Having held excitement for the MCU ever since Nick Fury appeared in that Iron Man post credit scene 10 year ago, Avengers: Infinity War was always coming. And now, having watched the movie, there is a lot to unpack.
Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t watched the movie, go away. Come back afterwards. You clearly have an interest in the subject so do yourself a favour and try and see the film with as few spoilers as modern media will allow. And this film has a lot to spoil.
I am not just a Marvel Movie fan. But also a long time fan of Marvel comics. Including the fantastic Marvel crossover event, The Infinity Gauntlet. A tale so cosmic in scale, it could never truly be reproduced on the big screen in its original form. But as a premise to be adapted, left me excited to see the result.
Combine that with the film being Directed by the Russo brothers. Whose efforts I have enjoyed for some time, characterised by a skill for managing ensembles. Well, Infinity War was always on top of my must see list.
So, onto the movie itself. Opening where Thor Ragnarok left off, save for a bit of violence. The Asgardians having been resoundingly defeated. Heimdall seriously wounded. New fan favourites Valkyrie and Korg nowhere to be seen. Perhaps their bodies might be found with closer inspection.
Does this suggest that these two recent additions to the MCU somehow parted ways with the Asgardian’s before running into Thanos, paving the way for getting involved in Part 2? Or was it just about availability of the actors for a particularly small appearance? Tessa is in pretty high demand. But a CG character with no lines isn’t really dependant on the availability of anyone outside of the CG team.
Hulk’s return to Earth, smashing through the ceiling in Dr Strange’s sanctorum was a spine tingling callback to the Infinity Gauntlet comics, where the similar role was performed by the Silver Surfer. With his character film rights tied up with the Fantastic Four, the Hulk version was still pretty good and easily identifiable even from the trailers. But it did bug me that Hulk somehow found his way through the roof of the magically cloaked location. So when it turned out to be at the hand of Heimdall, who sees everything (except when it is convenient for plot that he doesn’t) that came together nicely.
The initial Hulk vs Thanos battle was exactly what it needed to be. Energetic, proving Thanos’ base power level is formidable on its own, and that Hulk could not be a trump card in this game.
The reunion of Loki and Thanos was never going to be a happy one, and could only ever result in Thanos taking possession of the Tesseract. But Loki’s end was a little unexpected, and probably helped set the seriousness of tone. Asgardians could die left and right, but Loki had been a MCU favourite from the beginning. Having such a central and popular character die so early on was both bold and clever.
I also note Thanos mentions “No resurrections this time.” A line that suggests Loki did actually die at the end of the first Thor movie, and Thanos somehow resurrected him. Not just that Loki faked his death as I and I guess most would have assumed.
Thor probably could have powered up with lightning here, as established in Ragnarok. But if Thanos had shrugged such an assault off, it would confuse the idea that Thor’s hammer is more a focal point for his power than an independent source. Blurring the purpose Thor has throughout much of the movie.
From this point, in true Russo brothers style, the large cast of Avengers and supporting Marvel characters, and Guardians of the Galaxy, are deployed to several different locations. Enabling a strong pace, visually changing scenery, with plenty of action to overlay. I thought the approach to the scene in Knowhere was clever. It could have been just another location with a fight.
At any rate, the remainder of the film performed strongly. Progressed well, without lengthy flat sequences lacking in action and overloaded with exposition. I will come back to some points as I speculate about part 2.
Drax one again continues to surprise by being a standout in the humour department.
Oh and the surprise appearance of the Red Skull was a nice touch too.
Then snap go the fingers. The universe changes. Half of all life in the universe, gone.
Here, I thought that perhaps they chose the wrong characters to vanish. For all the emotion of Spiderman’s scene, even those who weren’t caught up on the confirmation of a Spiderman: Homecoming sequel were hardly convinced that the bright young face of the MCU was making his last appearance. Similarly, Dr Strange just got here and was always expected to have a major MCU role. Then add the Black Panther to the hit list. That is literally every character that had their first title role in a MCU file during phase 3. Plus the entire Guardians of the Galaxy team goes poof save for Rocket, which would make the confirmed Guardians movie part 3 sort of dumb. If you were trying to convince your audience that the deaths were not permanent, you picked the best possible characters to do so.
Had more of the Phase 1 Avengers, actors whose contracts were known to be coming up in line with the Infinity War movies, been those killed off, it might have built more doubt about the possibility of their return. I had my money on Captain America, with Bucky surviving. Leading to speculation about Bucky taking over the role of Captain America. Whether the Russos flipped that one deliberately, I don’t know. But if it had been Cap, it would have seemed far more likely that the story would not end with his return.
At any rate. Dr Strange’s time peeking saw only one way they could beat Thanos out of millions. Shortly thereafter, Strange gives up the Time Gem without much protest, directly contradicting his earlier position that he would let the others die rather than surrender the gem. Suggesting, that giving Thanos the gem was indeed part of the plan. Further reinforced as Strange is turning to ash where he states, “It was the only way.”
So the suggestion is that Thanos wiping out half of the universe was part of the singular scenario that ended with his ultimate defeat.
Where to in the sequel.
Tony Stark to find the Milano and head back to Earth. As its the only ship leaving Titan, Nebula comes with. Plus, perhaps Tony is seeking revenge against Thanos, which would align their purposes.
The end credits scene proposes the arrival of Captain Marvel. Her solo film is set 20 years earlier than the events of Infinity War, so it will be interesting to see how her integration to the MCU is handled.
So the Surviving team is: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk. Hey, wait a minute. That would be precisely one Hawkeye short of the Phase 1 Avengers team. Anyway, Captain Marvel, Rocket and Nebula. Okoye, Shuri and M’Baku as supporting Black Panther characters that have ass-kicking credentials, plus Nakia who was absent in Infinity War. We assume Wong survived, but unconfirmed.
Finally, Ant Man and Wasp. Set to have their own movie (chronologically set before the snap), but expected to both step up in Infinity War part 2.
Vision losing colour when the Mind Gem was extracted could be pointing to his return in part 2. In the comcs as a white ghost-like vision, less emotional and more logical. But given that Vision, one of the heaviest hitters in the Avengers, spent most of the first movie getting smacked down, that progression is kind of underwhelming.
But, that is still plenty of key characters to make Part 2 interesting.
So, to the crux. How to fix everything. Well, it does kind of suggest you need to reform the Infinity Gauntlet to do so. So where would Thanos stash the Infinity Stones after being done with them. He could return some to their previous owners (Collector). Or to other Celestial level beings (Grandmaster?). And in the comics, Thanos always kept one for himself. In this story, I would suggest it being the Soul Stone.
Gamora’s end was for me a little weak given its build up. And the later appearance of child Gamora in the spooky post-snap scene suggests that she is not done in this story. It would seem that she was absorbed into the Soul Gem, as happened with Adam Warlock in the comics. So Thanos would want to keep the stone around for spooky visitations.
But otherwise the key question will be how to locate the Stones that could literally be anywhere in time or space. Again, I lean toward the Collector here, who during his possession of the Aether, and given his own line in the post-credit scene of Thor 2 suggesting that he also would be seeking to combine the stones, could have come up with a method of tracking.
But even without the stones, the Gauntlet was pretty fried after Thanos used it. Fortunately we did see another glove sitting on the rack when Thor was getting his replacement hammer.
Then who wields it. In the comics, its Nebula who ultimately undoes Thanos damage. And her desire to see her sister restored as well as do anything to hurt Thanos would fit that well. The only question is whether the Russo’s would allow something so predictable come to pass.
In the comics, Iron Man, Captain America and Hulk have all held the gauntlet and survive to have the potential to do so here. Given Hulk/Banner’s performance issues, that could be where that otherwise vaguely annoying thread is heading.
Of course, Adam Warlock was the key in the comics. And he was teased at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2. But it seems he is more likely to appear in future GoTG volumes than here.
Gamora, is in the Soul Stone, and part of what allowed Warlock to take the gems in the comics was that his time inside the Soul Stone gave him a connection to the stones, a secret insight. So it could be an initial search to find Gamora’s soul that leads to the locations and gathering of the remaining infinity stones, and Gamora to step up as the dark-horse to wield the gauntlet. Plus, if the Soul Stone is returned to its previous location, there’s gonna be a Cap vs Red Skull fight on the cards.
But is un-doing Thanos efforts enough? After all the counter-snap would be world class anti-climactic.
So what if the action on claiming the reformed gauntlet is to turn back time to a point before Thanos held any of the Infinity Stones.
All heroes returned, including all Asgardians (Loki), Gamora, et all. Some Dr Strange trickery to retain memories and gather the teams, and then off to Xandar to intercept Thanos on his way to the Power Stone. A potentially magnificent action scene that was conveniently washed over, and a spectacular backdrop for the ultimate battle.
For one last moment, the Banner/Hulk performance anxiety reaches a head. Banner becomes so enraged at Hulk because his friends look like they might just lose to Thanos again, that we end up with Kluh! Who does put the final smack down on Thanos.
Post credit sequence of Red Skull sneaking back to Earth in the aftermath. Second sequence suggesting the introduction of an Earth-based Nova character.
Oh well, just under a year until we find out the real story. No Time Stone to speed that one up.