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Avengers: Infinity War!

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    Review Avengers: Infinity War!

    Well its finally happened, the Marvel Comic Universe has reached the big screen in a way that a decade ago most people would say was impossible. It's big, it's flashy, its ocassionally goofy, and its got more movie going on inside of it then most studios would put out in an entire year. So how is it? Pretty good honestly. This is going to be a two part post, the first will be more general impressions and spoiler free, the second will be a more in-depth spoiler filled break down on my opinions and impressions of the film. If you're here for a tl;dr or a simple recommendation, go see it. Seriously, everyone else is. Like it or hate it, if you want to have an opinion or discussion on the movie you should probably at least see the movie. On a side note, did you hear that it grossed in 6 days more then Justice League did in its entire theatrical run? If I told twelve year old me that the Justice League got a movie and Batman fought Superman on the big screen and it was widely considered a disappointment I'd call you crazy, but hey here we are. This is a world where a CGI racoon and a sentient tree with one line of dialogue make for a more compelling movie experience then the uniting of the literal DC-Comics trinity.....

    Spoiler Free Impressions: This is a very stuffed movie, as one would expect. There's a lot of moving parts and a lot of mandatory beats to hit. Honestly its impressive the pacing holds up as well as it does. Lets not kid ourselves, Marvel is very good at making these movies, and all that technical and instutional expertise is on display here. Its so good at nailing what it needs to nail that it almost feels mechanical at this point. The movie understands that what makes the Avengers team-ups work is letting it be the fireworks celebration that it should be, while the heavy character lifting should largely be left to the solo or lead-up films (something Age of Ultron didn't quite understand). To that end other then Thanos and Gamora, most of the characters don't get real emotional arcs. They get character moments, they get to emote and react in the few scenes of breath-catching, but they largely are just reacting to Thanos and the sudden existential threat he faces. Most characters get enough screen time, but your impression of that may be colored by exactly which characters you like (These movies always need more Rocket). Its pretty clear however that this is Thanos's movie. Specific discussion of his character will largely be saved for the spoiler section, but suffice to say I'm glad we finally have a villain in a Marvel Movie that isn't forgettable and can honestly be called a character.... well besides Loki. I'm not really kidding when I say this is a Thanos movie that happens to have the Avengers and the Guardians Of The Galaxy in it. He gets an introduction, a back story, a character arc, an all is lost moment, and at least two scenes of cathartic emotional climax's. His actions drive the plot while everyone else reacts. Josh Brolin really did the character justice, especially given his new motivation (which will again, be discussed further in the spoiler section.)

    The special effects are well done. There's 2 brief scenes that stick out in my mind where the CGI doesn't quite reach the same standard as the rest of the movie, but these are small throw away beats are blink and you miss it. My complaint about the action scenes would be that there is still an over emphasis on martial arts and punching, by basically all the characters. That's to be expected to some degree given the general skill set of the characters involved, but it does tend to lessen the impact, especially when the movie is 70% fight scenes. There some noticeable power fluctuation of certain characters from scene to scene that is going to have those pedantic fans who notice such things crying foul. I know, because I am a pedantic fan. Still, the movie works, and occasionally it works like hell. I'm itching to get to spoiler discussion, so I'm going to wrap this section by telling you that is absolutely worth the price of admission, and that despite my criticisms here and later in the piece, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.



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    **Spoiler Warning**

    Open ContentSPOILER
    So, that ending huh? Some of us are still processing that. I know at least one child was crying at the end of the show (which is weird, because I saw it at 2 O'clock in a matinee....), and I myself may have shed at least one manly tear as Peter Parker clutched Tony Stark's chest, begging not to go. He wasn't spider-man at that point, he was a scared kid that knew he was about to die. Talk about subversion of expectations, pretty much all the characters that died were ones signed on for sequels. The original Avenger's cast is still intact. I saw at least one commentator point out that there is something poetic about that fact. In Avengers 1 Stark told Loki, "Maybe we can't save the Earth, but we can damn well avenge it." Stark is also clearly important to Strange's plan. He gave up the time-stone to save Stark's life, but not because he went soft, because he saw that it was "The Only Way." Leave it to a master of the mystical arts to be so annoyingly vague. We don't know what the fail-safe or plan from here is, but we do know that it involves Captain Marvel (stay after the credits folks) and that a reality shaping gauntlet is still in play. It suppose it will be fun, when I stop being kind of depressed about it.

    So I promised some discussion on Thanos and his new backstory and motive. I have to agree with Marvel's move away from the wooing Lady Death story-line. It was too self-centered and too small to make Thanos an interesting character. His new objective of culling half the universe to preserve finite resources for intelligent life and bring peace and prosperity to remaining survivors is quite the departure. This new characterization as a deadly-stable madman with a savior/martyr complex provides some very interesting opportunities, and it also makes him very very scary. We've had Villains who were convinced that they were good guys before. Kill-Monger from Black Panther is a recent example. In a way this makes them much more relatable, because most people think they are doing the right thing, even if its anything but. Thanos however, takes this a step farther. He doesn't think he's the good guy. He knows he is. He's also gone through the process of rationalizing that everyone is going to hate him for it, but that he is the one person who can do what needs to be done. He's heard every plea, and summarily rejected her alternative. He does not want to rule, to be loved, or to be worshiped, he just wants to do what be believes is necessary. This isn't even some grief created psychosis created at the destruction of Titan, his home-world. He had proposed a planetary culling long before what ever cataclysm or war tore it apart. If anything, this trauma solidified his view on how things should happen.

    This feels like a double edged sword. He is so close to being relate-able, but his objective is so horrific and his purpose so unpalatable that it ultimately some kind of psychological uncanny valley. Almost human, but if you look at it too long you see the madness that wears its humanity as a facade. His relationship with Gamora is similarly inscrutable. We know he loved her as a daughter, even if all external showings seem to indicate otherwise. He feels great grief at having to sacrifice her for the soul stone, but he does it anyway. Some folks find that confusing and a little out of character, but I think it actually fits. That above mentioned martyr-complex and singular dominating purpose? Yeah that's a cognitive construct. Seeing that he must suffer the loss of his daughter (never minding his daughter's desire, he IS still an ego-maniac) only reinforces his resolve against alternatives and the heros. He has given and sacrificed so much, how can they understand? Another interesting thing the movie did is have him play off the heroes that most closely mirror him. Stark, with his visions of doom and paranoia after New York is the most obvious example, Thanos even acknowledges it. Strange has great power but lives a largely lonely life as a thankless protector of the universe from threats its inhabitants can't even fathom. Imagine how differently things would have turned out if either Strange or Iron-man were sociopathic enough to think like Thanos. Its not a long jump from where they stand, and Thanos is the mirror on the way.

    All that being said, I can totally understand the criticisms that Thanos's motive and plan were overly simplified to the point of plot-hole singularity. My boyfriend and I had a long discussion on the car-ride home poking all the holes we could into his reasoning and motives. Ultimately though, I think that may be missing the point. He was never meant to have a compelling motivation. He was a sick mind that hid behind a veneer of supreme rationality. His goal was an obsession that his immense mental faculties were slaved to serve. It my personal theory that a lot of the criticism that we are going to see on this point is actually a form of grief coping. We just witnessed the "deaths" of a lot of characters we care about. Some folks point out that of course they aren't dead dead because there are sequels planned, but that kind of missing the point. The good guys lost, half the population of the universe including our heroes died. The movie ended with Thanos smiling over a sun-rise because he won. That is not what is expected of movies, that's an emotional gut punch. When we feel loss we try to ascribe it purpose, we try to make sense of it. Thanos's plan is an easy target because it doesn't make sense. The problem he wanted to solve was in his head, the method by which he solved them was both horrific and not really relate-able. So we lash out at it, we try to justify it or to tear it apart, but there is so little of IT to work with that we can't even do that. We do not want to believe that our heroes could lose to a villain who's entire purpose and plan is premised on conclusions that are so illusory and faulty. Maybe it was a mistake on the part of the story, maybe it is ultimately bad story telling, but I'm willing to adopt a wait and see approach and given the purpose of art and movies to illicit emotions, I think there is an argument to be made that its done a very good job.

    The other Thanos point I want to address is power level. Be fore-warned, this is going to be a nerd rant. Look, I got to be pedantic about something, and this is a pretty easy target. Thanos's powers and abilities fluctuate from scene to scene, in some cases in a pretty dramatic fashion. Pretty much every super hero movie, game, comic, or TV show has this problem to some degree. When characters start to get too powerful, it can be hard to keep moment to moment scenes compelling. Usually these fluctuations are subtle enough to be ignored or the audience can suspend disbelief to enjoy the show. I'm having a hard time doing that with Thanos. For full disclosure, I fully acknowledge that my above point about grief driving criticism of his plan and motives can be turned around on me here. I still want to get my peace in though. Thanos's first real act in the movie is to engage The Hulk in a fist fight, and beat him. He punched out The Hulk. To the movie's credit, the scene quite clearly shows that he is a skilled fighter (notice that he moves like a heavy-weight boxer) versus the Hulk's anger driven brawl. So other then the sheer strength, this is kind of believable. I even like that the Hulk threw a hissy fit at being beat and refused to come out for the rest of the movie. The problem here is, this sets the bar kind of high doesn't it?

    Thanos is later seen engaging in melee range fights with everyone from Captain America to Gamora after he got additional infinity stones. I'm sorry, but his punches should have obliterated people. Further, his use of the infinity stones was inconsistent. The reality stone was especially crazy. He turned Drax into a statue, and Mantis into a piece of cloth. He make Quill's gun shoot bubbles instead of laser blasts. These weren't just illusions, they were tactile enough to convince the Guardians that Knowhere wasn't a flaming wreck around them. He bent reality. So it begs the question of why didn't he just use powers like that to render the Heroes completely harmless? He phases the Hulk Buster Armor out of existence, but decides to just punch Captain America? He can open portal to travel anywhere the Universe but he doesn't use it to send troublesome enemies to the farthest reaches of space? I get that the movie and plot has to keep things tense and that the presence of something as powerful as the Infinity Gauntlet is going to break logic to some degree, but there has to be a few better ways to handle this. Getting the reality stone close to last would have been one, having him wrestle the hulk before casting him away might have been another, because other characters have been shown to be able to stand up to the Hulk for at least sometime, and it would have shown him using the Tesserect/Space Stone as more then a commuting tool.

    Nerdy over analysis-aside, the movie was still just fun. Its got your heros, its got a great new villain, its got fights fights and more fights, its got quips, its even got the Red Skull back. What do you guys thinks? There's so much more I could write about, but I've been working on this most of the morning. Is there things you want to discuss? Do my points make sense? Has anyone else seen it yet?
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  • #2

    In response to ending in a non-spoiler way, let us all agree that GOTG 2 and Doctor Strange's arcs after "Killing The Bad Guy" pretty much foreshadowed what was going and had to happen. Especially in case of the latter movie.

    Strong KOTOR2 flashbacks, if you know what I mean.

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    • #3

      Originally posted by Lyon View Post
      In response to ending in a non-spoiler way, let us all agree that GOTG 2 and Doctor Strange's arcs after "Killing The Bad Guy" pretty much foreshadowed what was going and had to happen. Especially in case of the latter movie.

      Strong KOTOR2 flashbacks, if you know what I mean.
      Oh definitely!

      Open ContentSPOILER
      Thanos chastises Strange for not using the Time Stone, calling it the heroes' greatest weapon, but Strange did use it. His use of it against Dormamu shows that it isn't a stone for a brawl or straight up fight, but for bending the rules. I liked that touch. That being said, the reality stone and time stone had somewhat vague limits, so its not entirely clear what is possible.
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      • #4

        I think that "magic" in Doctor Strange's is pretty much something like FMA's alchemy. There are consequences for bending the rules of 'normal' world.

        Open ContentSPOILER
        Someone made a 9gag post with theory that killing Ego was a fatal mistake in GOTG2 - although made out of necessity - because if Star-Lord never met Ego, he would stand against Thanos, but that's mostly is fault of Ego himself. Death of Odin and the Ancient One also caused a lot of disturbance in balance of power - meaning these two along with Ego were supposedly the only barriers which kept Thanos from surfacing. If you think about it, it makes a lof of sense.

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        • #5

          Well, I finally got out and saw this movie.

          Movie-going has been an extremely rare event for me over the last few years. Disappointing movies, ticket prices, and just the plain simple fact of how hard it can often be to park a bigrig at movie theaters, all playing parts in my abstinence. I say 'abstinence' because movie-going always ranked up near the top with what were always my favorite hobbies. So many movies have just been so disappointing over the last few years, that I just didn't see the point of going through the trouble. Besides, with services like iTunes and Amazon available, where a guy could buy movies for a song and watch them at one's leisure, there wasn't a lot of point for me to go to all the expense and trouble.

          That is except for when it came to the Marvel movies.

          Marvel's movies, almost without exception, have been superb. Even so, indecision played a big part in why I seldom got out to see the movies while they were in theaters.

          This one, though, I found not only the time, but the impetus to go see it as well. The reviews I read here played a big factor in that impetus. All the buzz elsewhere on the Internet didn't hurt much, either. But most of all, I found myself on a much needed vacation. So I called me up a taxi and went and saw it. It along with two other movies.

          Like, if you're going to do it and you got the time, why not, eh? One might say too, I was making up for lost time. But I digress. On to what I thought of the movie.

          First off, I found it excellent. It was just as good, and even somewhat better (if such a thing were actually possible) than the other Avengers movies. It was fast paced throughout, the comedic moments were timed to absolute perfection, the character interaction was outstanding from beginning to end, and then in the end, it leaves you with a gut-wrenching dichotomy, along with a giddy certainty that the saga will go on. If I had to describe it in a single sentence, it would probably go something like this:

          'It was like watching perfectly choreographed train-wreck that exploded into a rainbow in my mind at the end'.

          It isn't often you find a series of movies that grab you like these ones do. All the Avengers movies, the Captain America films, the ones about Thor, but these do, and this one did especially. You get to sit in amazed awe. You get to burst out laughing. You get to feel gut-wrenching uncertainty, and then you get to feel oh so pleasantly dazed when it's all over. I smiled, I pondered, I brooded, all with awestruck wonder for at least a good hour after it was all through. It has been a very long time since a movie has been able to do that to me.

          If you haven't yet, go and see Avengers : Infinity War. If you're anything like me, you'll be oh so very glad that you did.

          Originally posted by Dusty View Post
          So it begs the question of why didn't he [Thanos] just use powers like that to render the Heroes completely harmless?
          Because Thanos was a living, thinking being. He, like all thinking creatures, was driven in these circumstances, by heat of the moment. Only a supercomputer might have been able to think quickly and clearly enough while all that was going on, to make the perfect, rational decisions for all of those situations. I for one, immensely enjoyed Thanos' inability to be perfectly rational. It made him vulnerable, beatable and showed that until he got all of the stones, he could be hurt. Not only hurt, but he knew he could be stopped. It imbued the character with a feeling of desperation and that he was literally fighting for his life.

          To make a possible comparison, consider us and rats. Even if there is an especially strong rat, we as humans, could dispatch it with ease. We'd know that, so if we were attacked by just that one rat, we wouldn't be overly worried. We'd make rational decisions about what to do and then follow through, with a very high likelihood of the outcome of the rat losing against us. But now say you find fifty of these rats coming at you from a dozen different directions. You'll know if you get bit too many times, you can be overcome and you could lose, and in so doing, become dinner for the rats. That sort of thing has the tendency to create a poor environment for perfectly clear thinking. Marvel doing that for Thanos I thought made the character immensely relatable.
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          • #6

            Originally posted by Rick Canaan View Post
            Because Thanos was a living, thinking being. He, like all thinking creatures, was driven in these circumstances, by heat of the moment. Only a supercomputer might have been able to think quickly and clearly enough while all that was going on, to make the perfect, rational decisions for all of those situations. I for one, immensely enjoyed Thanos' inability to be perfectly rational. It made him vulnerable, beatable and showed that until he got all of the stones, he could be hurt. Not only hurt, but he knew he could be stopped. It imbued the character with a feeling of desperation and that he was literally fighting for his life.
            Thanos was a pretty good character, and miles ahead of any villain that Marvel has brought to the screen sans Loki. Still for all the brilliance and self reflection he showed, he was pretty narrowly focused on "this is the only solution." In that way, yeah I think he's a mad man. He is a veneer stability and brilliance covering a profound psychosis.

            The only time we see him pause for reflection or even hesitate is when the costs become personal to him. Namely killing the only 'loved one' he has left, Gamora. But does he hesitate for long? No. One can say he resolved to carry out the sacrifice the moment he realized what the cost was. Whether he shut himself off from the empathy for other beings whom he inflicts a similar level of grief on, or just lack's the faculties to even have that empathy can be debated. But the fact is, he's been planning his moves for decades, long enough to amass a world conquering army, to learn about the infinity stones, build the gauntlet, and put a lot of plans in motion. Given the idea that the stones together are all powerful enough to kill half the life in the universe instantly, you would think there would be some exploration of alternative uses on Thanos's part. He claims to have felt the pain of loss, even pays lip service of respect for others feeling similarly (Scarlet Witch after she kills Vision), but does not stop even for a moment.

            Also my gripe was largely pedantic and I realize that I'm just struck by his last big action scene after he reaches earth where he phases the Hulk Buster armor into a stone cliff, or when he gets the reality stone and turns Drax into a statute and Mantis into a bolt of cloth. The real and true reason is they needed conflict and to dangle the idea that the heroes could win in front of us.

            I think I already mentioned it, but him fighting the Hulk first was brilliant in both setting up the scale of the threat he poses, and showing off the difference between a raging beserker and a skilled heavy-weight boxer
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