by Spike Valentine
- A modern, literary myth for the purpose of art & entertainment as opposed to the religious-cultural myths of past civilizations.
In spite of the word not being commonly used, the 21st Century has been, so far, very focused on the aforementioned form of narrative creation in arts & entertainment. No example of this has been more successful than the Marvel Cinematic Universe and their very ambitious movie phases which have reached a new milestone with Avengers: Infinity War. A massive achievement which is surpassing both critical & financial expectations in a scale that could probably be compared only to the original release of Star Wars in 1977.
Considering this, the movie has to be analyzed within this mythopoeic context not only because it was born from the medium which relies in this type of content creation, comic books, but at this point it is impossible to judge the film as a stand-alone piece, and I think this has been true since Captain America: Civil War, in my opinion, even though it is counter-intuitive when it comes to the canon of critique regarding film, literature, etc. in an analysis of the epic—no pun intended—nature of this form of storytelling and its parts.
Having said this, the comics cannot be taken as part of this since it’s clear the MCU is a separate universe with its own rules, in spite of being inspired by these magazines.
I actually really liked the movie and enjoyed the achievement of its structure and edition, very similar to how a Game of Thrones episode is handled, but on a larger scale.
I also understand the commercial implications and production obstacles which prevent such a massive undertaking to be dealt with freely. I think the Russos are currently the best directors in Hollywood juggling all of this and have nothing but massive respect for their work.
It’s the easiest to be a couch script doctor after the fact, right? I don’t think I could have done it better myself, to be honest.
The intention of this text is to analyze the movie as I would any other script I get paid to fix. I won’t nitpick stuff which has no real effect on the story and its plot points. This isn’t Cinema Sins.
Also, full disclosure, I watched the movie three times, two of them courtesy of Disney partners and Marvel/Lucasfilm license holder Panini MX.
Avengers: Infinity War revolves around Thanos’ goal to gather all the Infinity Stones so he can use them to bring balance to the whole universe because his planet, Titan, and his people did not survive the lack of resources caused by overpopulation.
Before this, Thanos had only made very small cameo appearances since the first Avengers to hype the character and the future movies of the franchise. These established him more like the comic book character than the Infinity War version, but since he had, at best, three vague lines in his previous cameos it doesn’t really contradict anything.
Thanos alone is the central motor of this story which is vaguely reminiscent of the Herculean Tasks in greek mythology. The movie could have easily been named ‘Thanos Quest,’ another comic book by Jim Starlin from the ‘90s. The resulting film is a very interesting and bold move forward for this franchise
The movie opens close to where the last one, Thor: Ragnarok, left off. Thanos and his Black Order have intercepted the ship containing the Asgardian refugees, who were basically at the brink of extinction and now are mostly dead. Only Thor, Loki, Heimdall (barely), and guest-star Hulk survive in the openning scene. This directly contradicts the modus operandi they gave to Thanos later in the film, but this does make the teaser impact hard when it comes to establishing the threat he represents, especially after he kills Loki, Heimdall and almost kills Thor and Banner. At this point, he has yet to take the Tesseract. Heimdall, with his last breath, sends Bruce back to Earth. Which is weird since he could have sent the Tesseract instead. He knows what’s at stake.
It should be mentioned that the Asgardians also know how the Infinity Stones work. In the first Thor film, it was established that there is an Infinity Gauntlet, a legendary one, and there has been a replica of it resting in Odin’s armory since that initial Thor film and was destroyed by Hela in Thor: Ragnarok.
Sanctum Sanctorum/New York City
Back on Earth, Bruce is blasted into the Sanctum Sanctorum, where he explains to Dr. Strange and Wong that Thanos is coming (he doesn’t know who Strange and Wong are, so its weird that he confides in them to actually do something). Strange fetches Tony Stark, who is taking a walk with his now bride, Pepper Potts. Banner makes an appearance and Stark is now listening.
Wong explains where the Infinity Stones come from. Iron Man and Dr. Strange discuss what they should do with the Time Gem, contained in the Eye of Agamotto. The sorcerers will not let it be destroyed.
Commotion in the streets of New York ensues when Ebony Maw and Black Dwarf (for some reason renamed Cull Obsidian, the film’s actual first giant dwarf) arrive looking for Dr. Strange’s amulet stone.
Spider-Man was in the middle of a field trip, but his spider-sense alerts him of the situation and he escapes to join the fight against the extraterrestrial threats, who really seem to be challenging for our heroes, especially because Banner cannot turn into the Hulk (some speculate because of some sort of PTSD from fighting Thanos, but Bruce mentions he has been having problems with transforming lately, something also mentioned, but not very well enforced in Thor: Ragnarok).
Ebony Maw manages to capture Dr. Strange, he has to because he can’t take the stone because of a spell. However, Spider-Man, Strange’s Cloak of Levitation, and Iron-Man manage to follow Ebony Maw into his ship. Wong teleports Cull Obsidian to Antarctica, and also severes Cull’s hand when he closes the portal. Wong goes back to the Sanctum and Bruce finds the phone laying on the street and is going to contact Steve Rogers.
Scarlet Witch and Vision are trying to have a normal relationship and life in Europe, laying low from superhero stuff, with Vision totally gone off the grid. Vision can feel something is coming through the Mind gem.
After they learn about what happened in New York and that Tony Stark is missing, Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight ambush the couple, impaling Vision. It doesn’t look good for the former Avengers but they are saved by Captain America, Falcon and Black Widow. It’s an action-packed but weird scene. These powerful antagonists, who were capable of taking on much more powerful heroes mere seconds ago, are beat by heroes who are not nearly as powerful, specifically Black Widow who goes hand-to-hand against Proxima Midnight. Steve Rogers could take her, but not Black Widow, based on the way both characters have been established.
This is a problem the MCU carries since forever. They have never been good at establishing character power levels and abilities. I could have even bought Natasha using her stingers to affect Proxima with electricity, but this battle is strictly close contact with batons, the glaive, an alien spear, and martial arts. This should be balanced just like in video games to avoid the sensation of convenient cheapness.
The Guardians of the Galaxy are just cruisin’ when they get a distress signal. They decide to check it out since they could get something out of it, and it might be their duty as self-proclaimed guardians, maybe. The signal was the one sent from the Asgardian ship in the very beginning of the film. They find Thor in the debris and realize they have the same goal. Rocket comes up with a sensible course of action: since Thor needs to go to Nidavellir to get a hammer to fight Thanos, he volunteers Groot and him go there. The others follow Thanos to Knowhere, where Tivan, the Collector, is known to have the Reality Stone.
Before reaching Knowhere, Gamorra makes Peter promise he would kill her if Thanos gets her because something she knows might compromise the whole universe. He reluctantly agrees.
After arriving at their destination, Star-Lord, Gamorra, Mantis and Drax find Thanos trying to squeeze the location of the gem out of Tivan. Drax wants to rush into battle against Thanos, but Mantis makes him sleep. When he falls down, the noise alerts Thanos, but Gamorra seems to gain the upper hand and stabs Thanos in the neck with her sword and in the chest with a little dagger he gave her long ago. She mourns her adoptive father’s death. All of this is revealed to be Thanos manipulating reality because he got the stone before they arrived. He just wanted to know if Gamorra still loved him. Thanos grabs Gamorra, transforms Drax and Mantis into silly things, and—for some convenient reason—Quill isn’t incapacitated and is persuaded by Gamorra to keep his promise to her. He does, but Thanos makes the gun shoot bubbles and disappear.
Thanos then teleports, along with his estranged daughter, using the Space Gem.
MASSIVE PLOT HOLE ALERT!!!
Someone once said dealing in absolutes is something reserved to the Sith in a mythopoeia which used to regard the Sith as an extremely evil threat. Extremes are always bad. This is the problem with having such an extremely powered MacGuffin which is also the embodiment of Deus ex machina and can solve any conflict in the story instantaneously. The Reality Stone alone can do such things, especially taking into consideration how the gems have been portrayed all along the movies. They have acted-up by themselves and also have even been manipulated to full extent by puny humans individually (Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers, and Dr. Strange).
Thanos could simply cause reality to change so that he already has all the other stones. We see in a future scene that his motivation, which is killing half of the universe so there are endless resources for everyone, becomes a moot point when he can just literally create endless resources. Even if he is too driven to realize this, Dr. Strange has experience negotiating with far more powerful characters and using the Time Stone to its fullest extent. You can’t just ignore the established history for the sake of this film as it’s already been set in the continuity.
Not to mention compromising Dr. Strange and the Eye of Agamotto will put a target the entire universe and Dormammu’s second dark Dimension attack would be imminent regardless of Thanos’ agenda or capacity. He isn’t his Eternal-Deviant self in this universe and can’t take this version of Dormammu. He is just a very driven alien. Dr. strange should have let Thanos know about Dormammu, or Thanos should have had a throw-away line explaining he is in league with Dormammu or something, you know, if rationality had to be sacrificed for the sake of a plot, you could at least throw a bone to the suspension of disbelief.
Rhoades discusses the current situation with Mr. Secretary when Steve, Wanda, Vision, Falcon and Natasha interrupt the meeting. Mr. Secretary wants War Machine to arrest them, but Rhodey cynically ignores him and tends to his friends. Bruce enters the scene and has a very powerful, almost silent moment with Nat, a nice call-back to their Age of Ultron affair.
The fate of Vision is discussed because they are running out of time and options. Banner doesn’t have the technology to try and separate the gem from Vision, which can theoretically be done without killing him and enabling Wanda to destroy it. Steve suggests that he knows where it can be done: Wakanda.
Thanos’ Throne Room & Vormir
Holding Gamorra captive, Thanos demonstrates that he believes Gamorra knows where the Soul Stone is because he has also captured his other daughter, Nebula, who is at the moment being tortured. She has a memory file saved showing Gamorra saying she found it and burned the map.
Gamorra agrees to reveal where the gem is if Thanos spares Nebula.
They go to Vormir using the Space Stone and discover the Red Skull is the keeper of the challenge to get the Soul Gem. He lets Thanos know that he must sacrifice that what he loves most in order to get the stone. Gamorra thinks this catch has rendered Thanos defeated, but soon realizes that it is her who Thanos loves. She tries to kill herself with the balanced weapon, but Thanos turns it into bubbles and he throws her of a cliff in tears. Afterwards, Nebula escapes, contacts Mantis and tells her to meet her on Titan.
As complex and complicated as they are, I think the family relationship between Thanos, his daughters, and the one between them has not been built in a solid, believable way to assert that there was any love there. We are told there is, but we are not shown there is. Big no-no in any script writing situation. This doesn’t work as well as the filmmakers might’ve hoped.
Space Ship & Titan
Meanwhile, Ebony Maw is about to torture Dr. Strange with space surgical equipment when Spidey comes with a plan inspired by the ‘Aliens’ film where Iron Man makes a hole through the ship causing Maw to be sucked out to space through the opening. However, Iron Man originally entered the ship by making a hole to get in, but nothing of that sort happened before. Furthermore, it’s been established that Ebony’s telekinesis could possibly be strong enough to overcome this, but the plan does work in spite of the contrivance and our heroes wind up in Titan, where they meet the Guardians of the Galaxy and fight them until they discover they are on the same side. Next, they come up with a plan to ambush Thanos. Dr. Strange looks into the 14+ million outcomes of the battle against Thanos and only comes across one where they will win, one that includes surrendering the Time Stone to Thanos so Captain Marvel can save the day in the next movie, after her origin flick, so it can accommodate the Feige mandate that Carol Danvers should be the next Disney ‘Mary Sue’.
This is a very cheap move to push down the throat of everyone the controversial character which has been very mismanaged since 1981. The most obvious reason for this approach is that Disney/Marvel wants to turn Carol Danvers into the MCU’s very own Wonder Woman because, as of now, the two far more popular and inspiring female characters, Storm of the X-Men and Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four, are still unavailable. Not much to do there. Black Widow is a former Russian spy and Wanda was a villain so I don’t think that aligns with what they are looking for. Do you guys remember She-Hulk?
Thanos eventually shows up, giving Dr. Strange context about his motivations and the superheroes try to ambush him and take off his gauntlet. Nebula arrives and joins the fight. They almost succeed but Quill loses it when he deduces, like Nebula, that Gamorra is dead and loses himself in rage. This could have come off as contrived as the examples above, but Peter’s love for Gamorra has been demonstrated repeatedly in the two previous Guardians films. Thanos ends-up overpowering the group of superheroes and almost kills Iron Man, but Dr. Strange surrenders the stone so he can spare Stark’s life and the producers can shoehorn-in Captain Marvel.
Rocket and Thor are having a conversation on their way to the cosmic forge and the Racoon decides to give Thor a cybernetic eye he stole from a prison planet. They discover Nidavellir has been decimated by Thanos and only Eitri, the second giant dwarf, survived because he made a gauntlet for the stones. He attacks them and is mad because the Asgardians didn’t protect the forge, but Thor tells him Asgard is gone except for him (and Sif and Valkyrie, there should have been some throw-away line mentioning them). The gauntlet situation is very weird because it has been implied since the first Thor there is a legendary Infinity Gauntlet out there for the task.
Thor tells Eitri together they can get revenge and kill the mad Titan, that he needs him to make the God of Thunder a new axe (yes, they change it from a hammer to an axe with no real explanation, they probably forgot to update the draft), Stormbreaker. The blacksmith tells him he needs to kickstart the star that provides the energy for the mechanism. Thor basically says “hold my beer” and he does just that and then some, when, because of a malfunction, he has to take a blast from the star and not die, highlighting the power level problem of the MCU. He still survives but the handle for Stormbreaker is missing. Groot makes one with his arm/branches and the day is saved.
The Avengers meet with Black Panther and Bucky, now called White Wolf, in the hidden country and they all get prepared to try and separate Vision from the Mind Stone so Wanda can destroy it safely. Shury, T’Challa’s 17-year-old sister is portrayed as knowing exactly how to solve everything regarding a cosmic stone that she’s only just learned existed while making Bruce Banner, a genius with years of experience, look like an idiot. It doesn’t matter that Bruce has also has come in contact with alien tech beyond anything any Wakandan has ever seen at this point. Suspension of disbelief takes another hit because Disney can’t keep the characters’ skills balanced.
The surviving Black Order reach Earth and arrive just outside of Wakanda’s force field. Proxima Midnight and Cull Obsidian start a full scale alien attack with vicious creatures like something from the latest Doom video game which will even harm themselves to get into Wakanda to attack. The threat feels very real.
The force field is making the invaders surround the territory so Black Panther is forced to let them in and bring the fight right in front of them, and it’s a very vicious one. Even Banner using the Hulkbuster is overwhelmed by the creatures.
The invaders deploy some tech which undermines Wakandan defenses and annihilates anything it comes across with. Scarlet Witch notices she can do something about it and decides to go down there and destroy it. Corvus Glaive takes advantage of this and attacks the facility where Shury is working on Vision. She defends herself, but Corvus almost kills her. Vision manages to get off the table and impale him with his own glaive just before Shury got killed.
Hulkbuster Banner kills Cull Obsidian using his tech and wit to send him flying at full speed against the forcefield and Wanda kills Proxima by levitating her towards one of the alien killing machines.
Thor, Rocket and Groot arrive via the Bifröst, which the Stormbreaker can channel, and hordes of alien invaders are blasted away and rerouted. When Thanos arrives, Wanda is forced to destroy the infinity gem and kill her beloved Vision in the process. The other Avengers buy her time and basically fight Thanos to the death giving her just enough time to destroy the gem.
However, as understanding as Thanos is with her after her sacrifice, he turns back time to take the stone from Vision, killing him a second time. Now logic regarding the Inginity Stones is convenient for the plot!
Thor catches up and buries his new weapon into the Titan’s chest, but Thanos lives long enough to fulfill his irrational goal as he snaps his fingers. In a dream sequence, little Gamorra asks him how much he had to sacrifice to achieve his goal. The gauntlet looks fried after that, like it was a knock-off that couldn’t handle the power. He uses the Space Gem to escape. Bucky, Black Panther, Wanda, Dr. Strange, Drax… and half the universe disintegrates.
After all is said and done, Thanos calmly sits to look at the sunset of an, allegedly, grateful universe.
In the middle of the disintegration crisis, Maria Hill and Nick Fury crash into a now empty van. Both of them start to fade away themselves, but Fury manages to use a communicator to reach Captain Marvel. Something he didn’t do in the first Avengers, even though we now know he has known about Carol Danvers since years before that incident. Why is he only calling her now? Why not when Loki opened up a portal over New York letting in hordes of aliens? Why didn’t Fury call Captain Marvel back then?
Shoehorning in Captain Marvel is something, as I explained before, that typifies cheapness of the agenda to aggrandize this new character artificially and paste it into a crucial point of the franchise. We’ve seen it happen in the comic books as well, and it’s not that Carol Danvers is a bad character, but the way they want to push her has ‘Rodimus Prime’ written all over it.
The Russo brothers had a massive enterprise ahead of them and they really took the task by the horns. They have managed to balance what the Hollywood honchos want from the film with creativity, making the best use of the actors I’ve seen in the franchise, specially for the agility required to pull this off through small scenes and a condensed story.
Honorable mention to Josh Brolin, who makes Thanos, an unrelatable and irrationall character, actually work by the sheer brute power of his acting ability.Some other actors who shined here much more than in any other previous film, in my humble opinion, are Zoe Zaldana, Elizabeth Olson, and Chris Hemsworth.
It’s quite a bold film almost no one expected to turn out the way it did in spite of the visible Disney small print attached to the movie. I think they’ve tried to do the best movie possible in spite of all the contracts and producers’ mambo-jambo.
However, in spite of its gigantic achievements, Infinity War, just like comic book publishing events, has the curse of serving as publicity for upcoming projects and serving other masters instead of the movie’s own story, which is aggravated, I think, by so many lies and misdirections from marketing campaigns and pre-release statements.
At this point, the movies would benefit much more from not being public about anything. Other than one single trailer and release date, radio silence would build up the anticipation of a film that basically everyone in the world is already waiting for. The marketing-news-clickbaiting is becoming a real thorn in the public’s experience. Just imagine how much more of a punch this movie could have packed if the mystery had been kept until the first public screening!
Remember The Empire Strikes Back, guys!
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