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May 7, 2018

RE: Avengers: Infinity War

Prior to watching Avengers: Infinity War, I learned something about Thanos thanks to my brother.  Apparently, back in the days of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (among other crossover titles), Thanos was a playable character -- not a very good one, from what I’ve heard, but that’s to be expected in a game infamous for its god-tier characters to this day.  In any case, the Thanos incarnation in that game had a certain quirk to his moveset: he could trap foes in bubbles.  That’s exactly the kind of move you’d expect from the Mad Titan, and not, say, a foul-mouthed magical girl from a game released nearly a decade later.

So in the lead-up to Marvel’s latest, my brother ecstatically went on and on about that move.  “Oh boy, I hope Thanos uses his bubbles!” he said with a grin, and rubbed his hands in anticipation.  It was the most bizarre thing I ever heard.  But what’s more bizarre is the fact that, yes, Thanos uses bubbles in Infinity War.  Twice.  That nearly made my bro rocket out of his seat.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Gamora grabbed a knockoff Proton Cannon in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  Someone on the staff is a Mahvel fan.

Anyway, Thanos using bubbles is the only spoiler you’ll get from me in this post.  So let’s get to it.

Do I even need to bother with the setup this time around?  Probably not, since I’m assuming you’ve already seen the movie and know said setup -- because you’re a human being and exist, and thus have given Infinity War a shot.  But for courtesy’s sake: Thanos shows up.  Thanos wrecks stuff.  Thanos wants the Infinity Stones to rewrite the nature of the universe.  ALL THE WARRIORS of the MCU (well, almost all) start banding together to keep Thanos from getting the stones.  Infinity wars ensue.

All right, cards on the table.  Is this movie better than Black Panther, which I’m on record saying is the best one yet?  Short answer: no.  Less short answer: no, but.  As good as the crossover/multi-character movies are -- and they are good, including this one -- I personally prefer the approach of the solo movies.  More focused, more pointed, more intimate; a lot of nuances end up getting lost when you have to tailor a story for many characters, rather than one character and his/her experiences.  If we must get down to specifics, though?  Killmonger > Thanos, Wakanda > the vast reaches of space, and BP main theme > IW main theme.

On the other hand, IW does have [REDACTED], so it has that going for it.

And I have to stress that, even though my preferences are clear, IW is a very strong movie.  Certainly, its clearest advantage over BP is that its CG is miles ahead; whether it’s rendering these intergalactic vistas or simply making Thanos into a borderline-real being so emotive that Andy Serkis would do a spit-take, the movie looks sharp at virtually all times.  And it’s all visually consistent, which is something considering the vast array of character’s we’re dealing with.  I guess that’s the power of a unified aesthetic -- though if you have problems with the way Marvel movies look (in terms of palette, designs, or otherwise), then IW won’t way you on the technical front.

As always, though, it’s the heroes that put butts in seats.  Whether you’ve been a follower since the days of Iron Man 1 or just jumped in with the Guardians, there’s bound to be a character here for you -- and said character is bound to get at least one moment to shine (if not inpsire you to buy their tie-in action figure).  Some characters are given more weight and importance than others -- I can confirm that some of the trailers flat-out lied -- but for what it’s worth?  The needle is pushed forward for multiple characters and multiple arcs, so that their evolution is clearer than it’s ever been.  That’s especially true if you’ve been following along since 2008.  Who would’ve guessed that Tony “I’m Drunk in My Super Suit” Stark would ever [REDACTED]?  On the other hand, maybe the proof has been staring at us from across the aisle all along.

The MCU has really been on a tear with its villains lately, what with Killmonger, go, Vulture, Kaecilius…okay, maybe not Kaecilius.  But yeah, Thanos is part of the Good Bad Eggs club now, without question.  He hasn’t been the easiest read throughout the MCU, given how brief his appearances have been; now, he’s a fully-defined character instead of teaser fodder.  And surprisingly, he’s not some raging psychopath.  Muted psychopath, sure, but we’re not talking about a Saturday morning cartoon villain here.  

He doesn’t really hell.  He doesn’t really shout.  Doesn’t rage, doesn’t gloat, doesn’t taunt.  In a lot of ways, Thanos is just some guy.  He believes in his convictions, however twisted, yet underneath his dark ambitions there’s someone who -- despite being a 12-foot-tall purple monster man -- cares about the people closest to him, and probably wouldn’t mind going into a “well-deserved” retirement once his accursed work is complete.  

Maybe more than any MCU villain before him, Thanos thinks he’s doing the right thing.  That quiet conviction of his is something you can’t help but respect -- though I’m not about to send him a card and gift basket anytime soon.

All right, so is the perfect movie, then?  Nah.  Thanos may be a standout, but the other baddies leave something to be desired.  Save for one -- incidentally, the one who gets the most lines/screentime -- the rest are pretty forgettable, to the point where I can’t summon the will to look up their names.  They do get their moments and their hits in, and I guess to be fair they’re more competent than the standard goons, but they won’t be missed.  By me, at least.  Also, now I wonder if Infinity War 2 will feature another set of super-goons to form a buffer between the heroes and the final boss.

Speaking of heroes?  Your mileage may vary on whose scenes you like and whose scenes you don’t.  I can think of a couple that take time away from the main event -- and keep in mind that the movie’s a few shades under three hours -- and delaying the inevitable once the [REDACTED] start to get [REDACTED].  Also?  You know how there are complaints about the MCU using the same brand of humor for everything, up to and including having characters blend into the same snark-happy mold?  Imagine what happens when those guys all get together in one place.  Some of these guys are just flat-out incompatible -- which is sure to earn some laughs, but there was a voice in the back of my head whispering “Uh, guys?  Do you have time for this when Thanos is coming?”  And I guess the answer was a resounding yes.

Well, I guess it wouldn’t be a crossover if key players didn’t have token, arbitrary conflicts.  Which is a shame, because given the nature of the movie’s central conceit, there would be more time and care spent on [REDACTED] from [REDACTED] instead of [REDACTED].  Because otherwise, [REDACTED] happens, which [REDACTED] and [REDACTED].

…This is a really hard post to write without spoilers.

Like I said, IW isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s still a ridiculously strong one.  Say what you will about the Marvel movies -- and I’d be lying if I said they aren’t fair game for criticism -- but if there’s one thing I’d say they can do well, it’s draw a reaction out of audiences.  Or out of me, at least.  Just as well, though; good art should be able to get emotions and reactions out of you, or in my case, get the ol’ gears in my head a whirrin’.  Certainly, I’ve put more thought into IW than I have most MCU offerings, and that says plenty in its own right.

But -- and this might venture into Spoiler County, so read at your discretion -- I can’t call this post finished without mentioning the reaction in my theater…and with it, my reaction.  Somebody shouted “WHAT?!” as the credits popped in.  My brother and I traded a couple of quick jokes.  But after that?  For the duration of the credits?  The theater, near as I could tell, was dead silent.  Nobody spoke.  Nobody moved.  Dozens of pairs of eyes stayed locked on that screen, eager to see something, anything, from the post-credits scene that would satiate.  It didn’t.

If that dead silence isn’t the sign of a good movie, I don’t know what is.

Thanks for reading.  Check back soon for more in-depth thoughts -- praise and criticism alike -- as I venture deep into the heart of Nova Spoiler-tia.  Or something.  Or…somewhere.

Also, pour one out for the DCEU.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Warner Bros. scrapped their Batman movies, scrapped any more Justice League stuff, and started right the hell over.  Just as well, though.  Now we’re one step closer to getting a Doom Patrol movie.  I want to see what madman (or woman) would have the courage to use hundreds of millions of dollars to put Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man on the silver screen.  That can’t possibly be an unreasonable request, can it?

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