(Photo Copyright of Marvel Studios)
For our review of Avengers: Infinity War, we’re going to try something a little different. There’s a lot to unpack in a big movie like this, so our good friend Jeff helped us talk it out during a walk around his neighborhood. The following is a transcription of (most) of our conversation. Enjoy!
*Matt, Maria and Jeff walk outside*
Matt: It’s starting to sprinkle. So, out of 10, and you can do halves, what is the initial rating that everyone gives?
Maria: Yeah, it’s pretty darn near perfect. There are two choices I can think of I wish they’d made instead, but they’re kind of nitpicky. It’s really, really good.
Matt: Nine out of ten for me.
Maria: I always feel like our ratings are really high.
Jeff: I still feel like I need more time to process this movie. It’s only been a couple hours. I think I’m going to go 8.5.
*dog is barking at us*
Matt: You’re saying nine, Maria?
Maria: Yeah. It feels lame to say eight. I feel like I say eight for everything.
Jeff: OH she said eight again! This conversation is an 8 out of 10.
Maria: It’s my go to for, “oh that was such a great movie!” Whereas this one was, “yeah, it’s such a great movie. But, it shouldn’t have been as great as it was. How was it so great?” That bumps it up to a nine for me.
Jeff: I don’t know why I thought this for as long as I did, but I was under the impression that it was a two-parter until way after they announced it wasn’t.
Maria: Here’s the thing. It is a two-parter. This is one of my nitpicky things about it. At first, they announced it as part one and part two, but then they pedaled back and said no, this will be one thing and then there will be Avengers 4: Untitled. But then when you see this one, it’s clearly not over. They’ve even said they haven’t announced the subtitle for Avengers 4, because it’s sort of a spoiler to Infinity War.
Matt: Avengers 4: Also Infinity War
Jeff: Avengers 4: Not Everyone is Actually Dead
Maria: Avengers 4: Go Get Spiderman and Black Panther
Matt: That is kind of a critique that I have. I don’t know that I agree with all the characters they decided “kill.” When you see Black Panther going, you’re like “oh, well I know this isn’t permanent because they’re obviously not going to kill off this character they just got going with his first movie.”
Jeff: I think they make that abundantly clear, though, just given how many people they kill, especially the after credits scene where both Samuel L. Jackson and Maria Hill die.
Maria: People keep saying that the deaths don’t matter much because we know they’re coming back. Well, number one it’s a comic book movie so the deaths never really matter.
Jeff: That’s true.
Maria: But number two, I think they really did make the best choice for this. I do think that Captain could’ve died. I would’ve been more okay with that other than Bucky. I think with each instance of new guy vs old guy, they went with the new guy and I wish it had been a little more varied.
Jeff: Then again, on Titan everyone dies instead of Nebula and Stark.
Maria: But you know what? Spiderman. You know he’s coming back, but that one hurt. And that’s why I think they made the best choice because those deaths still affected you. Like Spiderman dying still affected me. And I think they’ve set themselves up really well for the next one because now, how much more burdened is Tony Stark?
Jeff: Not to mention there are permanent deaths in this one. Loki, Heimdall, and maybe Vision?
Maria: That one affected me like crazy. His body is colorless.
Matt: Let’s have a couple specific questions. What did we think of Thanos?
Maria: He makes a great main character/villain. How often is the villain the main character?
Matt: Yeah, so even though the movie isn’t called Thanos: Infinity War, it does help to think of this as his movie. There are so many characters in there. There really isn’t one protagonist, but there is the one antagonist. I mean, he has his fiends with him.
Maria: His lackeys are so great too.
Matt: They’re kind of cool, yeah.
Jeff: I liked Thanos overall. There were two kind of big problems I had with his story. His backstory and primary motivation is delivered through exposition. Right there on Titan they’re about to fight, and he’s like ‘oh by the way, this is why I’m doing this.’ It’s just this little five sentence explanation.
Maria: Oof, we’re walking fast. I know you have long legs and like to walk fast, but…
Jeff: I would’ve liked to see that happen in a previous movie, or in a flashback or something.
Matt: Is that this movie’s fault or the MCU’s fault?
Jeff: I think there’s a little blame to go around.
Matt: My impression is that I already thought Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was fun but ultimately meaningless. Now after this movie, I think it’s even more pointless because it should’ve focused on Gamora and Thanos.
Jeff: Although it did lead to a really funny penis-measuring contest between Starlord and Thor about who had the more tragic past. My second problem with Thanos as a character is that I didn’t buy that he loved Gamora as much as the movie says he did. We pretty much just get their relationship before this movie from Gamora’s perspective and it’s laced with bitterness. You don’t get a sense that she feels for him that much. From his side, we don’t see him ever in movies before this outside of random cameos and one shot scenes. So what distinguishes Gamora from all the other Thanos children that exist? These are super high-power warriors that he recruits from other planets in which he’s murdered half the population. What makes Gamora special and different? The movie just leaves that answer hanging.
Maria: I also kind of like the idea of Gamora not realizing how much he cared. That’s an experience that a lot of people have. Like, ‘my daddy never said he loved me.’
Matt: But then, even better, the moment that she realizes he cares is the moment she realizes, ‘oh crap, he’s going to kill me.’
Maria: Zoe Saldana was my favorite thing in this movie. I love that scene.
Matt: New question. There are some complaints that this movie doesn’t have a lot of character development. Is that 1) true and 2) a problem?
Jeff: I think it’s true but not really a problem.
Maria: There were like 19 movies before this.
Jeff: You know going into this movie there’s not going to be a lot of character development. There’s going to be 20 people all doing different things. You can’t focus on everyone. That’s why you have a Doctor Strange movie. You have Spiderman: Homecoming. You care about these characters and you get to see them together and doing stuff.
Matt: There’s a lot of plot in this movie. There’s a lot of action. Not necessarily just fighting, but plot movement. Even just when two characters are together that haven’t been together before. Those are good character moments that are payoffs from these movies we’ve already watched.
Maria: Because of how well they’ve taken their time and set it up, you go in knowing the stakes for a lot of people. Like Tony Stark. I feel like he, after Thanos, is kind of the main character of this movie. He is the one who has been haunted by this future for so long.
Jeff: And they built that up in Age of Ultron.
Matt: We just watched that. There’s that scene where he’s looking at all of the Avengers up to that point dead in that vision.
Maria: He knows what’s coming, but he doesn’t know how to stop it. They’ve done a great job of setting up the stakes and motivations. We know all these characters going in. What else would you want?
Jeff: Compare it to Justice League. It didn’t have that history of each character having their own movie and chance to develop so they had to rush all kinds of development in the beginning of the movie. They had to cover these characters origin stories, which they did with exposition just so we can get them coming together. Marvel did their homework, they built the foundation, and it’s paying off with movies like this.
Maria: That’s why I think this movie shouldn’t have succeeded, but it does. Marvel trusts its audience, took its time, and because the audience was loyal, we’re able to have this experience.
Matt: There were a couple of things that they weren’t really able to fit into this story that had been developed in other movies, but they didn’t have time, like Natasha and Bruce. They really just have one scene together but there’s no resolution there.
Jeff: And that scene is mostly made by Mackie going ‘this is awkward.’
Maria: I think it’s within their characters to act the way they do. She’s easily closed off from everyone. That was established in Civil War and Age of Ultron, and he already doesn’t believe she could be into him, so it’s very much like ‘we’ve missed our shot.’
Jeff: I feel like Bruce Banner is a lot different in this movie than he was in the first Avengers. In the first Avengers, he’s more quiet and squirrely. Clearly, Thor: Ragnorak Bruce Banner is in this movie where he’s goofier and does some slapstick. There’s not really a lot of reason for him to transition to being silly outside of Ragnorak having a goofy tone, so I don’t know if that development is earned.
Maria: I have a question. What was your favorite pairing/grouping?
Matt: It’s hard to beat Thor and Rocket Raccoon. He just keeps calling him “rabbit.”
Maria: And like Rocket having to be sympathetic to the fact that Thor has just lost everything.
Jeff: I also enjoyed Stark and Spiderman’s relationship in this movie. I know you get a lot of that in previous stuff. Like the scene where they’re trying to figure out how to get rid of Thanos’ servant. ‘Have you seen that old movie Aliens?” Which is exactly how he frames his Empire Strikes Back reference in Civil War, and Stark is like ‘if you make one more pop culture reference…”. I also liked seeing Stark and Dr. Strange’s relationship. Both of them are rich, successful alpha-males, whatever that means. They’re both used to being in charge and having their way and seeing them clash over what to do next was fascinating.
Maria: I so enjoyed the banter between Peter Quill and Thor, like when Quill lowers his voice. I also really enjoyed, and I know this isn’t really a pairing, Bruce Banner’s struggle with the Hulk. He didn’t want to come out because he was just beaten by Thanos. He was scared, and I totally get that.
Matt: Ok, we’ve got one cul-de-sac left, so final thoughts.
Maria: I think that I love the villain. My thing with a movie like this is always how good is the villain? Everyone always talks about Loki, or I gushed about Killmonger in Black Panther. I’m always interested in the villain’s motivations, what they’re actually after, how generic or specific it is, or why people are following them. I think this movie, by making Thanos the protagonist essentially, it was really powerful and interesting and I thought he was a great character. I’m okay with the people they killed. I would’ve made a couple different choices, but it still hit hard and I’m excited for the way they set it up for Avengers 4.
Jeff: I think my three main positives of this movie are 1) the action sequences were a ton of fun and varied, right? You get to see all the Avengers in action. I especially liked watching Thanos utilize the Infinity gauntlet in all kinds of different ways. They did a good job of having the stones create a different color aura depending on what he was using them for. 2) The interaction between the characters. Again, you don’t need a lot of character development in this movie, but you do need to have characters interact with each other in a believable way, and I think this movie nailed that both in its humor and its conflict. 3) Perhaps the most important thing this movie succeeds at is that it’s really brave. It subverts expectations. It plays with expectations a bit. Thanos just wins. Completely. He gets everything he wants. Half of the Avengers die. Half the universe’s population dies. It’s sad and kind of depressing. It ends abruptly. In a lot of ways, it’s The Empires Strikes Back of this new generation of films, so kudos.
Matt: I think if you’re going into this movie expecting a traditional movie’s narrative arc and character development, you’re going to be disappointed, but at the same time I don’t think this movie is for you. This is movie 19 or something, and the character development has been done in the standalone movies, the sequels, and previous Avengers. I think this is a very good payoff for the people that have stuck with it. I continue to be impressed by Marvel’s ability to navigate all these storylines and characters and have them all do meaningful things. That’s really impressive. That’s kind of genius. I almost want to say this is a Return of the King-level balancing act.
Maria: Oh my gosh. He went with Star Wars. You went with Lord of the Rings. We’re a bunch of nerds.
Matt: But think about it. What was the last movie that you can think of that balances this many storylines? A movie series balancing this many narratives as well as the Lord of the Rings did?
Maria: It’s a TV series, but movies.
Matt: Right. That’s how we need to treat this. One more thought. All these characters ’die’ in the end. We know they’re all probably coming back because it’s Marvel and they’re going to have movies for Black Panther and Spiderman. Nevertheless, I don’t think that makes the scenes any less effective, with Spiderman being very afraid of dying and Tony Stark having to deal with that. And also, in the next movie, the characters that didn’t die are going to be vastly underpowered. Half their team is gone.
Maria: You know what I haven’t heard enough? There hasn’t been enough blame on Peter Quill.
Jeff: Yeah! That was totally his fault.
Maria: Oh my gosh. That guy. It’s all his fault, just as a closing statement.
Jeff: To be fair, he did shoot Gamora when she asked him to.
Maria: After, like, five minutes!
Jeff: You couldn’t kill Matt immediately even if he asked you to.
*Conversation devolves into hypotheticals*