Tuesday I summarised the MCU as best as I could in brief, and tried to give you some idea of what to expect from Infinity War without giving too much away. Today the gloves are off, and so begins the review proper.
Given the volume of characters in play, it makes absolute sense to divide the narrative between them, each group trying to find a way to halt the progress of the Mad Titan. So let’s take this group by group, doing insufficient justice to each character as we go because we have many years to summarise with each:
Thor and the Guardians get together in the most rational team-up of the lot. Their journey sees them dividing to hunt down the Reality Stone in Knowhere, left in the hands of the Collector, and headed to Nidavellir to create a weapon to replace Mjolnir, and slay a titan.
Thor: We pick up as we left Thor, at the mercy of Thanos. It’s heartbreaking to hear the distress call over the opening credits instead of the usual uplifting music, and adds a real sense of the threat we’re about to behold. Loki steals the show of the opening scene, I particularly enjoyed his “We have a Hulk” moment, way to open things with a laugh as the green giant rugby-tackles the purple titan. Loki makes no less than three attempts by my count to deceive Thanos, one fails out of love for his brother, the last ends with his death. Thor, broken and imprisoned, has to watch his people obliterated before his eyes, what little he has left, lost. He maintains a degree of bravado throughout the film but we can tell, he is a defeated man, his voice shakes, and he’s driven to ever more reckless heights in the name of revenge.
Guardians: Gamora, as daughter of Thanos takes a special place here, one that I’ll have to discuss in part three. Peter Quill is confronted by a god, and naturally tries to over-inflate his own importance, but we see how terrifying he can be when love is on the line, driven and noble enough to impress Thanos himself. Rocket hears the word “weapon” and follows Thor, even takes a liking to him, even Groot understands the importance of Thor and gives up his own arm in the name of forging Stormbreaker. Drax and Mantis form the comedy back-up, although Mantis proves instrumental in… almost taking down Thanos. While I found Drax to be relatively tame given his hatred for the Titan, I wonder if he’s been tempered by his time in the Guardians, or fears being segmented again.
I enjoyed the Nidavellir sequence, I feel like Dinklage ran through about half a dozen various british accents trying to bring the towering dwarf blacksmith to life, but I felt for him, living alone in the ruins of the mighty forge, and the destructive power of Thanos… I found it raised yet more questions about the timeline of the Gauntlet, but I’ll come back to it.*
It was a real delight to witness worlds colliding, as the Guardians converged on the ruins of Titan only to find our next team waiting.
When Hulk falls through the sanctum ceiling – having been hurled back to earth by Heimdal – Strange calls upon the best known ally of the Avengers, Tony Stark, just in time to call upon him to help defend the Time Stone from the first wave of the Black Order in New York. Naturally, young Spidey catches wind of impending crisis and attaches himself to the situation.
Iron Man: Tony’s new suit is seriously levelled up with nano-tech, allowing it to form a vast array of weapons and utilities, with apparently less than a thought required. Infinity War is the culmination of all Stark feared, since the attack on New York he feared extra-terrestrial threats so much he was driven to create a machine capable of defending the whole planet: Ultron. Confronted by his worst fears in gigantic purple flesh, his desperation is worn plainly on Downey’s face, and he pours his every effort into tearing the monster down before it can ever reach home, where his fiance waits. Those who suspected his impending death might have thought it confirmed with his happy opening scene, but there’s always the sequel…
Stephen Strange: Bound to the duty of guarding the most powerful mystic implements on earth, the idea of an extra-terrestrial threat to the Eye of Agamotto makes us see Strange in a far more dutiful light than the arrogant playboy surgeon we grew familiar with. As one of the Avengers with the least screen time, it was nice to see more of what he’s become capable of lately, but his cape rather seized his limelight. We know Strange’s use of the Stone to be fairly limited, but my current working theory stems from his remark that one future in fourteen million possibilities would lead to their victory. Later, shortly before fading into oblivion, he says the words “It was the only way”.
Spider-Man: Point of interest, this marks the third entry into the MCU for Spider-Man, one more than Antman, and Strange unless you count the scene in Thor 3. Anyway, most important facts include the Iron Spider suit having the trademark legs that made me immensely happy, more importantly having four of them which makes so much more sense than three in the comics… I mean, why? He’s as juvenile, earnest, and try-hard as ever, but still has the nerve to web Thanos in the eye, and even land a few blows with the aid of some Dr. Strange portals. More importantly he spends a lot of time saving lives as he catches Guardians mid-air on Titan, dragging them to safety, and even proves instrumental in taking down the Ebony Maw, who I will address in part 3. All of this makes his more operatic death scene so much more painful to watch, fading away in Tony’s arms… the words “I don’t wanna go” actually hurt, and I’m pretty certain they were the reason I saw children leaving in tears.
Two massive egos tempered by a kid who’s just trying to help, and to take up the responsibilities he feels are his own, all makes for one hell of a team. They end up coordinating incredibly well, as they hurtle uncontrolled toward Titan to face Thanos alone. When the Guardians burst in, the following scrap as they realise they’re on the same side is incredibly dynamic and actually gave me a new appreciation for how cunning and potent Quill can be.
The Secret Avengers
Back on earth, the remaining heroes are required to step out of hiding to help defend the Mind Stone, still embedded into the forehead of Vision. It’s tough, because they’re still sitting on the wrong side of the law, but they have a friend in a particularly high place.
Vision and Scarlet Witch: The relationship even non-comic fans saw coming, and bound by the force of the Stone that created them both. Vis and Wanda are in Scotland trying to “make this work” when the Black Order first attack, and Vision becomes the focus for a great deal of activity. Wounded by a weapon that defies all of his abilities and under threat of destruction, he’s confronted by the ideas of mortality and sacrifice from the perspective of someone with something to lose for the first time. Wanda is the only one able to destroy the Stone, but losing someone else she loves is a burden to great for her to comprehend. She’s already lost her brother to a former ally, and helped drive apart the world’s mightiest heroes, the idea of having to kill the machine she loves (hurr hurr) is beyond torturous for her.
Cap and his team: Alongside Falcon and Widow, Steve has been on the run from the law hunting down Hydra and keeping people safe. They appear just in time to save Wanda and Vis, take them to a safe place and pick up Warmachine where Banner also informs them of the link between the Order and Thanos, before moving on to Wakanda to try and seperate Vision from Stone while saving his life. The meeting between Banner and Romanov is touching in how… formal it feels. Is that the right word? It’s an oddly strained but comfortable moment, and huge kudos to all parties for saying so much with “hello”. I found Captain Rogers to be a less interesting character this time around, still as dutiful as ever, looking a little rough around the edges (the lack of star on his chest is rather poignant given his current status) but otherwise he was secondary to most everyone else around him.
Wakanda: T’Challa is a useful resource for the Avengers, not just because he’s a brutal combatant, but because he commands the best equipped army in the world, even in their relatively small numbers they still have a vast array of energy weapons and shields, and a country surrounded by a forcefield powerful enough to slice people in half. Wakanda is far more unified than it was before, and seeing Shuri working in a day-lit lab I think is representative of the nation stepping out of the shadows. The White-Wolf, Bucky Barnes has a new arm and seems to finally have his head screwed on straight, finally we see Steve Rogers’ old friend instead of the soviet killing machine. Maybe it was just the eye shadow?
I have a new appreciation for the raw power of both Cap and Panther, watching them go screaming headlong ahead of the rest of the Wakandan forces at incredible speed into the fray, no “traditional” weapons, only armour, and still destroying the giant monsters infront of them. Thor’s entry to the field I’ve heard likened a great deal to Gandalf appearing at Helm’s Deep, but Thor didn’t waste time posturing in the setting sun, he was already kicking names before he landed.
That’s over 1.6K words and we’ve covered half the stones, skipped over the villains and the Hulk story altogether, which I will attempt to cover in the next part on Tuesday, before wrapping up next week with a discussion on how the MCU has changed the face of cinema.
*Before I go, this is my question regarding the Gauntlet. There was a fake in the Reliquary on Asgard, implying that one has been made before to the exact same blueprint, one that Thanos did not possess about thirty years ago when purging Gamora’s home planet. At Nidavellir, Eitri tells us that the forge was supposed to be protected by Asgard, which only fell recently, as little as a few weeks beforehand, and yet without that protection Thanos was able to destroy the place once he’d demanded they create a tool for him to harness all six stones… which he has had for quite some time! Since the end of Age of Ultron at the latest.
So… when did Nidavellir fall? When did Asgard stop noticing/protecting their most powerful forge? Was the Gauntlet something that had existed before and since destroyed? We know that it gets destroyed when used to its full potential. How the hells does that thing come to exist? And when?