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Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
April 28, 2018
Ten years, eighteen films, countless heroes—Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of the phenomenon that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Earth’s best fighters and allies team up to take down the genocidal, uber-powerful Thanos (Josh Brolin) who is gathering the six Infinity Stones in a mission to bring balance to the universe via mass murders. With a sprawling roster of supers on Earth and across the galaxies, the film focuses on three factions separately headed by Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and Captain America (Chris Evans).
(SPOILER WARNING FOR THE REST OF THE REVIEW BELOW. WATCH BEFORE YOU READ!)
After the triumphant events of Thor: Ragnarok, the Norse god and his fellow Asgardians are unfortunately caught in a brutal attack by Thanos and his adoptive children, aka the Black Order, who are after the Space Stone that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) smuggled off Asgard shortly before the planet’s destruction. Loki fails to outwit Thanos, resulting in his shocking death, but in the scuffle, Heimdall (Idris Elba) beams the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) back to Earth, where he alerts Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Tony Stark to the impending danger. In a clash of egos and dark facial hair, Strange and Stark attempt to protect the Time Stone and defend Earth from Thanos’ henchpeople but end up on a spaceship with Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) headed to Titan, Thanos’ home planet.
Meanwhile, Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elisabeth Olsen), who have retreated to a quiet, romantic existence in Scotland since the events of Captain America: Civil War, find themselves targets of the Black Order as well, thanks to the Mind Stone embedded in Vision’s forehead. They are rescued by Captain America, Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and regroup with Rhodey (Don Cheadle) before going to Wakanda. Having received aid from Black Panther/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) before (Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is a refugee in Wakanda), Cap’s team turn to Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) to have her remove the Mind Stone safely from Vision in order for it to be destroyed and thus stop Thanos from amassing all the Infinity Stones.
Back in outer space, Thor, now completely bereft of family and home, vows to destroy Thanos. Luckily, he encounters the Guardians of the Galaxy: Star Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Thor commandeers a vessel and Rocket and Groot are persuaded to join in him in going to Nidavellir, where he plans to get a new weapon to replace Mjolnir and help him face down the cosmic threat. Alerted to her estranged adoptive father Thanos’ doings, Gamora, with the rest of the Guardians, decides to get to the Reality Stone first, which was last seen with The Collector (Benecio del Toro) on Knowhere. Unfortunately, Thanos is already there and he captures the Stone and Gamora. Using the torture of Nebula (Karen Gillan), Thanos extracts the location of the Soul Stone from Gamora and takes her to Vormir to retrieve it. The keeper of the Stone, Red Skull (Ross Marquand), tells them that a substantial sacrifice needs to be made (“a soul for a soul”) and Thanos throws his beloved daughter Gamora to her death in order to gain his prize.
With only two Stones left to collect (he started off with the Power Stone before encountering the fleeing Asgardians), Thanos teleports to Titan where he faces resistance from the Guardians and Avengers. Using the Time Stone, Strange tells Stark that out of over 14 million possible futures, only one results in Thanos’ demise. When Thanos gains the upper hand, Strange deliberately and portentously relinquishes the Stone to save Stark’s life. Thanos then goes to Earth, where the remaining Avengers face their last stand against a horde of alien monsters released by the Black Order. Out of time, Scarlet Witch is forced to destroy the Mind Stone that is still attached to Vision but in a horrifyingly inevitable turn, Thanos reverses time and takes the last Stone for himself. He enacts his genocidal plan with a snap of his fingers and every other person in the entire universe dissolves from existence, leaving behind a few Avengers and a very bleak cliff-hanger.
Although a long and packed movie, Infinity War is still very focused and organized. The huge scope of settings (from America, Scotland, and Wakanda to Titan, Knowhere, and other assorted planets and spacecraft) and the vast number of characters are all in service to bringing down Thanos and stopping him from gathering the Infinity Stones, however futile that turns out to be. The large cast is partly reduced to cameos so that the few core storylines can shine. The backstories of Thanos and Gamora are revealed devastatingly as a father-daughter relationship twisted by Thanos’ violence and brainwashing. The development of other characters such as Thor and Iron Man, which have been built up over the course several movies, also reach new heights. Thor is no longer the foolishly entitled prince of his youth but a man broken by many losses and Iron Man has been changed by the relentless toll of superheroism and by his relationships to Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow) and Peter Parker.
A repeated motif in the film is the sacrifice one person is forced to make for the greater good. Although Thanos has a very warped version of what constitutes balance in the universe, he decides to sacrifice the one he loves (i.e. Gamora) to achieve his goal. Others are put in similar situations but with less effective outcomes. Wanda and Vision face this predicament when the Mind Stone must be destroyed. Having fallen in love with Vision and reached some sort of harmony with his powers, Wanda is the only one who can undo the molecular integrity of the Stone and save the universe from Thanos’ plan. She does so with terrible anguish as it involves killing Vision but she is ultimately thwarted by the Time Stone. Quill also is forced to do the same with Gamora when she extracts a promise from him to kill her if she is captured by Thanos in order to protect the location of the Soul Stone. At the crucial moment, Quill turns his weapon on Gamora but when he pulls the trigger, Star Lord is horrified to learn that Thanos has used the Reality Stone to turn his ammunition into harmless bubbles. These emotional tolls, as well as the early deaths of Loki, Heimdall, and other Asgardians, make for a surprising and satisfyingly dark film.