo got to argue with his CGI self, teasing a little of what we’ll see from the Banner/Hulk dynamic next time around. Captain America impressed Thanos with his sheer strength before being punched out, and Thor almost managed to get revenge for the deaths of Loki, Heimdall and everyone else on the Asgardian refugee ship. Thanos got to see his daughter as a child once again in some kind of other realm, and he lamented sacrificing ‘everything’ to his universe-balancing mission.
There is one scene in the final third of Infinity War that overshadows all of the rest, though – the montage that follows the click of Thanos’ fingers. It began with Bucky turning to dust and Steve fumbling on the floor in anguish, and it ended with a sad tableau of Earth’s remaining heroes gathered in shocked silence. Heart-breaking highlights in this montage included Drax appealing to Quill and Peter Parker vanishing in Tony Stark’s arms.
After seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming, the sight of Peter dying in Tony’s arms is truly horrifying. The fact that the last thing Peter said was “I’m sorry” made it even more emotional. As he dies, Peter is still worried about letting his mentor down. This shocking ending was executed tastefully, and it is sure to seep into the pop culture consciousness and go down as one of the most memorable movie endings of all time. Here’s hoping that young audiences aren’t too mortified by it.
What we are left with is an MCU where half of our heroes are piles of dust on the ground. This is one of those moments in pop culture, like Negan swinging has baseball bat at the end of The Walking Dead season 6, which invites an endless amount of speculation. We’ll have to wait until April 2019 to find out what happens next, when Avengers 4 arrives in theaters.
Prior to that, two more Marvel Cinematic Universe movies will be released. Ant-Man & The Wasp, which many assume to be set between Civil War and Infinity War, will debut in August 2018 to lift our spirits with a healthy dose of Paul Rudd. And 2019’s Captain Marvel, which is set in the 1990s, will introduce the hero that Nick Fury paged in Infinity War’s post-credits scene. Either or both of these films could use their own post-credits slots to tease how their characters will slot into Avengers 4.
As for what Avengers 4 will entail, we only have guesswork for now. It seems plausible that the Avengers will try to kill Thanos, steal the Infinity Gauntlet and use the Time Stone to undo all of those disintegrations, but whether Earth’s mightiest heroes would have the power or skill to actually use the gauntlet remains to be seen.
It is interesting that all of the first generation Avengers from Infinity War (Iron Man, Cap, Black Widow, Hulk) survived Thanos’ random half-the-universe genocide. Perhaps these old guard heroes will have to sacrifice their own lives to work together and wield the gauntlet, in the hope of resurrecting the next generation of superpeople (Spidey, Bucky, Black Panther, the Guardians). Or maybe rewinding time won’t be the solution; perhaps the Gauntlet could be used to reboot reality itself, shaking up the status quo in time for the next phase of Marvel movies?
One thing this writer would like to see is a bit more Nebula time in Avengers 4. Given that Infinity War spent so much time on the Gamora/Thanos dynamic, it feels like there must be a reason why Thanos’ other daughter survived the disintegration montage. Maybe Karen Gillan’s Nebula is fated to be the one that finally defeats Thanos, or makes him see sense.
All will be revealed in a year’s time, but for now, one thing’s for sure: topping Infinity War will be one hell of a job for Avengers 4.