For Pages and Picture’s 100th post, we’re re-visiting the epic, soul-crushing showdown that was Avengers: Infinity War. After a lackluster second outing for Earth’s mightiest heroes, it was always going to be a challenge for Marvel to pull off a team-up of a seemingly endless supply of new Avengers. However, Marvel proved they were more than up for the task and set us up for an even more epic conclusion to the Infinity saga.
The most effective storytelling Avengers: Infinity War achieved was separating the characters into smaller groups and letting them play off each other. Although this strategy didn’t work well in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, it was precisely what this movie needed. Nowhere is this clearer than in the forced proximity of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Seeing these two characters together is the best of what Marvel can be; a combination of zany quips and genuinely heartfelt moments. These two characters are so eerily similar and alike in many ways. This led to both believable and relatable conflict when two characters with similar backgrounds and motivations have to work together.
After the events of Captain America: Civil War, Captain America himself has been lying low. The return of Chris Evans as the patriotic hero was one of the most thrilling moments in a movie filled with fan service of the best kind. Fans knew it was only a matter of time before we saw Captain America’s return. Evans’ full-bearded look was indeed a choice, one that makes me think exile had not been kind to the Captain. It makes it more tragic to think of the leader of the Avengers always on the run and looking over his shoulder after being so beloved by ordinary people.
Thanos (Josh Brolin) as a villain was a fascinating case study of how Marvel has crafted its villains. The Mad Titan was teased beginning in The Avengers. Since that cryptic introduction, fans saw precious little of what was teased to be Marvel’s ultimate villain. It shouldn’t have worked, this reveal of a villain meant to be the ultimate test for the heroes to face. And yet, somehow Marvel made it work spectacularly. Marvel didn’t spend too much time attempting to justify Thanos’ motivations, which probably would have completely diminished the story. Instead, they let him have a horrifying goal and stop at nothing to achieve it.
Returning to Wakanda after the triumph that was Black Panther was a homecoming. Bucky (Sebastian Stan) returned in the most heartbreaking, yet appropriate way. Seeing Wakanda, a land fans fell in love with, as a battleground heightened the sense of being invaded. Seeing Wakanda be a larger part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), rather than leaving it as a mystical land never to be mentioned again was absolutely the right choice.
By far, the weakest moments of the story were the parts we saw of Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) journey. Taikia Waititi proved he was the best storyteller to handle the God of Thunder in Thor: Ragnarok. However, seeing him immediately replace his eye in the name of comedy because Rocket Raccoon retrieved it from an uncleanly orifice was cheap humor. This moment also negated the power that having Thor lose an eye was for his story. We also could have done without his side-quest to replace his hammer with an axe. With all of this in mind, it’s difficult to say that his truly epic entrance in the Battle of Wakanda was earned.
The most effective storytelling, and the most devastating gut-punch that this movie delivered was in Thanos snapping his fingers and disintegrating half of all life in the universe. Some fans complained that these deaths were cheap because we knew that somehow they’d be brought back. While that’s one perspective, these deaths were still so devastating to watch in real-time, and continue to be heart-wrenching to see on the re-watch. Even knowing how these stories end, it doesn’t take away from the loss our heroes experienced.
Ultimately, Avengers: Infinity War is the best of what Marvel has to offer. Emotional storytelling while combining the MCU’s gargantuan cast of characters was never going to be an easy task. Somehow, even with minor missteps along the way, Marvel pulled it all together into a package that still leaves fans heartbroken when confronted with a loss on this scale. In a way, seeing such enormous loss helps us as fans to contextualize our very human but no less devastating losses. Thanks for staying with us for 100 posts. Here’s to 100 more.
Avengers: Infinity War is currently available to stream on Disney+.