This is part of a series of blog posts, discussing my rewatch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe FOLLOWING my viewing Avengers: Endgame on opening weekend. If you HAVE NOT seen Endgame, I suggest you wait to read these posts as I will be mentioning and referencing plot points from the most recent film(s) including Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.
19. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
“Alright, kid. You’re an Avenger.” - Tony Stark to Peter Parker as he “dubs” him, tapping him on each shoulder.
I saw Infinity War twice in theatres. Watched it once alone the day it came out on digital, then watched it again that night with the family. Since then, I’ve seen it four more times all the way through, then finally this past weekend found the commentary track in the extras and watched it again with that turned on.
It’s a great movie, a well-told story about fantastical people doing fantastic things. It has a surprising conclusion for a big Hollywood film, which subverts expectations and tropes while being absolutely congruent with the film as presented and satisfying a “hero’s journey” for Thanos in a way that never would have been expected. It also is a complex puzzle of writing that I marvel at every single time I think about it. The commentary track was very illuminating (the same group, the Russo brothers and screenwriters Markus and McFeeley appear on a commentary track on Civil War that I’m now going back to listen to as well). No one has ever done anything like this before on film, these creators have now done it twice (three times really if you count Civil War as the tune-up for this event), and that deserves recognition. Anything they do in the future will be watched very closely by me.
There are so many moments in this one that stand out, but the in-res opening with Kenneth Brannaugh’s radio distress signal going out from the Asgardian ship, then to see Thor, Heimdall, the Hulk and Loki all laid low, establishes without any doubt exactly what level of threat Thanos poses. The assault he perpretrates on Hulk is particularly brutal, and its clear that no one hero can stop this guy, we’re going to need the full roster to pull together if we have any hope.
This opening scene gives us two great moments straight from the comics, first the Ebony Maw cowers before Thanos as he puts in the second stone to his gauntlet with words straight from the original Starlin Infinity Gauntlet comic. It made my little nerdy heart sing. Then even better was Heimdall transporting the Hulk back to Earth, crashing into Doctor Strange’s home in another panel lifted straight from the comics (the Silver Sufer played the role of heralding Thanos’ coming in the comics).
There are a lot of things that have happened in the galaxy recently to make this the right time for Thanos to strike. There is no Sorceror Supreme on Earth (as Wong told us at the end of Doctor Strange), Thor has lost Mjolnir and Oden is dead, five of the stones have made themselves known somewhere in space (and four of them on Earth) in the recent past, but the real inciting incident is Nebula arriving on Thanos’ ship to kill him. When he apprehends her, he finds that Gamora has discovered the location of the Soul Stone. THAT’s what sets this whole thing in motion, Nebula’s journey for revenge. Of course, that ALSO hints toward what Thanos does in Endgame as well, by discovering the heroes plan through Nebula’s network and jumping through time to fight them once THEY’VE collected all the stones. It shouldn’t have been nearly as surprising as it was.
That’s good writing. It’s taking the toys in the toybox and making sure that you use every single kung-fu grip special feature they have to offer, using in-universe explanations to solve your in-universe issues. It’s the reason these films hang together so well, and why the MCU continues to succeed when basically every other attempted “cinematic universe” has failed. THIS is the lesson that Star Wars seems to be learning well and why I’m very hopeful for their upcoming TV series. The minutiae matters when you’re telling a story across films and franchises. Marvel gets the minutiae.