by Tony Di Nizo
Avengers Infinity War has finally arrived, bringing audiences the first half of a two-part story that has been a decade in the making. There is an insane amount of hype surrounding the film and the question is, can directors Anthony and Joe Russo meet or even exceed those expectations?
The opening of the film jolts the audience out of any sense of complacency with the deaths of Heimdall and Loki. This was a smart way to start the film because it immediately tells the audience two things; to expect the unexpected, and anyone can get killed off. However, I do have a major issue with this opening scene and I am shocked that no one else is taking note of this. There is an unfortunate trend in Hollywood where a black character dies first. It is a staple in a lot of Hollywood fare, particularly in the horror genre. I remember watching the trailer for a horror film called The Lazarus Effect starring Olivia Wilde, (I have not seen this film, nor do I plan on it) but Donald Glover is the main POC member of the cast and his character died in the trailer. This is a pattern that needs to end and I cannot believe that Marvel fell into this trap. While Heimdall’s death bothered me, it is definitely Loki’s time to go. The character has overstayed his welcome and has gotten stale. Along with this opening, we get a strong introduction to the film’s villain, Thanos. The character has been teased for a decade so it is satisfying to see that the wait was worth it. Up until now, the franchise has suffered a major villain problem.
But here, in this film, Marvel delivers their best villain yet. Much of the credit goes towards the screenwriters who do an excellent job of setting up his motivations in a way that is not cliché, and making those motivations clear and compelling. Bringing that script to life is Josh Brolin who is really well cast in the role. He adds a surprising amount of charisma and personality to a character that is entirely CGI. He makes Thanos someone who is menacing and empathetic at the same time. However, I was disappointed that they changed Thanos’ motivations from the comics. For those of you who do not know, in the Marvel Universe death is personified as a woman whom Thanos falls in love with. Therefore, in an effort to court and please her, he sets out to travel the universe to kill as many people as possible. This is a crucial aspect of the character and I am disappointed that it was boiled down to “population control”.
While Thanos was simplified, it was compelling to witness a plot that was layered and well organized. A concern I had going into the film was how are they going to manage so many characters while telling a cohesive story. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFreely solve the issue by breaking them up into smaller groups and giving each group their own B storyline that is contributing towards the larger narrative. This structure worked wonders for the film. It allowed the audience to see familiar characters interacting with fresh faces while working semi-effectively together. The characters were well utilized and each of them where given a moment to shine. The pairings also assembled an eclectic blend of personalities, making each of the storylines something I was invested in. However, there are a few characters that fell by the wayside and I am shocked as to who they are. The Hulk and Captain America were completely wasted here. Despite becoming the Hulk in the opening of the film, Bruce Banner spends the rest of the film trying to bring the Hulk persona to the surface. Also, Captain America had nothing to do in the story. The character was built up in the ad campaign as many speculated that he would die in the film’s finale. Instead, he participates in the battle sequences without being a major player in the story. Hopefully, that changes in the next film because the character felt wasted here.
Speaking of being wasted, a lot of characters die in the film. I was expecting a few characters to kick the bucket but I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the actual body count. The only death besides Heimdall’s that I had an issue with was Gamora’s because the character got “fridged”. The term “fridged” is something that originates from comic books. There is a storyline where one of Kyle Rayner’s (a Green Lantern) villains, in an effort to get to him, kills his girlfriend and then stuffs her body into a refrigerator. Then, he leaves a note for Kyle that says “Surprise for you in the fridge” for him to find when he gets home. At the time, a lot of female comic creators spoke out against this because it went along with a trend of doing something horrible to a supporting female character only to move a male’s storyline forward. This is the exact situation surrounding Gamora’s death. Additionally, she never reached her full potential in the movies. Her tagline is “the most dangerous woman in the universe” and frankly we never got to see it. She just ended up being fridged to give Thanos some pathos as a character. At the end of the film, Thanos literally snaps his fingers and turns most of the Avengers to dust. I initially thought that these deaths were permanent until a few characters in particular were killed. Spider-man, Black Panther, and Star Lord gave this climax away as temporary. Why? Because these characters are way too popular to be killed off and they each have more films in development. So, I would be willing to bet a lot of money that these characters were transported somewhere else, or they will find a Deus ex machina to bring them back from the dead.
Along with the constant shock and awe, the film still manages to successfully deliver strong emotional beats. In any other film with this fast pace, the emotional moments would come off as inauthentic and forced. But, because we have had the opportunity to become familiar with these characters over a few films, the audience has already developed a relationship with them. Certain death scenes, like Spider-man’s, left a real impact due to how much we have grown to like the character over his past three cinematic appearances. While the emotional beats work, the quick shift in location and storyline can be jarring at times. Moments that are supposed to be emotional are immediately undercut by a change in scenery that opens with a joke. The film struggles with letting the audience process any emotional beat because they are quickly thrown into the next one.
Out of all the storylines that are in the film, two of them are particularly odd. There are two couples in this film, The Vision and Scarlet Witch, and Star Lord and Gamora. Both couples have one partner telling the other to do the exact same thing. In both relationships, one says that the other partner must kill them in order to save the universe. In both instances it didn’t work out, in the exact same way. The Vision asked the Scarlet Witch to destroy the mind stone in his head if Thanos had the opportunity to retrieve it and Gamora asked Star Lord to kill her if Thanos had captured her. The script would have benefitted if the two couples commented on each other rather than have the same storyline.
With all that said, this film is an incredibly fun thrill ride. The characters and acting are strong, and the interactions between the characters are great. The Russo brothers and Marvel studios took on arguably the most ambitious film ever and made it work. The movie manages to live up to the hype and takes many twists and turns that are completely unexpected. The movie leaves the audience wanting more, and we will not have to wait too long because the still untitled fourth entry in the Avengers series is set to release next year. That film will see to the conclusion of this storyline and bring together the first three phases of the marvel cinematic universe. Can Marvel stick the landing once again? We’ll just have to wait and see.