Analysis and Review of Avengers: Infinity War

Warning: this review contains possible spoilers for anything within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Infinity War. You have been warned.


Photo by Matt McCabe

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It’s been roughly ten years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) began with 2008’s Iron Man, the film that started the journey of Tony Stark and would be followed by a plethora of films chronicling the origins and adventures of his late allies and companions. Over the course of the past ten years, these films have not only told compelling stories (mostly, anyway… I’m looking at you, Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 2), but also captured the hearts of people who may have never even read any of the Marvel Comics these characters are based on, such as myself. These movies are more than just popcorn flicks and action movies, they are experiences.

The films within the MCU, while usually self-contained, do contain references to other works also within the Universe that serve to help build the groundwork for the overarching plot regarding Thanos and his inevitable balancing of the universe, something that had been hinted at since the stinger of the first Avengers film.

With this being the third film under the Avengers moniker, as well as being originally announced as being Part 1 of a two-part conclusion to the current storyline, Infinity War serves to pay off nearly every relevant loose thread in the story thus far. The film picks up after the end of Thor: Ragnarok and essentially overrides the triumphant ending to that film within the first ten minutes. Thanos and his goons, the Black Order, slaughter the refugee Asgardians on the escape ship from the end of Ragnarok, as well as beloved trickster Loki. While it should be noted that Loki has “died” before, it is unknown if this time was for real or not, but more on the deaths later.

By killing Loki and forcing Thor to watch, as well as having Thanos frighten the Hulk of all people, the film’s grim tone is set. Heimdall, in a last-ditch effort, sends the Hulk to Earth in an attempt to send a warning of the incoming Mad Titan. This is where the film starts to divide and group up its characters. Essentially, the film follows five main groups:

  1. Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange
  2. Star-Lord, Drax, and Mantis
  3. Thor, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot
  4. Steve Rogers, Black Widow, Falcon, War Machine, Vision, and Scarlet Witch (with Bruce Banner joining up with them towards the end of the film’s first act after Tony and Spider-Man go on a crazy space adventure with Doctor Strange)
  5. Thanos and Gamora (with Nebula playing a smaller role during their section of the story)

These five groups eventually get downsized to three, and then two, with Iron Man’s team joining up with Star-Lord’s and eventually converging with Thanos’ side of the story, and Thor’s team joining Steve Rogers and Black Panther during their defense of Wakanda to protect Vision, and Thanos and Gamora staying a “team” (in the loosest sense of the word) up until Gamora is sacrificed to obtain the Soul Stone. I’ve brought up the way they’ve divided the story for the purpose of discussing one of the biggest problems with the film: the pacing of the story. The movie feels as though it’s rushing to get everyone’s introductions out of the way in the first 30-45 minutes and, while not sloppily done, really contrasts the rest of the movie’s comfortable pace. We get the introduction and formation of the five teams in a relatively snappy matter, which makes sense, since we all know who these characters are at this point and what they’ve been doing since their last appearances. However, because the film rushes to get these characters fighting something for the sake of increasing the tension, story loses focus and becomes less about the characters and more about the Russo brothers making sure they can get all those trailer shots of the characters fighting, which results in a loss of characterization. For example, Steve Rogers and Black Widow in this movie are rather uninteresting. Steve gets a good moment when he shuts down resident obstructive bureaucrat Thunderbolt Ross and says that he’s well beyond asking for permission to do his thing and Black Widow gets to participate in two good fight scenes, but that about it. There’s nothing in this movie that really furthers their characters unlike, say, Rocket Raccoon, who sees a little bit more growth than in the Guardians films. While it’s no shock that Rocket does have a softer side, since it’s a very common trope to have a “jerk with a heart of gold” character, it’s explored in a new and somewhat ironic way in this film. When he and Thor leave the Guardians’ ship, he asserts himself as the captain, despite obviously not being so, and is the only one of the Guardians that Thor takes seriously. Rocket rolled with the joke, but then actually took his job as captain seriously when he tried to understand more about his new companion, Thor. This whole “I’m the captain” thing becomes ironic when, at the end of the film when everyone is being erased by the snap, it’s shown that Rocket is the only surviving Guardian, therefore making him the actual de-facto leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy.   

It should be noted that, given how many characters this film juggles, it’s still an amazing feat that the writers were able to give us what they did and that the way they grouped characters is fantastic because it gives us character interactions and banter we’d never seen before (seriously, Thor and Rocket are the best parts of the film character-wise). However, in exchange for characters like Thor and Rocket or Stark and Strange having great character moments, other characters get the shaft. The biggest victims of this are anyone on the previously-mentioned Steve Roger’s side of the story not named Scarlet Witch or Vision, whose romantic plot tumor takes center stage (though, it’s honestly not as bad as Bruce and Natasha in Age of Ultron) to get us to feel awful when Thanos removes the Mind Stone from Vision in the most brutal way possible. While I applaud the efforts and ambition behind including such a large roster, it certainly hurts the movie at points, especially at the end.

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Speaking of the end, I should probably talk about that. When Thanos get the Mind Stone from Vision’s forehead, thus completing the Infinity Gauntlet, he does his infamous “snap,” erasing half of all life in the universe. This causes a majority of the named characters in this film to turn to dust. In addition to the deaths from the before the completion of the gauntlet (Loki, Heimdall, Gamora, and the Black Order clowns), from the snap: Bucky Barnes, Scarlet Witch, Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis, Groot, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Falcon, Nick Fury and Maria Hill (as shown in this film’s only credits scene), and, most importantly, Spider-Man. Spider-Man’s death is given special attention in the film, and is regarded as one of the best and saddest parts of the entire thing. It’s moving because, essentially, Tony Stark just watched the closest thing he had to a son die in his arms while the kid apologized to him for failing. However, all of this tension and build-up is undone, not by the story itself, but by Marvel Studios announcing what its future movies are too far in advance.

Currently, there is a untitled sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming (which you can’t really have without a Spider-Man) slated for July 5, 2019. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has also been confirmed, with talks of Gamora having a “significant role,” as noted at the end of this article. So, while external factors are to blame for this break in immersion regarding character deaths, the impact in the movie itself is lessened once one remembers these facts and realizes that a majority of the deaths in this movie aren’t final.

Now, while I just spent some time listing problems with the film, take special care to note that this film does a lot of things right. As previously mentioned, the banter and comedy between characters almost always lands (compared to Marvel’s previous outing, Black Panther, where most attempts at humor were just outright dead on arrival). Bruce Banner in particular gets a lot of funny moments. However, it’s not just the comedy, as the deeper moments between characters really shine. Once again, the scene of Spider-Man dying in Iron Man’s arms, wherein he apologizes to Tony for failing. Also, the heart-to-heart between Rocket and Thor as they journey to get Thor a new weapon is especially notable as it gives Rocket a little more depth as a character beyond the snarky raccoon he is on the surface.

Another plus to the movie is the score. When it wants to be triumphant, it can be triumphant. When it wants to be somber and dark, it can do that just as well. The score helps to boost the atmosphere of a given scene, as it should. This is such a big plus, not just because of the scale of this film, but because it’s an improvement from the last Avengers film, Age of Ultron, which had a rather forgettable and mediocre soundtrack. Overall, Alan Silvestri did a fantastic job with this one.

Additionally, one of the crowning achievements of this movie is the characterization of its villain, Thanos. Marvel movies are often criticized for having generic and uninteresting villains, such as any of the villains in the Iron Man movies, those weird elves in Thor: The Dark World, or Yellowjacket in Ant-Man. However their track record lately has been good, with fan-favorite Loki getting multiple movies to shine in, Vulture, Hela, Killmonger, and now Thanos. Undoubtedly, the most interesting part of Thanos’ character is that he has one that isn’t generic in both motivation and personality. Rather than being a foil to the hero with the exact same powers (à la Yellowjacket), he’s the most powerful foe the heroes have ever faced, capable frightening the Hulk and strangling Loki, and has a motivation that, while involving literal genocide, is fairly easy to understand and see where he’s coming from. He warned his people of an overpopulation issue, got called mad, and was later proven right when overpopulation on Titan proved to be the planet’s doom. So, by the film’s beginning, he’s resolved to solve the problem of overpopulation on a universal scale, believing that if life goes unchecked, it will fail.

Another layer to the onion that is Thanos’ character is his love for his adopted daughter, Gamora. Despite knowing that she outright despises and opposes him, he still treats her with more respect than he does the other heroes sans Tony Stark, whom he also respects. While it is true that he sacrifices her for the acquisition of the Soul Stone, the fact that her sacrifice counts as the sacrifice of a loved one is proof enough that he cared about her, something even she underestimated.

While my opinion on this film is obviously very important (it’s not), I took to the halls and snagged some opinions from two of my classmates, both of them self-proclaimed Marvel fanatics. Matt Tully, a fellow senior, spoke highly of the cinematic marvel (get it?) that is Infinity War, giving it an “11/10, best MCU movie,” and going on to say how “it’s a whirlwind of emotions that will take hours to process.” The other classmate, Luis Villalta, another senior who is probably the biggest Marvel hype man I know, had this to say: “It feels like a breath of fresh air with how it diverts from the ‘superhero formula,’” he then drove home that “the chemistry between all the characters feels very natural.”

Overall, the movie has been positively received by audiences, as it should. Despite some of the glaring problems such as the pacing and certain characters getting the shaft, it’s still a riot and easily one of the best superhero movies of all time.