First and foremost, I had a TON of predictions going into seeing this movie, and a lot of them turned out to be right. The most obvious ones were that, to no surprises by anyone, some of the heroes were going to die in this film (or "sort of" die - more on that later). I didn't know who specifically except for one person: Loki. And boy, did it pay off. A lot of these deaths paid off. I'll get into more specifically why I think this is the case, but will start off with some other general things first. The other prediction I think was fairly obvious to some, but not all, and that involves the ending of the film. Regardless of these predictions, exactly how the Russo brothers managed to navigate to these conclusions is an astounding feat given the large cast and scope involved with Infinity War. And I can say multiple times how MASSIVE this movie really is, but it needs to be seen to fully believe everything that's felt in the film.
Let's start with the big baddie himself, Thanos, played masterfully by Josh Brolin. Like Killmonger of Black Panther, Thanos breaks the mold of cliched, overplayed, boring MCU villains before him. To an extent. The simplistic nature of his plot has been done before (see the Sonic the Hedgehog joke above), and the idea of wiping out some part of the population for one reason or another has been seen in other MCU villains' motives (Ultron comes to mind here). What makes Thanos stand out, though, is three things. First, although it's labelled as an Avengers film (and a lot of this movie is truly an Avengers movie), Thanos is really the main character here. The Russo brothers were definitely right about that. They take time to really flesh out his character motivations, development, goals, and reasoning for why he's so determined to accomplish what he's after. While Thanos is a clear villain based on his god-complex and over-driven ego, the film confuses its audiences by fully empathizing with his reasoning. His planet Titan was destroyed because his peers refused to allow him to bring balance. Now his extreme method of doing that was going to be solving an overpopulation crisis by killing half of the world's population, but even so, the film leads us to empathize with Thanos. It's almost unbelievable at times. And it also makes for a really good, complex, well-rounded villain archetype.
The second factor is that Thanos is given such a masterful performance by Josh Brolin, whose body of work I liked a lot before going into seeing Infinity War. It clearly shows that he was given so much time to flesh out this role and understand Thanos's motivations, giving him the chance to deliver one of the strongest villain performances of the year alongside Killmonger. There's elements of The Godfather, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and even Citizen Kane as times when it comes to the Shakespearan-like gravitas of this role. Brolin delivers on the power, emotion, and warped sense of humanity on Thanos, who really believes he's on a hero's journey to save the universe from disaster beyond comprehension. This is especially evident within the motion-capture technology used to portray Thanos, which is extremely well-done to the level of Andy Serkis's line of work (I would honestly not be surprised if he even assisted with some of the motion-capture work himself or at least giving advice).
The third reason Thanos stands out is because of how level-headed the character is throughout the majority of Infinity War. Although mad, and certainly not without emotion, Thanos approaches every single situation he faces in this film with a level of serenity and almost peace at times. He KNOWS he can achieve his goal; his confidence is unbelievably high. And when he fights the other Marvel heroes on screen, it's certainly clear that he can be unstoppable about 95% of the time. While Thanos is a threat to the heroes, the heroes ultimately aren't really much of a threat to Thanos, making him extremely dangerous amidst all of this intelligence. His quest for the Infinity Stones are truly like a spiritual journey, a ritual that he undertakes to prove himself worthy of his own cause. All of this makes it so much easier for him to accomplish his task in the film.
Unfortunately, the one team-up which dragged down the film's weight for me was the team with Captain America, Black Widow, Black Panther, and more, for several reasons. It had purpose for the plot, yes, and the characters are great as always (ESPECIALLY Black Panther and Shuri, to name a few), but its overall contribution was not as compelling as the rest of the film itself (with the exception of its involvement with the ending). The love relationship between Vision and Scarlet Witch, with its emotional burden (ESPECIALLY at the end) was fine, but again, not quite as compelling. Much of this team's setup felt more like a burden to get to the battle of Wakanda as opposed to meaningfully moving the plot forward and involving more of the high stakes associated with the film.
Apart from this, a lot of heroes and characters in Infinity War are not used to their full potential, when assessing ONLY this film and not its predecessors. If one goes into seeing this movie with the knowledge of every single character involved beforehand, then the weak development doesn't matter. Surprise cameos (like William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross and Red Skull - yes, THE Red Skull!) are nice touches, but sort of guide the plot along. Some slated to appear, like Hawkeye, don't appear at all (but will probably have a greater impact in the fourth Avengers movie). Elements from previous films like the Sokovia Accords are batted away in the blink of an eye, for understandable reasons but with some flimsy execution. Heroes like Black Panther and Nebula do not do as much in this film as I expected they were going to, but again, given the sheer scope and epic nature of this film, this is mostly understandable. Again, the focus is mostly on Thanos and his quest. This is also why the Children of Thanos (all of whom are killed off before this film ends) are also weak and underutilized; everyone knows they are merely pawns to get the Infinity Stones for Thanos, who goes after them himself anyway in the grand scheme of things.
Visually, it's beautiful. Wakanda looks just as great as it did in Black Panther. Each of the planets in the film (there is space travel, after all) are unique and give a sense of humanity to them, the good traits and the bad. The heroes' powers look great and are used in inventive, unique ways as they should have been. It does, however, have some flaws. The worst looking effect for me was Iron Man's armor. You can tell much of the work went into making Thanos come alive, or realizing the different planets, or other superheroes' powers, and so on and so on. Iron Man's armor, though, looks completely unfinished and was distracting compared to the rest of the CGI onscreen, even besides the fact that the armor is built into Tony's bloodstream as nanotechnology (or something along those lines). Much of these complaints are minor, though, as the film does succeed on its massive level, even if it feels too large for comfort at times.
How Thanos gets to this goal, though, also works:
The best moments in Infinity War comes from Thanos obtaining the other two stones, with payoffs for character arcs that never feel unsatisfactory:
The Soul Stone is the first one that should be mentioned, because this is where Thanos's empathy REALLY shows. He captures his adopted daughter Gamora (who had been with the Guardians of the Galaxy previously) because she knows where the Soul Stone is hiding. In order for Thanos to get the stone, though, Red Skull tells him that he must be willing to sacrifice something - or someone - he loves. A soul for a soul. This works on multiple layers. Gamora was always the favorite daughter of Thanos, not Nebula (the other daughter), so logically, it seemed natural regardless of his abusive ways. Obtaining the stone involves losing part of one's soul as well by committing this gruesome act. And, Thanos full-on weeps with sadness when he commits that act - killing Gamora, the daughter he truly loved. He regrets doing it. He even hates committing it, to an extent. Again, his goals are maddening and insane, fulfilling the villain archetype, but within all of those layers, there is a broken man who thinks his reasoning is perfectly solid. And when Thanos sees a young Gamora again after fulfilling his goal, who asks him at what cost did he go through to achieve that goal, Thanos mentions he lost everything. In his story, he lost everything to finally obtain peace and resolve, done in the most fucked-up manner but achieved nonetheless.
And then there's the Time Stone. Good God, this was the worst and the best moment in the entire film, and it really shows how well Marvel has accomplished building up their entire cinematic universe to this moment. Where do I even begin?
The layers of character and story in this are ridiculous. First of all, Dr. Strange has to let all of this happen. He has to let Quill unleash his anger and ruin their plan because it's assumed these events are part of the outcome where Thanos can be beaten, even if that means the heroes have to suffer a cataclysmic loss. Secondly, Quill's rage is absolutely within his character arc - he reacted the exact same way when figuring out how his mother died in GotG Vol. 2, and thus, his insecurities and emotions get the better of him again. Third, Tony tries to STOP Quill and subdue him because he reacted the EXACT same way in Civil War when learning a brainwashed Bucky Barnes killed his own parents, and so he desperately tries to prevent Quill from making the same mistake, from costing them everything they currently had going for them. And on top of ALL of that, Nebula would have had to feel some sort of pain as well knowing her sister is dead because they had some form of reconciliation in GotG Vol. 2. You see why I mentioned before if you go to see this movie cold, you'll notice some weak character development or reasoning just in context with this film? ALL of this reasoning comes from previous MCU films and character arcs and is a huge testament to how Marvel has creatively built up this universe.
The same can also be said for the heroes who end up dying at the end because of Thanos's act. While incredibly apparent they're going to return (yes, all of them - some of them have already-announced sequels up their sleeve), this serves a two-fold purpose: to set the stage for what must be done in the fourth Avengers film, and to satisfy previous character arcs in meaningful ways (some of which are horrifying and brutal), meaningful because every one of these relationships have been established so well in this franchise:
And, like The Last Jedi, much of what Infinity War deals with has to do with failure and loss of hope. There is not a single hero in this franchise who experiences this more than Tony Stark, the one who started this whole thing. His worst fears and nightmares from Iron Man 3, to Avengers: Age of Ultron, and even in Captain America: Civil War, have come true in the end, not to mention the fears he had of not being able to protect Peter Parker (established in Spider-Man: Homecoming especially) having also come true now. But, something that's clearer now is how the fourth Avengers movie is perfectly set up. The original Avengers all survived - Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, and Hawkeye - and they will have to come together one last time to save the universe and stop the greater threat. What a fitting swansong for them.
The last thing that needs to be discussed is Alan Silvestri's score. It's great that he's back, but the decision to reference practically NONE of the previous character themes in the franchise (there are a few exceptions) was an unwise move. The parts of the score that do work (and the whole thing works with the film) are Thanos's dramatic theme, a few references to a motive he created for the Tesseract (now representing the Infinity Stones as a whole) and the one or two moments the Avengers theme comes back in full force. The rest is all based on specific character emotions or scenes. There's no identity for the Children of Thanos (or the Black Order) and nothing really brought back for any of the characters or ensembles previously established. The exceptions are Ludvig Göransson's music for Wakanda, a brief moment of Silvestri's theme for Captain America, and again, the Avengers theme. On top of this, Silvestri's representation of Doctor Strange is a major step below Michael Giacchino's representation of the character or Mark Mothersbaugh's brief representation in Thor: Ragnarok. Silvestri's idea has no depth or uniqueness to it, as if focusing on the greater good of the scene was more important. It's something that should have been revised. The score decently works with the film, and it has its stellar moments, but it's almost to the point of unlistenable on both of its released albums (a standard and deluxe edition).
Infinity War is difficult to fully appreciate if one hasn't seen at least some of the previous films in the MCU before going into this. If someone goes into this movie with no previous experience or recollection of the franchise, then the movie is okay for the most part. It has great action, really creative effects, and powerful characters and story, but with some underdeveloped characters and a LOT of movie to it, to the point where it almost wears out its welcome. For those who have been following this franchise from the beginning or at any point starting with Phase 2 and beyond, it's a much better film to appreciate overall. It's a great Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, a true comic-book film that shouldn't be quite so analyzed on its own, and a movie that defies a lot of its formulaic expectations. It's not the best in the franchise, but it's miles ahead of Age of Ultron and a really solid foundational ground for its future films. Add a really strong villain in intricate and meaningful ways to boot, and it's a hard-hitting, emotional experience that will stun even the most devoted fans throughout its entire runtime.
Avengers: Infinity War - it's a heavy film, but well-worth the ride and one that will be talked about for years.
Avengers: Infinity War - © 2018 Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
All photos courtesy from IMDB.