January 5, 2019
I love this movie. I've watched it 5 or 6 times since I got it on blu ray and have listened to the audio commentary. Although many people think that Joss Whedon's first Avengers was the best MCU film, Infinity War surely is superior. In fact it stands out as one of the best, if not THE best film so far produced as part of the MCU. The screenwriters, and particularly the Russo brothers are to be celebrated for such a spectacular achievement. Infinity War has greater gravitas and emotion, cinematic pacing, a better villain, higher stakes, character work, and, most of all, a nearly virtuoso performance by the Russos in managing such a sprawling film. They commit as many characters to this epic as Peter Jackson did to The Lord of the Rings films, and they carry it off with much better results (I'm sure I'll get some flack for that). Peter Jackson virtually eliminated all the secondary characters that were so important in J.R.R. Tolkien's world building, much to the detriment of those films. It's as if there are really only a few important people in Middle-Earth, and everyone else is an anonymous face. When the characters reach the point of deciding to march on the Black Gate, there are five people...FIVE people running the whole operation: Gandalf, Aragorn, Eomer, Gimli, and Legolas...and only one of them is a Gondorian. Where are all the Generals, Captains, Lieutenants, and Sergeants vital for managing an army? By contrast, Infinity War employed a whole array of secondary characters in support of the main Avengers. For example, in Wakanda, we DO get to see that the main character T'challa has bodyguards and captains who are actual characters with their own arcs and powerful screen presence. In addition, there are numerous characters, such as War Machine and Falcon who play secondary roles to the main character but who are still a vocal part of the fighting force. Moreover, major characters are split up into no fewer than five or six significant missions at some point. Back when The Two Towers was coming out Peter Jackson complained about how hard it was going to be to cut between two major storylines. For Infinity War, it was such a thrill seeing each group progressing on its mission with smooth, deliberate editing that steadily increased in intensity.
So let me pause for a minute and say I also love watching The Lord of the Rings, which should tell you something about how impressed I was by Infinity War. However, I was confused and/or miffed about a few things in the films. First of all, I hate the Guardians of the Galaxy. Sorry. Don't like the characters, didn't like the comic, and was bored by the movies. I wish they had never been folded into the MCU (even though, yes, I know they are tied to the infinity gauntlet plot in the comics). To me, Groot and Rocket don't really seem to fit next to Captain America and Iron Man. That said, oh well, they're in the film, and even if I don't like them, they are still well managed by the filmmakers. My main problem is with Quill. I don't understand his actions, and a viewer should not have to listen to the audio commentary to learn what theme was going on there. First, he agrees to kill Gamorrah so that she won't be able to give up the location of the blood stone. In fact, he goes so far as to pull the trigger to kill her, only to find out that Thanos was fooling them with an illusion. Jump to act three. 2 problems here. The team nearly has Thanos defeated until Quill discovers that Thanos killed Gamorrah. First, is he so thick headed that he can't even stick to the plan he helped devise in order to DEFEAT Thanos? Is he so unrestrained that he has to attack Thanos right at the moment when the Avengers are on the cusp of victory? This, unfortunately, is one of the few instances of bad, lazy writing in the script. As I recall, I don't even think that the filmmakers had a good reason for why they had Quill do this, except that they needed Thanos to win. Now think back--Quill actually DID TRY to kill Gamorrah, but was thwarted. Why didn't he punch HIMSELF in the face a few times before going after Thanos. I now Imagine him as a character who can't reconcile his actions and ends up drinking himself to death sometime in the future.
Next, in the commentary, the filmmakers point out that it would have been repetitive for Thanos to go to where each stone is, have a fight, and then retrieve the stone. You know, that may be true, but the ordeal of getting the blood stone seemed totally random. What was the reasoning behind Red Skull (of all people!!!) demanding that he sacrifice someone he loves in order to get the blood stone. That seems to come completely out of nowhere. Even if Thanos did have to physically fight for each stone, that makes some kind of sense--someone else has it, and he needs to get it. So he either tricks or defeats our heroes to get all the stone, except this one, which requires an out-of-the blue ritual from an out-of-the-blue character. Again, what is the audience supposed to make of this. It all seems clear enough when you listen to the commentary, but you shouldn't have to do that to understand the movie.
The last major concern I have is the Battle of Wakanda. This is three Avengers movies in a row in which the heroes have to fight the "swarm of enemies" cliche. What is going on here? In the first film, the handful of Avengers took down hundreds and hundreds of soldiers in Loki's army, with Hawkeye showing himself to be an even better archer than Legolas, who often seemed able to kill a dozen orcs without any effort at all. And Hawkeye doesn't even have any superpowers--he's just a skilled archer. In Age of Ultron, the gang has to take out "swarms" of Ultron's robots. The final battle is a copy of the first movie. In Infinity War, they really had a chance to do something different by focusing the battle mainly on Thanos's powerful lieutenants, but AGAIN, the heroes have to fight swarms and swarms of Thanos's beasts. Wha?? They didn't just copy the previous movie, they copied the previous TWO movies! This "swarm of enemies" thing has got to go. Remember when it also popped up in Iron Man 2, when Iron Man and War Machine had to defeat the swarm of robots at the end? I mean, geez dude. I like this movie and all, but couldn't they think of something else for a final spectacle?
I do have a couple of final nitpicks. Throughout the film Bruce Banner can't transform into the Hulk. Wha?? Why? Again, we have no idea until the filmmakers tell us in the audio commentary. This should not be necessary. The situation is reminiscent of Spider-Man 2 in which Peter loses his powers because he's starting to become bummed out being Spider-Man. How in the WORLD does his desire to be Spider-Man have ANY affect on whether his powers work or not?? It is never explained in the movie. I would like to be Spider-Man myself, and I want it REALLY REALLY BAD, but for some reason, I'm not getting Spider powers. What's up with that? And finally, YES, why didn't Thor split open Thanos's head with his axe?? The audio commentary tells us it is because Thor wanted to savor his revenge. Ok, I guess I'll buy that, but it wasn't in the movie! We had to learn about it by the filmmakers telling it to us. This action on Thor's part makes him just as nearly as stupid as Peter Quill.
I nitpick because I love the movie. That may seem contradictory, but if I hated the movie, I would rip it to shreds, or just not bother to comment on it at all. It's because of my affection for the movie that it frustrates me that these minor problems drag it below perfection. Still, there is so much that's great about the film that I place it up there with the other Marvel films that have marveled me. Not limiting my choices to the MCU, I would say my top five Marvel movies, in no particular order are X-Men: Days of Future Past, Avengers: Infinity War, The Wolverine, Logan, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I think these are the most well made Marvel movies.