Review: Avengers: Infinity War (A Spoiler-Filled Conversation)
Rockie Juarez and Marcelo Pico have had a few days to process Avengers: Infinity War. Now, they sit down to talk about the biggest film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and decide if it reaches new heights in the decade-old franchise. Spoilers to follow!
Marcelo Pico: For me, there was little chance Marvel Studios was going to fall on their face with this, their nineteenth movie. Everything so far in their Phase Three has been an interesting exercise in blockbuster filmmaking—handing the reins over to unique talent to play with the tried-and-true MCU formula. James Gunn, Taika Waititi, and Ryan Coogler have each put their personal stamps on these comic book heroes, but it’s the reliable Russo brothers who are given the responsibility to fulfill the promise of Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet plotline, first hinted at six years ago in The Avengers. It turns out they were the best choice; they understand the Marvel-ness of these movies more than any other directors. The proof is in Avengers: Infinity War—every interaction, the villains, the action scenes, the humor—it’s what Marvel does best.
Rockie Juarez: Going into this film, I expected big things. A few heroes dying, major ones too, like Captain America or Iron Man, or maybe a couple of new characters (hello, Black Order) to shake things up. Man, Marvel did not disappoint in both of my predictions. I also anticipated a gut punch cliffhanger too, knowing full well this was a major project split in two, but even then my expectations were exceeded with what they brought to the table. On more than one occasion, I’ve read that the Russo’s are bad at action. This is something I do not agree with having been impressed with how they handled both Winter Soldier and Civil War. Here they have so much to play with and a ton of ground work already laid out for them that it was destined for success. Thankfully they delivered the wow factor needed for these MCU rides and still manage to leave the world wanting more but in a good way.
MP: While so much works, including the action (Strange versus Thanos is jaw-dropping), the plot is razor thin: Thanos wants those Infinity Stones so he can wipe out half of existence, and it’s up to the Avengers to stop him. The main arc is what holds it all together, though—Thanos’ reasoning behind his plot. Hung on the big purple man’s struggle are scenes where our favorite Marvel superheroes meet and interact in ways we’ve been wanting to see for years. The massive group of heroes are split up—Thor teams up with Rocket and Groot to make a new hammer to fight Thanos, Captain America’s team heads to Wakanda to help save Vision and his stone, the Guardians of the Galaxy run into Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man on Thanos’ home planet Titan to try and get the gauntlet off his hand. There’s no conventional three act structure—instead we have have scene after scene of forward motion. It feels messy at first, with characters literally falling into scenes with one another. But as the film picks up momentum, these vignettes tied together feel like the third act of a grand epic like The Lord of The Rings.
RJ: Yeah this project has a basic structure, but I actually love that because it allows the filmmakers to go bananas with action and lovable characters. People not in the know will seriously hate this film because it takes no time to explain these fantastical relationships. That said, I love the fact that is actually a film ‘made for the fans’ and a film that takes crazy risks from the second it starts. Infinity War is designed to hurt your feelings and that is what will solidify it’s legend. I remember at both of my screenings, when this thing ended people were shocked, not to mention rather upset.
MP: I’m sure I would not have felt the emotional punch of Peter Parker dying in Tony’s arms if I hadn’t seen Spider-Man: Homecoming and every other appearance of Iron Man in the series. That’s the rub, if you’ve been following the series all this time, you’re bound to be hit hard by moments like this. Thor talking to Rocket about what he’s lost; Steve not wanting Vision to sacrifice himself; Star-Lord and Gamora’s arcs; each moment has resonance in Infinity War but it’s heighten by prior knowledge. Sounds like a cheat, sure, but that fact that the Russos do it so well, in giving time to so many characters for payoff after payoff, is an incredible feat in a blockbuster of this size.
RJ: Exactly. This film has huge emotional beats, but you are screwed if you haven’t been playing along. Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians 1 & 2 are extremely important to this film and you will be straight up lost if you are not caught up. Sure your mileage may vary on MCU or superheroes in general, but Infinity War is damn near perfect and the emotional payoff would be lost on those starting here. Tony Stark’s relationship with Peter Parker is fantastic and kicked into overdrive here. Thor’s people, family and wily brother Loki are all dead. And the poor Guardians will never be the same after the major loss of Gamora, the most jaw dropping thing Thanos does in Infinity War. Again, major moments occur here but if you never saw Captain America: The First Avenger the appearance of Red Skull might make you go “who dis?!”.
MP: We’ve got to talk about the one character who gets his own arc in the movie, one that anyone walking in can connect with, without having seen a single MCU movie: Thanos. I came in expecting Josh Brolin’s big purple baddie to be one-note. From the trailers it looked like his main aim was to hurt people (which he does, brutally) and nothing more. But, we understand his intentions—in order to create balance and for kids to have “full bellies each day” he’s willing to wipe out half the universe. Overpopulation is his beef, and he’s willing to sacrifice the one thing he loves to course-correct existence. Turning this big ridiculous looking alien into one with a wide-scope of deep emotions is yet another success in the film.
RJ: Thanos is an incredible villain who has been lurking in the background this entire MCU run. Thankfully he does not disappoint. Brolin delivers one of the MCU’s greatest villains, a baddie with a strong sense of purpose and the will to follow through with horrific decisions to reach an endgame. Thanos is the film and his journey makes perfect sense elevating him past one-note villainy. I’m not sure kids are going to love this one because of how mean it is, I mean if adults were crying, kids may straight up die in the aisles.
MP: From the first attack on the Asgardians all the way to half of life in the universe turning into ash, this one’s a rough ride to say the least. The bad guy wins—in the grand scope of superhero movies, that’s a ballsy move itself. In the MCU, no matter how big the threat, each good guy managed to stop the bad guy before the credits rolled. Here, that’s all flipped on its head. Not only does Thanos get all the Infinity Stones, he also wipes out half the Avengers team. It’s a chilling way to end a mega-blockbuster like this. Of course, we all know the dead will be back, but the fact that the survivors had to see their friends vanish and we’re not 100% sure how the heroes will save the day, that’s as bold as one can get in this franchise.
RJ: This thing has guts. Imagine going out of your way to set up an Emperor in a Star Wars movie and destroying major key heroes in your universe; succeeding in both! The risk of alienating your fanbase was off the charts with this one. Really happy to see that this thing has clicked with most, even the ones upset by the finale. Another thing we should applaud is how well they juggled all of these characters. Russos and company definitely knew how to move the pieces without us as an audience screaming Spidey would never do that at the screen. The meanest blockbuster I have ever seen with many shocking moments that never ruin the momentum of the ride. It’ll be remembered for years to come for being so unprecedented.
MP: We’ll have to wait an entire year, with two MCU movies in between (Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel) , to see how this all ends, and I haven’t been this excited about a cliffhanger since The Dark Knight. We’ll see if it truly sticks the landing in what would be the final chapter for a lot of our heroes, but for now all we can do is heal.
RJ: Healing after Spidey says “sorry” to Tony is impossible, Marcelo. I am scarred and ruined even though I know deep down inside The Avengers will prevail. Infinity War feels like getting into a screaming match with your best friend, never talking to one another for months because you don’t know how to reach out. The pain dealt feels too fresh to process in any tangible way. If only Thor had aimed for that huge purple head. What the Hell, Point Break?