So finally, the moment has arrived. Marvel placed its bet on the long game and after 10 years and 18 movies, they are cashing in on their chips, and hard. There are very few movie franchises that are this extensive and none of them are as consistent quality wise as the MCU or produced as fast. And given that this movie is the culmination of a 10 yearlong build up, it has a hype like no other movie can dream of. But did it live up to it?
Mostly yes. The critics loved it, the moviegoers will be ecstatic, and the box office will be fat. And what is there not to like? Every main character of every MCU film and most of the supportive characters will show up at some point in the movie. There are over 60 cast members in this movie, NOT counting the extras or background people. And credit where credit is due, the directors manage to pull off the impossible by putting on screen a story that is both action packed, funny and dramatic, all the while providing all cast members moments that they can own. And all this while keeping the runtime well under 3 hours, which, to be honest, will not feel that long. Don’t get me wrong, you will feel that you have spent a considerable amount of time in the screening room, but nearly as much as other movies will make you feel, that are half as short, if not shorter. There are some pacing issues every now and then, but with so much material to handle, that was to be expected. I will dissect the overall material towards the end of the review.
The other aspect that is unique to this movie that it goes against the formula of the MCU. We have a villain that is actually a good character and not just a plot device that allows our heroes to swing into action and shine (well, it is the 3rdone in a row by now, but this one is at BOSS level). Thanos is fleshed out, motivated and empowered like no MCU villain before. He is on par with all of the Avengers combined in every aspect. This includes also screen time. But there is more. Besides a plot device villain, the MCU movie formula also consists in a happy ending, as in, the heroes always win. Because the Marvel movies are all about the heroes. Not so much here. Here, the heroes are taking a beating like no one before in cinema history. By the end of the movie, Thanos manages to kill half of every living being in the universe, and by doing so, he also kills half of our illustrious cast that we are so fond of rooting for. This includes but isn’t limited to: Loki, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Star Lord, Groot and Vision. It is a very dark ending, comparable to Empire Strikes Back, and it carries a heavy emotional load, both on screen and off. I don’t think anybody outside of the productions inner circles had any idea of the devastation that was being prepared for us. The achieved dramatic effect is of epic proportion and this is the most gutsiest move that Marvel has ever pulled since betting everything on the shared cinematic universe concept. Except, it isn’t gutsy at all, because none of the above actually matters.
You see, the MCU is not like any other franchise. Here everything is connected, and while the singular character movies can stand on their own most of the time, the Avengers movies cannot. They need to be judged not only on their own merit, but also from the viewpoint of the entire MCU. The consequences of the individual movies are mostly limited to the titular hero, but the consequences of the Avengers movie and worldwide. Universe wide in this case. And because of this, none of the accomplishments of this movie will matter because the entire 3rd act, if not the entire movie, will be undone in 2019 when Avengers 4 hits the theaters. This movie, with all its bravado, will boil down to a misdirect, a red herring. And while everybody is praising it as one of the all-time best comic book movies, 2 years from now it will be viewed in a very different light.
There are 2 ways I can prove my statement. Let us start the irrefutable arguments, Economics. The movie rights for Spider-man do not belong to Marvel Studios, but to Sony Pictures. The 2 have worked out a deal that allows Marvel to use the character while Sony cashes in on the success. And while Marvel is in the driver’s seat as far as the creative process is concerned, all Spider-man related decisions need to be approved by Sony. Last year’s Spider-man movie had a worldwide box office of 880 million dollars. There is no way Sony would have allowed for its cash cow to be sacrificed, not after they had to reboot the character 2 times in the past 10 years. Same is valid for Marvel as well. The Guardians Of The Galaxy movies did 771 and 863 millions, yet save for Nebula and Rocket, all of the characters die. Black Panther scored 1,3 BILLION dollars and it is considered to be one of the most important piece of pop culture of our time due to having a cast made out of almost exclusively minority people, yet Black Panther dies here as well. There is no way that the head chief of Disney, who owns Marvel Studios, would ever allow the death of these characters to be permanent, not until they can cash in hundreds of millions of dollars for every movie they can put out with them in the titles. All of them will be resurrected next year because they have to appear in their individual sequels. And, as such, the gut-wrenching, most powerful ending in comic book movie history, will be reduced to a cliffhanger. And I am not sure how the fans will take that.
The second way I can prove my viewpoint is in the story. You see, the devil is in the details. When the MCU plans were unveiled years ago, The Infinity War movie was split in 2 parts, named Part 1 and Part 2. Later on, they have announced that this will no longer be the case, but I suspect that this was a misdirect, same as in the trailer, when we see the heroes, including Hulk in all his green true form, racing to fight the alien army in Wakanda. That never happened in the movie since Hulk never showed up for that fight. I think that Marvel has stuck to its initial plan to split the movie in 2, and we only saw half of the movie. This is also somewhat confirmed in the movie by Doctor Strange, when he says that he saw over 16 million ways that the events can unfold, and that they lose in all of them, except one. And after he gives the time stone to Thanos, he also says to Tony that it had to be one, it was the only way. Remember, Strange knows the sequence of events that leads to Avengers victory and he was playing into them. Therefore, a win still is on the horizon, albeit the price of that victory is definitely too high. So basically, the ending that we just saw is just the end of the 2ndact of Infinty Wars. Now, here comes the tricky part. We also saw Scarlet Witch destroying the mind stone to prevent Thanos to get his hand on it, and in the process, she is forced to kill Vision. As a response, Thanos uses the time stone, and just rolls back time, undoing the Scarlet Whiches actions, after which he kills Vision by ripping out the mind stone out of his head. So death can be undone with the time stone. Which is the same way Wong has survived in Doctor Strange (the movie), by the way. And since we did not see Wong die, it is more than likely that once the remaining Avengers somehow get back the time stone, Wong will use it to turn back time and saving half the universe. Again, dramatic effect gone, only cliffhanger remains.
And now, let me mention a couple of items that I did or did not like in this movie. The smaller stuff, I mean:
· The very first scene practically erases everything that was developed in Thor: Ragnarok, both in terms of story and character development – not cool;
· In fact, the entire Thor story arc is unnecessary. They could have found a better way for him to get where he ends up in the movie, without taking a huge detour. Could have shaven off 15 minutes of the total runtime with Thor alone, easy;
· Spider-man always looks for inspiration in movies to solve problems, and it works too – way cool;
· The way they gave a story to the soul stone (which was not the focus point of any individual movie, unlike the other 5 stones). Extra points for bringing back Red Skull for this. Sadly, Hugo Weaving did not want to reprise the role. Still, awesome idea;
· The movie starts with Thanos already having the power stone, which was left in the care of the Nova Core at the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy. There is no mention how exactly did he get it from them, at all;
· Counterpoint for the one above, we get an entire story arc (Thor) to learn how the actual gauntlet was created, in which Thanos collects the stones – like it matters;
· Also here – Peter Dinklage plays a dwarf that is actually 2 times bigger that Thor. It is great fun to watch, but again, totally pointless story arc;
· Again with Thor – he ditches the cool eyepatch for some artificial eye that once was up Rockets colon – why did they had to destroy everything cool that Ragnarok created?
· Thanos turns weapons into bubbles – weird;
· The Hulk took a beating in the first scene of the movie and refused to surface ever since. That was an interesting choice;
· The battle scene in Wakanda it is much larger in scale that the airport skirmish in Civil War, but it is also more messy and unfocused. There is a palpable drop of quality there;
· Ant Man and Hawkeye were nowhere to be found. All they got was a single sentence that referenced them.
· It is rather strange that an individual as enlightened as Thanos does not sees the flaw in his own plan. He wants to kill half the universe to scare straight the other half, to create a better world for everybody. Also, he thinks that after that, he can just retire to watch a sunset. Even if his plan would work in the short term, in the long term, this exercise probably needs to be repeated once every millennium or so, because you know, people forget and they multiply;
All in all, if this would be the final entry for the MCU movies, I would bow in front of it and praise its genius and bravery. But it is not, so I will not buy the hype. I can appreciate the filmmakers effort to balance out all the characters and the logistical undertaking that this movie meant, just for scheduling alone. But, yeah, that’s about it.