Monday, April 30, 2018

Further Inspection: "Avengers: Infinity War"

Further Inspection

Avengers: Infinity War
Further Inspection is a new column on my blog. Every few weeks, I will pick a new movie and create a spoiler-filled write up for it. Initially, when I write my reviews, I never want to spoil movies in order for my audience to see them. This will allow for a spoiler-filled conversation, because sometimes, movies require the audiences to really indulge in the text in order to understand them. I AM GOING TO USE THIS COLUMN TO REALLY DISCUSS SPOILERS, SO UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

I haven't done one of these in a really long time. Now its time to stretch my legs, so to speak. Trying to really discuss "Avengers: Infinity War" without digging into the text of the thing seems downright impossible. "Avengers: Infinity War" is a lot. But not in a bad way, not quite.

There is a big flaw that I noticed in the film. I guess I shouldn't call it a big flaw. It doesn't derail the movie. It gets better as the film pushes on. Like I said in my original review, the movie is like a long episode of "Game of Thrones." There is a shit ton of characters, and the movie does a good job of juggling all of these personalities. But that means bulldozing through a couple big moments. The movie begins where "Thor: Ragnarok" post-credit scene took place. The ship that parked itself in front of the Asgardian refugee ship was indeed Thanos' ship. When we meet Thanos and his Black Order, they've massacred the Asgardians. He's ravaged Xandar and taken the Power Stone. Loki gives up the Space Stone to save Thor's life. Loki then decides to try and kill Thanos, big mistake. Loki and Heimdall both die in this sequence and for two fan favorites of the Thor movies, they aren't even close to given a satisfying, memorable deaths. Their death scenes feel rushed, and I kind of wished they gave us time to really process what was happening. 

Before Heimdall dies, he uses the Bifrost to move a battered Hulk to Earth. He crash-lands into Doctor Strange's house, which eventually leads to a big battle in New York City. Doctor Strange recruits Iron Man, he's already got Wong by his side, and Spider-Man joins the fight against Thanos' Black Order. The Black Order has arrived to retrieve the Time Stone from Doctor Strange for Thanos. Yes, the good guys kind of get rocked in this sequence. Bruce Banner can't Hulk out, because Thanos whooped Hulk's ass on the Asgardian ship, so Hulk is afraid to come out, leaving Banner useless. The Black Order prove to be formidable foes, giving our heroes a run for their money. There is fun to be had here, but the biggest thing that bothered me was that Iron Man and Doctor Strange were together the whole movie, and not one "No shit, Sherlock" joke. Come on Marvel, get it together!

Once the movie really kicks into gear, the movie really begins to jump around. Thor is intercepted by the Guardians of the Galaxy, Cap and Black Widow and Falcon protect Vision from The Black Order, Iron Man and Doctor Strange and Spider-Man partner up with Star-Lord, Mantis and Drax. What I loved most was Thor, Rocket and Groot go to a Dwarven star to create Stormbreaker, which is basically the Ultimate Marvel version of Thor's hammer. We meet a ten foot Peter Dinklage playing Eitri, an ancient Asgardian dwarf who was forced by Thanos to make a gauntlet for the Infinity Stones. After Thanos got what he wanted, he killed all of Eitri's people. Now, he kind of wants revenge and Thor gets him to make him a new hammer. It's interesting seeing Dinklage playing a ten foot character, since he's supposed to be a dwarf. But like I said in my original review, I want a Thor, Rocket, Groot adventure tomorrow.

That kind of leads to why I thought Thanos was such a great villain. He's not collecting the Infinity Stones for a mad grab for power, he isn't trying to impress a girl like he did in the comic books, he's trying to salvage the world. It sounds crazy, doesn't it? But he's another villain whose heart is in the right place, but his actions are very wrong. I worry about the future why daughter will inhabit. I worry because I know resources for the world are starting to become futile, and who controls the main resources of our world is a scary thing. Overpopulation certainly doesn't help, and it worries me who will ration these things eventually. I don't think the solution is to just offing people at random, but loss of resources and overpopulation will eventually lead to some kind of catastrophe, so how do we come to a solution to stop these things from happening, that makes everyone happy? What also shocked me about the film is that they gave Thanos a heart. This may have felt a little shoehorned in, but Thanos truly does love Gamora. You see that in a flashback scene, featuring an army of Chitauri, when Thanos first meets Gamora and "adopts" her. He begins to care for her when she's at a young age. So when he goes to a planet for the soul stone, and is told that he has to kill someone for the soul stone, he chooses Gamora. He had to choose someone he cares about, and I was amazed that the scene turned out to be wrenching. He believes in his mission to make the entire universe a better place, that he's willing to kill someone he truly loves. That's some warped dedication.

Oh, and did you notice Red Skull in this scene. Remember, Captain America shot him up into space at the end of his first movie. We never find out what kept him alive all these years, but that's really not that important. Red Skull is the one who tells Thanos what he must do to retrieve the soul stone, and he does just that. And this tricked me, but that's not Hugo Weaving reprising his role, that's actually Ross Marquand as Red Skull. You may know him as Aaron from "The Walking Dead." I got to say, he does a really, REALLY good Hugo Weaving impression though. I mean really, that's impressive.

The movie leads to a gargantuan third act. I mean, its truly one of the biggest set pieces ever attempted in a superhero movie. You've got Star-Lord, Nebula, Drax, Mantis, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and Iron Man on planet Titan fighting Thanos, trying to steal the gauntlet from him. Then on Earth; a huge battle in Wakanda takes place, to protect Vision and his Mind Stone from Thanos' forces. Cap, Falcon, War Machine, Black Widow, Black Panther, Bucky Barnes, Okoye, M'Baku, Scarlet Witch all end up fighting, featuring Bruce Banner decked out in the Hulkbuster armor, and they are eventually joined by Thor, Rocket and Groot. Once again, the fight shows off Wakanda's powerful technology. I loved the joke about Rocket taking Bucky's arm, because people have been hoping to hear it for years now. Its amazing how the fights are funny and thrilling at the beginning, then slowly dip into gut-wrenching intensity. Things are looking good on planet Titan, when our good guys nearly get the gauntlet off Thanos' hand, but once Star-Lord finds out he killed Gamora, all bets are off. He ruins the plan for our heroes. And after Thanos kicks everyone's ass, Doctor Strange gives away the Time Stone. Now, I know. You may not want to hear that, but we'll talk more about that in just a minute.

The next gut-wrenching part is when Thanos lands in Wakanda, ready to take the Mind Stone for himself. His Black Order and his army destroyed, but it not really mattering. He's got five stones, all he needs is Vision's Mind Stone. He begins wiping the floor with the good guys, which leads to their nightmare scenario. Vision asks Scarlet Witch to destroy the Mind Stone, so that Thanos can't get it. Oh my can't imagine the feels. The look in Vision's eye, the way he mouths I love you to Scarlet, its all too much to take. I was tearing up the whole time, you were too I'm sure. Scarlet eventually does destroy the Mind Stone, but since Thanos has the Time Stone, he merely goes back a few minutes and tears the stone out of Vision's head, killing him. Thanos now has a fully charged Infinity Gauntlet.

But its okay, Thor flies in with his Stormbreaker and saves the day!

That's what your expecting me to write, isn't it. You've been conditioned by the Marvel movies. There is always a happy ending. They are, after all, owned by Disney. This is why "Avengers: Infinity War" is a turning point for the franchise. It truly is the movie that is going to shut the hardcore DC fans up. Stormbreaker doesn't work, and with the snap of his fingers, Thanos destroys half the universe's population and teleports away from Earth. This was the part of the movie where nobody was thrilled, where the whole room was dead silent. Bucky, Black Panther, Groot, Falcon, Scarlet Witch and several Wakandan's begin turning into dust. On planet Titan, everyone except Nebula and Iron Man turn to dust. Iron Man is left sobbing on planet Titan, the good guys on Earth are left distraught and Thanos smiles in satisfaction on some distant planet. That's when the credits begin to roll. Not playing the typical Avengers theme.

It's safe to say that the average moviegoers were pretty shaken by the ending, not really understanding it. But hey, in the Infinity comics, Thanos kills half the universe then too, and in normal comic fashion, there is some thing that brings many of the fallen heroes back to life. Death is a fluid thing in comic books, and it has been in these movies too. Superman died in "Batman vs. Superman," but came back in "Justice League." Loki died in "Thor," but came back in "The Avengers." Nick Fury died in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" but came back later in the movie. This is just how it is. Remember, before Doctor Strange gave Thanos the Time Stone, he looked at several different scenarios and he found one where the heroes beat Thanos. Right before Doctor Strange turns to dust, he tells Iron Man that this was the only way. He knows Iron Man will be important to beating Thanos. He knows that this is the only way to stop him, despite the sorrow and the heartache. What that will actually lead to? I am not sure. I think its telling that all the original Avengers did not turn to dust, which means the old team will have to come together and reverse this nightmare. I don't know what audiences will think with all these characters dying, then at least most of them being resurrected. It will take some good screenwriting.

I think everyone who died before the snap are truly dead. Sure, there is a chance Gamora will come back, "Guardians of the Galaxy" three is planned. But I actually don't want her to be alive, simply because that would cheapen the affect Star-Lord felt when he heard she died. We'll see though. I definitely think we'll see anyone who turned to dust come back though. I really think we've seen the last of Loki and Heimdall though. 

Oh, and the original team will have some strong help. The only post-credit scene featured Maria Hill and Nick Fury calling someone before they turned to dust, and that someone is Captain Marvel. Yes, her movie is set in the 1990's and Samuel L. Jackson will be featured in this. It's a fun tease, but its also a bit puzzling, as these scenes usually are. Why didn't Nick Fury call Captain Marvel when New York happened? Or Ultron? Or any of the dozens of bad things happening on Earth the last decade? I am really going to need that answered in her movie next year. But otherwise, I am really excited to finally see Carol Danvers in the MCU.

(Hawkeye and Ant-Man were mentioned in this movie. But due to them having families, they made deals with the government regarding the Sokovia Accords and are in house arrest. We never see them at all in the movie. We have no idea if they survived the snap or not. But since set photos have confirmed both of them, chances are they did. Apparently, Hawkeye has an important role in "Avengers 4.")

Like I said last night, this is the most ambitious thing Marvel has attempted. While some stuff feels bulldozed, its still a really great movie. The wait for next year is already grueling. (I mean geez, give us the title already!) but the wait will be thrilling. Despite the solemn faces walking out of the auditorium yesterday, people are still pretty jazzed. They want to see how this will all conclude, and that's the best thing Marvel could have pulled off.

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