Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Approaching Infinity Part Nineteen: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

After 10 years of build-up, Infinity War is upon us...

AND I
HAVE
QUESTIONS!

An obligatory caution up-front. This post contains discussion of Avengers: Infinity War - a movie I was shocked to discover is composed ALMOST ENTIRELY OF SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR!

The Villain
Well, Doom and Galactus are still over in Fox-land, so who's next on the Marvel Big Hitters list? Honestly, if you'd asked the random MCU appreciator in the street to name the top villains in the comics, you'd probably have to work your way through a bunch before you found someone who even knew who Thanos was. Then again, back in 2008 hardly any non-comics people (we call you Mundanes) could have picked Iron Man out of a line-up, so those considerations seem pretty trivial now. Anyway, Thanos is what we've got - and they did a Hell of a job with him. There's no Evil Shadow shit to wade through here, since no one even operates on Thanos' plane. There's just nothing to compare him with. Each of his henchcreatures alone could have served as the primary bad guy of any other MCU story in terms of raw threat level.

So, yeah - Thanos is solid. His overall plan, though... well, let's just say I have a couple of queries:

1) The global human population alone has literally doubled from 3.8 billion to 7.6 billion in the time I've walked the Earth. If your grand scheme is to wipe out half of all life, wouldn't you have to do it all again every few decades or so?

2) I guess we're talking about sentient life, here. Are we also wiping out half of all dogs? Insects? Bacteria? I mean, how far does this go? Aren't they consuming the universe's resources, too? I didn't see any trees or grass blades ashing at the end of the film, so I guess plant life is okay - but edge-cases like Groot arguably got royally shafted on that score.

3) You've got a Reality Stone and a Time Stone, giving you ultimate power over essentially everything. Doesn't deciding that there's no more efficient way of restoring balance than to wipe out 50% of all life seem like an almost comical failing in imagination?

4) Is there actually any evidence that the universe's resources are in any kind of short supply? Even if there were, and even without the limitless powers of the Infinity Gauntlet, was there really no prospect of a political or economic solution?

5) Wouldn't severing Thanos' arm in a Sling Ring portal and locking the rest of him in the Mirror Dimension have cut the Infinity War short about an hour earlier? Come to that, couldn't Strange have just decapitated the Mad Titan the moment he showed up?

The Story
...is sort of incidental, by this point. Thanos is here, he's collecting Infinity Stones and he's going to wipe out half of all life. There's basically nothing we can do to stop him. The end of Thor: Ragnarok gets basically Alien 3'd, Thor gets a new eye and weapon (despite recently realising that he needed neither) and Pepper Potts is back to being the twittering fun-vacuum she was in the first Iron Man. Never mind; I'm sure it'll all work out in the... oh.

The Universe
This is another MCU episode that takes a lot more than it gives. The Asgardians species is basically gone. Loki is finally dead, along with Heimdall and God knows who else. Every Avenger who joined after the first big team-up is supposedly out of the picture. How we're supposed to feel about that is questionable, given the number of the dead heroes with upcoming solo outings announced. Still, though, we're not punched in the feels by Spider-Man's death because we think it's permanent. We're punched because it's a beautifully crafted scene with a ton of emotional weight behind the blow.

To be fair, I'd add that Marvel still has a tough time earning some of the shots it takes. We're constantly asked to care about relationships that have never been convincingly established, from Black Widow/Bruce Banner to Scarlet Witch/Vision. A lot of that stuff feels rushed to me.

A couple more questions, while we're picking at threads here:

6) I know; I've griped about this before - but I REALLY don't get how languages work in the MCU. For reasons that go eternally unexplained, every species and every creature in the universe speaks English except for Groot. Groot's language is taught on Asgard, and several other characters are able to understand it, but no one can actually speak it except Groot himself. Starlord has a translator implant (which he clearly doesn't need since everyone else uses English well enough for no one on Earth to need one when dealing with aliens) - but Groot's tongue is uniquely immune to it. It just bothers me, okay? I'm allowed to be bothered by things. It doesn't make me a bad person.

7) Where does the new Iron Man armour's mass come from? We've let Hulk's size changes slide for ages, and we've accepted that older Iron Man suits can be slung around in a briefcase. This new nano-gear, though, either stores 800lbs of metal atoms in a fist-sized medallion or basically conjures them out of thin air.

8) Where the fuck are Korg and Valkyrie?!

Anyway, moving on.

The Stinger
Always good to see Nick Fury back in the game, albeit briefly. You kinda have to recognise Captain Marvel's symbol to feel the impact of this scene, though. Judging from the reaction in the cinema, pretty much no one got it and most left the theatre on a bemused shrug instead of a white-knuckle fist-pump.

The Take-Away
Infinity War is a really solid film by most standards. It's easily in the top tier of MCU efforts for me and, for whatever this means in the real world, makes a decent case for itself as Best Superhero Film Ever. A lot is going to depend on the follow-through, though. Almost by definition, the next Avengers flick is going to have to spend much of its runtime unpicking Infinity War to mitigate the damage it did. That's a tough trick to pull off, and I'm excited to see how they tackle it.

Previously: Black Panther

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