A spoiler-filled discussion of the ups and downs of “Avengers: Infinity War”

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture

Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” is one of the biggest superhero movies of all time. It has already made $1.5 billion and marks the culmination of 10 years’ worth of previous movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In order to give “Infinity War” a good shakedown, two Highlander editors sat down to discuss anything and everything about the movie.

Massive spoilers for “Avengers: Infinity War” and for the MCU in general ahead. Obviously.

Marcelo: So, general impressions: What were your thoughts on the movie as a whole?

Quinn: I thought it was one of the stronger entries in the MCU so far, perhaps even top five. Even if we limit it to just the Avengers movies it’s probably the second best, beating out “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Captain America: Civil War” (which should count as an Avengers movie). Lots of good action, an actually scary villain and a plot that mostly knows what it’s doing — those factors alone help it beat out most of the MCU movies.

M: I agree, although I will say it has the same downfall as every post-“Guardians of the Galaxy” Marvel film. There was just so much humor that felt misplaced in a movie that was supposed to feel like a serious and desperate last stand without hope.

Q: I think that humor was there but mostly faded out by the finale. After all, we have the Guardians, who are inherently kind of a comedy troupe, and we have post-“Thor: Ragnarok” Thor, which made him a lot funnier overall. But I also think they were appropriately serious after each major death. There was no humor when Thanos killed Loki or Gamora or half the surviving people at the end. The end credits were very muted, with no flashy CGI sequences. Just a black screen and words.

M: I will agree with that, it definitely got serious when things mattered, none of that “Civil War” cancer where the airport fight just loses all meaning because of all the pointless humor shoehorned into it. But since we’re talking about the ending, was I the only one that just felt like the ending had way less impact than it should have? When the first person starts dematerializing it’s crazy, but by the time we see everyone just dying left and right I can’t help but just not feel anything.

Q: I think the ending can only be judged based on what happens in the next Avengers movie. All those deaths will have much more impact if we see that they are all permanent and that there will be no comic book-style magic plot device to bring them back. But this is a comic book movie so I expect we can see something of that fashion happening in the sequel. As far as judging them right now, I think the impact would have been greater if they had the guts to kill off a veteran Avenger. If Cap or Iron Man had died, that would have been something. Instead they killed the Guardians (including Star-Lord, who totally deserved it), Black Panther, Vision (who everyone knew would have to bite the dust here), and a bunch of others who haven’t been around as long or who haven’t had as much impact on the overall course of the series.

M: That’s another thing I find interesting about “Infinity War,” unlike every other “Avengers” movie so far, it is entirely reliant on sequels, which is fine to me, but it’s a valid criticism. As for everyone coming back to life, of course they are, it’s a comic book movie. If Thanos has the power to snap his fingers and erase half the universe, someone on a similar level that puts in a little more effort can bring everyone back. I just don’t understand how they’ll do it without it seeming too out of left field. (especially since they killed Scarlet Witch off, but we’ll get to her later). I also would have prefered if some veterans were killed off, so that we could form an attachment to some of the newbies like Spider-Man and Black Panther, who both only got one (1.5 for Spider-Man) movie of screentime. And since you brought up Star-Lord, I actually despised how his character was written in this movie, it’s pretty much a betrayal of what was being built up in the past two movies. In theory him not having the guts to kill Gamora makes sense, but his character was just so one dimensional in this movie that he came across as a selfish prick, not the comedian with a heart of gold that we’ve come to know and love.

Q: I know a lot of people freaked out over Star-Lord, saying he single-handedly killed all the people who died by being selfish in a critical moment (or several moments), but I think there’s an argument that can be made for each. It’s understandable that he would be unwilling or unable to kill Gamora, but keep in mind that when he does make the choice to attempt it, Thanos had already wiped reality so his gun shot bubbles, not lasers. Later on, when he interferes in Tony Stark’s plan to take away the Infinity Gauntlet, yes, he is being short-sighted, but I don’t think it’s inconsistent with his character. After all, in the second “Guardians” movie he goes into a rage and attacks his dad when the latter reveals that he was responsible for Star-Lord’s mother’s death. So we have seen already that he’s prone to losing rational control when confronted with a severe emotional shock. As far as him being one-dimensional goes, I think the same can be said of anyone in this movie. There isn’t time to try characterizing 30 heroes, even with 2.5 hours of screen time. The key is realizing that the MCU is just a three-season TV show and this is part one of the series finale. No one adds new characterization that late in a show, you keep your characters on the path they had already been walking up to that point.

M: I agree, I wasn’t expecting any new kind of character development, however that doesn’t justify disregarding two movies worth of already established character progression, but I rest my case. Speaking of that, I found it weird that in that fight on Titan, Thanos already possesses more than half of the Infinity Stones. Every past Marvel villain only had one and it took all the Avengers to take them down, so why is it that five heroes can even stand a chance against someone stronger than that? Also the fact that Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon were as strong as they were against Thanos’ generals was laughable.

Q: I think that comes down to a couple of factors. First, in the first two Avengers movies, they aren’t fighting someone using the Infinity Stones. Loki in “Avengers” is using the Tesseract as a portal generator, not a weapon. The whole Avengers team is fighting the alien invasion, not a demigod with a magic weapon — look what Hulk does to him one-on-one. In “Age of Ultron,” Ultron doesn’t have a stone at the end. The Avengers are fighting an army of bots, not someone wielding an Infinity Stone. In the other movies, like the second “Thor” movie, one has to wonder why there weren’t more people involved in the fights. Thor goes alone against the Dark Elves, and Cap goes alone versus Red Skull; the Guardians as a group fight Ronan but they aren’t especially powerful, plus he’s the only one actually using a stone as a weapon. Second, I’m not entirely sure on this, but I don’t think the Infinity Stones grant sudden super strength or anything, just other abilities like warping reality or time or whatever. So, Thanos is mortal, and he can be hurt, and he’s basically just a really tough guy when he doesn’t actively use the Stones’ powers. When he’s fighting Spider-Man, Iron Man and other tough heroes, it’s not unreasonable for them to beat him up easily enough, until he does start doing real supernatural stuff.

M: I think my main gripe is with the first scene of the movie, where Loki (who’s definitely not dead by the way, I’m calling that) tries to kill Thanos. He gets stopped in his tracks with just one stone, so why doesn’t Thanos use that kind of power against Iron Man and Co.? Also, speaking of power inconsistencies, Scarlet Witch was the worst offender (I may be biased since she’s my favorite character from when I used to read the Avengers comics but the argument still stands).

Q: Because if they actually used Thanos’ full power he’d kill all the Avengers then win in the end anyway. A restrained villain makes for a better fight when everyone is kind of weak in comparison. And I bet they didn’t want Loki to survive the encounter so they make Thanos use his powers for once. I think Loki will probably come back, since he’s been dead … twice. The story is better for Thor if he doesn’t come back but oh well. Also, am I the only one that thought that Thor’s (along with Rocket and Groot’s) part of the story was the worst of the roughly four parallel storylines going on?

M: Well Loki’s the god of mischief, clones and illusions are kind of his whole spiel. Not to mention that “You’ll never be a god” comment he made, which implies that actual gods (like Loki and Thor) actually have a leg up over him. Actually, Thor’s arc was my favorite part of this entire movie. We saw a new side of him, while getting a really interesting B-story that gave us a break from the cycle of finding an Infinity Stone and fighting over it. Also completely irrelevant and unimportant, but Thor looked 10 times more badass with his eyepatch and I was really dissapointed when Rocket gave him the prosthetic.

Q: The problem I had with Thor’s arc was that it was really just pointless. Half the point of “Ragnarok” was that Thor didn’t need the hammer, that his power was inherent, etc. So what does he do? He spends a good chunk of time getting a new hammer, except now it’s an ax. The whole arc was interesting enough, and it was a good palate cleanser of sorts, but it seemed very irrelevant. Since it gave us giant Peter Dinklage and that fun stuff about Rocket as the captain of the ship and Thor standing in front of a star, I’ll give it a pass; besides, it was cool and amusing, consistent with Thor’s post-“Raganrok” character. And yes, Thor with the eyepatch is very neat, both from a simple character design perspective and in the symbolic sense that he has completed his path to becoming his father. But the real question, which is best: Adult Groot, Baby Groot or Teenage Groot?

M: That’s only because “Ragnarok” is a trash movie that disregards years of canon that made perfect sense (I’m kidding, but not really). While it is true that his power is inherent it still just makes sense that weilding a weapon would make him stronger. This isn’t just any other ax after all. As for Groot, you can’t go wrong with Adult Groot, it’s the best and most well-developed version of the character that’s just way more loveable and deeper than the other two, who are both just gimmicky jokes if we’re being honest.

Q: Hey, hey, those are fighting words. I agree on Adult Groot, by the way. Moving on, what are your thoughts regarding Gamora’s death?

M: I loved it. I think it’s one of the best parts about this movie because that entire scene just gave Thanos this incredible depth, making him immediately miles above any other Marvel villain we’ve seen so far. Although I will say it was a bit weird that we didn’t see her body hit the floor, I feel like it would have made the entire thing more emotional and gut wrenching (but, hey, you’ve got to keep it PG for the kids I guess).

Q: Yeah, that scene did do a lot to characterize Thanos. I’m not 100 percent sure I buy the whole thing, insofar as I sort of doubt he was that emotionally attached to her, but if we assume that he did genuinely care about his adoptive daughter, then we see what lengths he’s willing to go to in order to achieve his mission. At the same time, we see that while his mission matters to him, he also is unsure about the costs. After all, when his goal is questionably noble and would not directly benefit him personally, he had to pay a very high price to get his ultimately ideological mission done.

M: I think we can at least go as far as to say that he was attached to her in his own way. But either way I think it’s really interesting to bring up that Thanos’ goal falls into a gray area. While obviously the idea of killing half the universe is horrible, in the bigger picture it just helped the future of those worlds. And he’s not even reshaping the worlds or becoming their overlord, his goal is solely for the preservation of their current state and to even improve  some worlds. While he’s the villain of this story, (because this is the Avengers and they’re the “good guys”) the argument can be made that Thanos is an antihero, who is willing to take on the title of “villain” for the good of the universe.

Q: Now that I think of it, all the best “villains” in the MCU are really just antiheroes. Loki was, in my book, the best villain before “Infinity War,” but that was because of how he developed into a sort of antihero over the course of several movies. In “Thor” and “Avengers,” the movies where he can be called the main villain, he really isn’t that impressive, but after that he gets more interesting. Likewise I was impressed with Erik Killmonger in “Black Panther” because he, like Thanos, does what he thinks he has to in order to benefit the world at large. Of course, Loki tries invading Earth with an alien army and Killmonger commits attempted regicide to get his way, and these actions make them villains, but there’s far more to them than the likes of the lame villains in “Thor: The Dark World” or “Guardians” or “Ant-Man.” They have interesting characterizations or motives that elevate them, and that’s why they are great.

M: 100 percent agree, ironically enough it feels like Marvel is improving its villains while simultaneously neglecting its heroes. But switching gears a little bit, let’s talk about what the masses went in to go see. What’d you think of the big explosions on the screen? (The fight scenes)

Q: I mean, we got to see some solid fights throughout. Best one was probably the fight on Titan. I remember having heard something about Thanos throwing a moon way before this movie came out but I wasn’t expecting to see him throw pieces of a moon at the heroes. The fighting in Wakanda wasn’t bad but I swear they bit way too much off the Naboo battle scene from “The Phantom Menace” in that segment.

M: The Titan fight is definitely the most memorable for more than a few reasons (Doctor Strange’s Shadow Clone Jutsu made me laugh in the theater), it was also interesting that the entire fight revolved around stopping Thanos from using the gauntlet instead of just fighting him head on. Also the problem with that Wakanda fight isn’t that it’s unoriginal, it’s the fact that the scene it’s imitating wasn’t very good in the first place.

Q: It’s like I said above, if Thanos was going full power with the four Infinity Stones he had at that point, there would be no fight; he would wipe out everyone quite quickly. That’s why the fight has to revolve around taking away his source of power, which in turn makes the fight a unique one among the big MCU battles. Moving on, other than the ending, were there any moments that really surprised you?

M: The beginning was actually very surprising, I didn’t expect it to get straight to it the way it did, but it was great at setting the tone for the whole movie. Other than that I can’t really say that much comes to mind. Once the pace was set the movie ran with it.

Q: The one big shocker that randomly got me was seeing the Red Skull return. I don’t know if they created a sort of ambiguous death scene for him in the first Captain America movie because they planned this far in advance, or if it was just a sort of ambiguous moment they thought they could take advantage of, but I didn’t think they’d take one of the few decent villains from the past and bring him back. I reasoned it out in my head and I guess the argument could be made that it all makes sense but it’s still such a weird thing to me.

M: It definitely makes sense, especially when you think about how the movies always described the Tesseract as a doorway. Although it does leave you wondering who was guarding the Soul Stone before Red Skull came around.

Q: Who knows. That’s probably not even worth considering. What did you think about the major costume changes that went on with most of the main characters?

M: I noticed the changes but to be honest I really didn’t think much about it; I feel like overall the costumes looked about the same as they always did. Thor’s was noticeable, again the eyepatch, but even beyond that the subtle changes to his costume were nice. Iron Man’s suit was obviously changed but not much looked different. But moving back to the story, what did you think about the scene after the end credits?

Q: First off, I was sad that Nick Fury died (I’d say it was the second saddest out of the final act’s deaths in terms of the performance, after Spider-Man). Second off, I didn’t quite know how to react at first because to someone who isn’t a huge expert on Marvel comics, I didn’t know who was being signalled. My friend looked this stuff up immediately after the movie and explained it to me, that it’s Captain Marvel and that she is basically the equivalent of Superman as far as strength is concerned. I guess it makes sense, since I knew she had a movie scheduled for the future, but I didn’t know she would be relevant to “Infinity War.” I was wrong. I think Captain Marvel will be probably the most important element in the sequel, what about you?

M: I’ll be honest, Spider-Man’s death just felt really over-dramatic and overacted, considering that everyone else died way faster than him. As for Captain Marvel, she’ll definitely be important, especially considering that every character that even stood a chance against Thanos, except for Thor, was killed off. What I actually did find slightly sad was Groot’s death, despite the gripes with that entire sequence I brought up earlier.

Q: I disagree. I think because Spider-Man is, like, 15, his death is sadder because he’s the youngest person on the team; and I suspect that with his Spidey senses he knew something was wrong and therefore he had time to actually fear his death, whereas everyone else who died at the end just poofed within probably two seconds of realizing they were doomed. Honestly I don’t remember Groot’s death, it was just one in a multitude to me. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Captain Marvel can do. Technically we’ll get a first taste of that since she has her own movie coming up just before the next “Avengers” movie, but since that’s supposed to be a prequel it will only be there to establish some background. I imagine we’ll get the needed explanation from that movie, but I am really curious now why only this movie’s events were so bad as to warrant Nick Fury calling her up. Like, is she dangerous? Reclusive? He has to have been really reluctant if she wasn’t called up in any “Avengers” movie until now.

M: That’s the one reason why I really don’t like the idea of Captain Marvel’s movie being a prequel, because then it simply doesn’t make sense for her to not be in every “Avengers” movie before the final one. Unless she gets the Cap treatment where she’s out of duty, but even so she was on call. To be honest I can’t say more until I know more about the movie, and until we see it for ourselves.

Q: Indeed. Now I have to wait a whole other year to get the rest of the answers. So, let’s start wrapping things up. What do you predict will happen in the remaining MCU movies? We still have “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” “Captain Marvel,” the final “Avengers” movie, a sequel to “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” in that order. Will everyone stay dead? Will some or all come back? From what we know so far, the next Ant-Man movie will take place just after “Civil War” and Captain Marvel’s will be before any of these movies.

M: I feel like the next “Ant-Man” movie will be about as meaningless and obsolete as the first one was. I’m especially excited for “Spider-Man 2” and “Guardians 3,” since I feel like “Homecoming” and the first “Guardians” are the best two movies to come out of the MCU.

Q: I’m hyping for “Captain Marvel” and the final “Avengers” film because I want to follow the story threads that Marvel has been laying out for years to come to an end. While the movies on the side will probably be good, I got hooked on the extended story idea they used, and I will be happy to see the last one so I never have to see another superhero movie again (because I have zero hopes for the DC universe movies after “Justice League”). OK, so final question: Having talked this all out above, where does “Infinity War” rank for you personally among the MCU movies?

M: I’d say it’s pretty middle of the pack for me, it was definitely nice to see the payoff of all the MCU’s movies, but overall as a standalone movie, especially compared to some of my favorites, i.e., “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” it falls a bit short.

Q: I’d say it’s one of the better ones. It doesn’t make it into my top five but it definitely did not fail as bad as I had expected. I think a movie juggling as many superheroes as it did could never be “great” but it was definitely good. We got the big fights and the big bad guy we were expecting, and it threw curveballs at us that I’m not sure anyone expected. Then again, I thought it would be standalone but Marvel totally lied by saying there would be no “Infinity War Part 2.” The next “Avengers” movie will totally be a direct sequel to this. I think final judgment must be reserved for when the last “Avengers” movie comes out, since no one rates the first part of a TV series finale independently of the the second part, but on its own it is quite entertaining and it fulfills most of my expectations.

 

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