So … uh … Infinity War.
Pfew. Boy. Whoa.
It’s a lot. Like, a whole lot.
First things first: Here we are, 10 years into Marvel Studios, a Hollywood experiment that likely never should have worked, but they accomplished it.
They figured out how to make superhero movies just like they produce comic books. We’ll have individual franchises for solo adventures, and a team-up franchise, all within a far-flung, connected universe by which you could tell one giant story.
And, when the weight of holding up all those storylines grows too heavy, when the actors tire or age out of their roles, bring in a continuity-altering event and SNAP, the cycle can begin again.
In that regard alone, Avengers: Infinity War is a success.
But you know the movie is a success, and good. You probably saw it already, right? Of course right!
It’s kinda wild that experience of watching the movie in the theater didn’t exactly knock my socks off, but the movie’s still digging tunnels into my mind a week later. It was a different kind of spectacle, and in retrospect Thanos really got to me.
Back in Wakandaaaaaa!
Did you heart leap when the movie cuts to Wakanda for the first time? When those horns and the talking drum hit those triples in Black Panther’s theme, saying “T’Challa, T’Challa, T’Challa” again and again?
Did it leap even higher hearing M’Baku lead the gorilla chant?
Did it soar when T’Challa rouses the Wakandan tribes in Xhosa – “Yibambe!”
And did it explode when he finally let loose with “Wakanda forever!”
I know mine did.
A friend of mine told me that in a screening she attended, the crowd gasped and applauded upon seeing Wakanda again.
The pacing is almost too brisk
Yo, this movie is two and a half hours long. It doesn’t really feel like it, because it keeps moving at quite the clip.
The dialog between the heroes is often sharp and snappy, which allows for the dramatic pieces to hit more strongly. The briskness also happens in part because of having multiple storylines with characters split among many locations. We’re in deep space, then New York, then somewhere else in deep space, then Wakanda, then Scotland, then Knowhere, then Titan, and so on. We’re not in one place for too long.
However, there could have been more time. So much happens in the film as Thanos completes his quest, and often his acquisition of each Infinity Stone involves a hero’s reversal from a previously decided plan. This grew repetitive, and sometimes those character reversals came so quickly that I heard the gears of the plot working a little louder than I would have liked.
What if they went full The Leftovers at the end?
In the film’s grandest moment, when half the universe’s population is raptured out of existence, a little extra time could have made it land even harder. It’s already eerie as all get out, as people just turn to ashes and blow away. The quietude of the whole affair adds to it all.
The focus on our heroes makes sense in keeping the film as tight as possible, no doubt. And the film uses specific heroes to grab us in the moment, even if we know how comic book stories play out and that most likely many of these folks will return.
Seeing T’Challa go hurts, though. We just got his amazing movie, which has gone on to mean so much as an item of black representation and Afrocentric affirmation. (I’m going to a Black Panther-themed burlesque tribute show in Philadelphia, so yeah, it matters.)
Seeing Groot fade away before Rocket’s eyes hurts, even more so after James Gunn confirmed that Groot’s final word was a confused, “Dad?” Groot was the only reason Rocket has a heart, and now he’s gone.
And then the gut punch, as Spider-Man crumbles to dust in Iron Man’s arms, crying like the kid gone too soon in a war film. “I’m sorry, Tony. I’m sorry.” Sigh. Pfew. OK.
However, in the moment when all this is happening, does it occur to you that this is happening all over the universe? I hadn’t really thought of it until the post-credits scene, aka not really in the movie, when we see Nick Fury in New York. Cars crash, absent drivers. A helicopter careens into a high-rise.
Why wait until out of the movie proper for that? Imagine if the film had a little more time to widen the scope of Thanos achieving his mission. A surgeon disappears mid-surgery. A little girl’s jumping rope, and then the rope hits the ground. Show us what’s left of Xandar, with the survivors now losing more people.
Imagine Hawkeye in his retirement farmhouse with his wife and kids, and the kids disappear. Did Happy get raptured, or Pepper? Is Aunt May gone, too? Or Baron Zemo starts walking through his prison cell door as he dematerializes?
So yeah, I wanted this to go full Leftovers. (Shit, series star Carrie Coon – forever Officer Gloria Burgle from Fargo season two – was Proxima Midnight in this movie …!)
Are Falcon and War Machine ever gonna leave Wakanda?
I mean, why would they leave?
I think you could make an entire movie about the Avengers’ two black members visiting Wakanda for the first time. I imagine it must be like Richard Pryor’s stand-up routine about traveling to Africa, times a thousand. Would they weep upon the mere sight of the place? I know I would.
Hell, when Okoye said “We are home” when they crossed the holographic barrier in Black Panther, I thought, “Yes, we are!” Like the place is real. It felt that good.
I don’t even care if half the movie is an extended version of the Saturday Night Live “Black Jeopardy” sketch in which T’Challa finds out just how different his black experience is from his skinfolk in America.
Marvel low-key market tested an A-Force movie
Remember when Scarlet Witch was fighting Thanos minion Proxima Midnight, and Black Widow and Okoye came to her aid?
It was awesome, until you start thinking about how it took TEN YEARS of Marvel Studios movies to get all the superwomen together.
Black Panther is the only one of these movies with more than one important female character. Plus most of these stories deal with father issues, and the mothers are dead and/or lack deep impact.
But hey, Marvel Comics released a book titled A-Force, in which G. Willow Wilson teamed up all the female Avengers into one ass-kicking superteam. It was pretty damn good, too.
Of course this could be adapted into a movie. Tessa Thompson, whose Valkyrie was a breakout character in Thor: Ragnarok, has publicly agitated for an all-woman superteam movie.
Don’t you want to see Valkyrie meet Shuri, or Pepper step into her own armor? How about Black Widow and Ayo resume that rivalry from Civil War? I want to see Okoye strategize with Captain Marvel. Can they travel in time and grab Peggy Carter, too?
Speaking of Captain Marvel, we’ll see her next year.
Infinity War ends with all our remaining heroes broken, defeated and lost. Captain America lies crumpled in a heap after he sees Bucky disappear before him, again. “Oh god,” he says. Thanos gets the hero’s sendoff, sitting outside his cabin on a mountain, serene in what he has made.
Grim music plays over the credits, a simple white text over a black field. At the screening I attended, the crowd was mostly silent. My wife said, “Really?”
But that post-credits scene? We finally get one of major consequence and impact on the story we just saw, as Nick Fury’s pager (RIP, Nick and Maria Hill!) reveals the insignia and colors of Captain Marvel. After all that death and despair, Infinity War tosses us a bit of hope.
It’ll be quite the thing if Marvel, who totally dropped the ball on bringing us a solo superheroine film, winds up positioning Carol Danvers as the most powerful hero the Marvel cinematic universe has ever seen.
Who better, then, to join the fray and save the universe in Avengers 4?
Knowing Marvel, because men, they’ll shoehorn in some crap like, “Wasn’t she worth the wait?”
And I’ll say, “No. But I’m glad you’re finally here.”