Avengers: Infinity War – Who Will Save Your Soul?

It’s superhero season and I’m back to talk movies again! After the Oscar season I took a break from thinking hard about movies and just enjoyed a couple. Annihilation blew my mind and reached for our darkest fears, A Wrinkle In Time enchanted with a movie I 90% enjoyed (CGI flying lettuce Mrs. Who was cringeworthy), and A Quiet Place scared the bejeezus out of me and emotionally wrung me out.

But Avengers: Infinity War is upon us. Be afraid, be very afraid.

This blog post took me a long time to write because I wanted to explore the theme of sacrifice for each character or group of characters. The result is this rather long exploration of Infinity War and all the characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe up to this point.

Where are we in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Black Panther just made a bazillion dollars telling us the story of Wakanda, T’Challa bringing the world up to date on the latest in spine-saving jewelry, and finding where the MCU keeps most of its badass women. Taika Waititi gave us Thor: Ragnarok to make Thor great finally. Jokes were made, Loki was thrown about (as he is), and Thor finally got to exercise his brain muscles. The Guardians made new friends, and reminded us why family is important…or something (I was slightly disappointed with Volume 2 even though I yearned to love it).

Thanos has been lurking in the background of the MCU, sending his “children” to retrieve the Infinity Stones with varying degrees of success, often thwarted by our friends the Avengers and the Guardians. But where are the Infinity Stones? The Tesseract that houses the Space Stone is in Loki’s possession after he pocketed it in the Treasury on Asgaard while retrieving the mask of Satur. Doctor Strange protects the Time Stone in the Eye of Agamoto. The Vision built himself around the Mind Stone, Jarvis, Tony Stark, and Bruce Banner. The Nova Corps protects the Power Stone on Xandar as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy.  And the Reality Stone resides with the Collector in his museum in Knowhere, a place only a “genius” would leave it. The remaining stone is the Soul Stone, a small cottage industry has sprung up online trying to place the Soul Stone somewhere in the known MCU-universe. Wakanda? Titan? Does Cap have it?

Infinity Stones
via reddit

It’s time for the SPOILER ALERT. Because it’s simply impossible to say much about Infinity War without giving away something.

SPOILER

Infinity War, you see, is Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) story. We’re going to watch him finally step out of the shadows and directly into the lives of our Avengers. It’s his endgame.

Thanos, it seems, has decided it’s tme to get more active in the Infinity Stone collecting business. His “children” and underlings have found the stones but been unable to collect them. Infinity War finally introduces us to the remainder of Thanos’ children, siblings to Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), The Black Order: Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Law), Corvus Glaive (Michael Shaw), and Cull Obsidian aka the Black Dwarf (Terry Notary). You see, Thanos’ lifelong mission has been to wipe out half the universe. For most of his life, he had been doing this manually, traveling planet to planet and wiping out half the population with hid dedicated minions.  Apparently, he did the math and figured out this was inefficient.

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In the comics, Thanos is fascinated with the female personification of Death. He does all this in Her name, while she spurns his advances and dedication. It’s all very…uncomfortable. A male character not getting what he wants from a woman so he goes on a killing spree? It’s not hard to imagine why the MCU decided to avoid that storyline. Instead, Thanos is strictly worried about overpopulation in the MCU. On his home planet of Titan, overpopulation led to its eventual decline and decimation. He blames the leaders for ignoring his prediction and offer to kill off half the population in the name of mercy.

Thanos and Death

“Congratulations,” Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) tells him as he waxes poetic about his origin story. “You’re a prophet.” Prophets don’t do well in most stories, they usually die in vain trying to get people to listen to them. Thanos decided he wouldn’t let that fate befall him, and what happened to his home planet won’t happen to the rest of the universe. In his mind, he is the hero of this story.

The last time we physically saw Thanos he stated, “Fine. I’ll do it myself,” in the stinger for Avengers: Age of Ultron as he grabbed and donned the Infinity Gauntlet (confusing the timeline). He next appears outside Thor’s ship as the Asgardians try to decide where to take the refugees of their destroyed world, though we don’t actually see him, his presence looms large. When we finally see him again, the Ebony Maw is telling the ship of dead and dying Asgardians to be grateful for their deaths at the hands of the great Titan, Thanos.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is still alive, the audience knows why, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is looking battered to near death. Thanos already has the Power Stone, which means we can bet that half the population of Xandar has been wiped out. Loki, our mischievous trickster god, who only recently realized how much he values his brother’s relationship even if he hated their father, makes a couple of attempts to take Thanos down. He uses a nice callback that was once used against him, “We have a Hulk,” as the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) hurtles at Thanos. But when the Maw tells his colleagues, “Let him have his fun,” we realize Hulk may have finally met his match and perhaps his downfall. Thanos quickly takes down the Hulk, precisely, a surgeon to Hulk’s blunt instrument. Hulk may have been stronger than him, but Thanos had the Power Stone. Hulk has never been so soundly defeated. Heimdall (Idris Elba) manages one last Bifrost opening to get Bruce back to Earth, his last act before his crushing death. Our first in this film.

But then Loki, offering to hand over the Tesseract to save his brother, shows his true colors, finally, after 18 movies of never knowing who he truly stood with. He attempts to take down Thanos and gets soclose. But Thanos stops him with the Power Stone, and chokes the life out of him in front of Thor, death number two almost immediately. Thor has now officially lost his Asgardian family, even his best friend, Heimdall. As Thanos walks away he tells us, “No resurrections this time.” And it looks like Loki’s fate is sealed. Watching Thor cry over his adopted brother’s body as the Power stone rips apart the ship is a fine way to open Infinity War.

Infinity War is first and foremost a movie about sacrifice. What we would sacrifice to save the many before the few. Cap (Chris Evans) states, “We don’t trade lives,” which is a fine counterpart to “We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” in it seems like a great thing to say but never works well in practice. Throughout this film characters have to sacrifice their hearts to get what they want…whether what they want is the Soul Stone or to save half the universe.

We know, right away, that this movie isn’t going to be kind to our hearts. Loki is a fan favorite who had survived Dark Elves and rebellions, and even the existential crisis of realizing he’s not even the least loved child of Odin. Heimdall (an underused Idris Elba) never truly got his due in the MCU though he has been well loved.

Earth

We return to Earth as the Hulk crashes through the Sanctum Santorum of Doctor Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong), who are debating how they can get a sandwich. “Thanos is coming!” Bruce reveals from his crash landing. “Who?” Strange asks, reminding us how loosely Thanos has been tied in, but how his net is about to tighten around our heroes.

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We move to Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), debating whether he and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) should have children, when Doctor Strange appears out one of his portals of scattered orange light, with Bruce Banner tagging along. Though we saw Bruce and the Hulk in Ragnarok, Tony hasn’t seen him since he departed after Ultron.  He has no idea of the falling out and dissolution of the Avengers and the Sokovia Accords (for the best, they were dumb) in Civil War. He doesn’t know Steve Rogers is on the lam with Natasha and Sam. And he doesn’t know that Hulk was just soundly defeated.

Stark, on the other hand, is trying and failing to not be his usual arrogant self. He wants to have a family but as Pepper points out, he can’t stop tinkering. He’s wearing his Bleeding Edge nanotech armor now. His armor and tech has gone through quite the evolution from when Jarvis had to physically help him don and remove the armor, to the nanotech hiding in his arc reactor , but an evolution that the character has barely made himself. He’s simply moved his focus to being a good guy. But as soon as Strange and Bruce show up, he’s back to his Avengers business, and even considers calling Steve to help (on a flip phone!), when the Black Order shows up.

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“You’re invited to my wedding, Wong!”

The Maw seems to outmatch even the powerful duo of Doctor Strange and Wong. Stark is at his quippy best upon learning that wizards are a thing, “You’re embarrassing me in front of the wizard!” he tells a non-Hulking Bruce. When Spider-Man (Tom Holland) joins the fight in Manhattan, Tony catches him up with some quick exposition,  “These guys came from space to steal a necklace from a wizard!” He seems a little overwhelmed by Strange and Wong, which is somewhat nice to see. But he’s not going to let a little wonder at the universe ruin his need to be in charge, and the sparks that fly between Stark and Strange were predictable but interesting. Particularly with Peter Parker naively soothing the edges between them.

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“You can’t park here, buddy. Earth is closed today. Take your tractor beam and skedaddle.”

Stark’s descent into trauma has driven a lot of the story arc of the MCU. He created Ultron in his quest to protect the world. He allowed and signed the Sokovia accords -he’s a billionaire, we know what billionaires can do within our political systems- which led to Cap’s eventual betrayal, and the dissolution of the Avengers, including Hulk’s departure. He recruited a child into his fight, then told him to stand down when he took after Tony’s example. His alpha male-ness may have been tempered slightly by Pepper and his experiences as Iron Man, but he still allows his ego to drive his actions. He’s still the godfather of the Avengers, only he gets to break up the band. He’s grown, somewhat, in that he’ll listen to the input of others, but only when they’re doing what he wants. “The kid’s seen more movies,” Tony explains to the Maw just before he’s sucked into space in Peter’s not-great-highly-risky-but-effective plan to save Doctor Strange. After admonishing Strange about hiding the Time Stone on earth, he decided to continue the trek to Titan in the giant spaceship, because Thanos won’t be expecting them and they’ll have the advantage. What? When has being the visiting team ever been an advantage? On a planet they don’t know and aren’t even sure they could survive on, and they have no idea what is waiting for them? Not a great plan. But Tony is ready to end his internal battles, he’ll give up Pepper, and he’ll take Peter and Strange and the universe down with him if he has to.  He’ll sacrifice the universe on the alter of his ego.

Doctor Strange, on the other hand, has a very good grip on his identity. Being a Very Important Sorcerer was an easy transition from Very Important Surgeon. He’s had many humbling experiences which he has learned and grown from, but his arrogance remains intact. Particularly in front of his egotistical equivalent, Tony Stark. He baldly states that he will not sacrifice the Time Stone for Stark or Peter. Strange’s oath to protect the Time Stone and Earth isn’t just a sacred one, it’s a personal one. It defines who he is and gives him purpose and drive. While Tony attempts to sort out who and what the Guardians are up to on Titan, Strange implements a time loop to watch over 14 million iterations of the Battle of Titan for the universe. They only win one, and in order to save the universe, you can bet Strange is going to allow only that one to play out. But in order to win, he has to be willing to sacrifice the one thing that has given his life new meaning, the Time Stone.

Peter Parker joins the fray in Central Park because damn if he didn’t see a giant alien spaceship in the sky and head straight for it.  He taps his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) on the face/shoulder to help him create a distraction. Ned, showing the actual reaction most people would have to a spaceship over a major city, yells, “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” in a highly effective distraction. Peter arrives to be our avatar, but also to remind Tony of his values. Peter is so willing to find a father-figure in Stark he recklessly follows him into an alien spaceship, and across space to fight Thanos. Stark, instead of getting control of the craft and turning it around to keep Peter and the Time Stone safe, lets the damn thing continue to Titan. His ragged edges push him into a bad decision, and towards a sort of doom. Peter is, in some ways, a better representative of Tony’s heart then Pepper. All youthful exuberance, excited to try new toys and impress his superiors and peers.

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“It smells like a new car in here!”

Bruce’s arc in Infinity War is fascinating, as he only fully Hulks out once, and ever after Hulk refuses to re-enter the arena with Thanos. Convenient to have one of your strongest players unavailable for the stakes of the movie. But it flips the script of confidence, as Hulk refuses to come out and Bruce must step out to help defend his home. Usually, Hulk gets all the glory while quiet, brilliant Bruce takes the back seat in the physical fights or struggles to contain his emotions. He has to face his rage, and joy, and fear by himself now, his emotional crutch is never allowed to take over. But Bruce in the Hulkbuster armor takes on the Cull Obsidian, one of the most physically powerful members of the Black Order in the HulkBuster armor, and his creative brilliance wins the day rather than brute strength. His confidence sores. But he’s still no match for Thanos.

Space

The Guardians, after a typically fabulous entrance to one of James Gunn’s favorite bits of music, stumbled upon Thor’s ship’s distress signal. They’re on their way to save/blackmail the survivors when we meet back up with them, and realize upon arrival that they are much too late. Only Thor has survived, much to everyone’s delight (except poor Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) over their new companion. Thor quickly recovers and, after crushing Quill’s ego just a little more, recruits Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) to help him find a Thanos-killing weapon from the dwarves of Nidavellir.

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“Let’s put on our mean faces.”

Gamora, daughter of Thanos, knows what this means. Not only do the Guardians know where the Power Stone was, but now that Thanos has it, she knows that he’ll be searching for the Soul Stone that was once her quarry. She asks Quill to kill her if Thanos captures her, which is an uncomfortable ask all around. Quill promises after he realizes she’s serious. Gamora and Peter’s relationship has moved up to “serious relationship”
status, even if Quill would prefer to call it a “long-term booty call.”  While Thor and his new pals “Rabbit” and “Tree” take off for Nidavellir, the very invisible Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora, Star-Lord, and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) head for Knowhere to visit the Collector (Benicio Del Toro) and secure the Reality Stone.

Star-Lord almost immediately has to make good on his promise to Gamora. She disregards his directions (“I told you to go right,” a distraught Quill tells Gamora), and makes straight for Thanos when she sees him in the Collection. It looks like she takes him by surprise and gets in the right shots to take him down…but this is the middle of the movie. When Gamora collapses in sorrow at what she thinks she’s done to her adoptive “Father” the audience uncomfortably waits for reality to set in. And Thanos emerges with the Reality Stone, quickly disarms Gamora, and takes Mantis and Drax out of the equation. Gamora demands her promise from Peter, and there’s enough there to sell a relationship we haven’t seen a lot from yet. Peter’s heart breaks as he pulls the trigger…to only shoot bubbles at his astonished love. They tried to make the sacrifice, but ultimately, they failed.

Thanos clearly wasn’t going to allow Peter to hurt Gamora, and his dark sense of humor shines through when the bubbles emerge from Peter’s weapon. He lets Gamora see that Peter truly loves her, and doesn’t actually kill her friends, though he easily could have. He calls her the “most powerful woman in the universe,” a compliment to her, and perhaps his parenting skills. These little observations build up to show us how Thanos really did love the warrior woman he kidnapped and raised.

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“I saved you.”

We see a short flashback of Gamora’s childhood, when Thanos’ forces attacked. We can hear the Black Maw proselytizing for Thanos good works as Gamora and her mother huddle in hiding until they’re scared out. Young Gamora loses her mother in the panicked crowds, and Thanos happens upon her, but she doesn’t even blink at his enormous stature in contrast to her tininess. Immediately, Thanos is taken with her courage in the face of the panic and fear around her. Thanos, in our modern MCU, still clearly has affection for Gamora, but she knows where the Soul Stone is, and he also knows her greatest weakness. Nebula unwillingly gave up the knowledge that Gamora knew its location under torture, after she almost killed Thanos. Gamora can’t stand to see her adoptive sister further tortured by the man who destroyed Nebula’s childhood in her name.  She sacrifices the Soul Stone’s location to save her sister.

Vormir

Thanos and Gamora travel to Vormir. Climbing a mountain, they meet a Dementor-like figure on the path to the top. As Thanos instinctively steps in front of Gamora to protect her, the cloaked figure reveals himself as the Red Skull (Ross Marquand) , last seen in The First Avenger seeking the Space Stone. He tells Thanos he must sacrifice what he loves to access the Soul Stone, and Gamora exults. Thanos doesn’t love, she thinks. He’s been thwarted by his own lack of empathy! But the audience is focused on Thanos’ face, and he is crumbling. “TEARS?!” Gamora shouts at him, in shock. “His tears are not for him, child,” the Red Skull tells her, and her exultation fades into shock and terror as she realizes what this means. Thanos grabs his favorite daughter as she struggles in vain to make a run for it, and sacrifices her in the name of his “mercy.”

Our third major death, and perhaps the most significant one. Seeing Heimdall die was sad but he wasn’t a major character. Loki seemed fated to die at Thanos’ hands ever since he failed his takeover of Earth. Gamora and Thanos’ story had to evolve quickly, and luckily the two actors pull it off well enough to have emotional impact. We see her soul, imagined in her childlike form, trapped in the Soul Stone.

Earth

Back home on earth, Bruce made contact with Captain America and his small team of rebels. Cap, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) make a fantastic entrance to rescue Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen) from Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive. Wanda has been doing an admirable job protecting Vision who’s ability to phase has been compromised by Glaive’s weapon. Wanda is powerful, but she doesn’t have the strategic thinking available of an experienced warrior. Cap, Widow, and Falcon don’t necessarily have superpowers, and they are a more formidable force against the Black Order.

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Winner: best facial hair on an Avenger (Sorry Thor)

Wanda and Vision have evolved their relationship offscreen as well, they’re sneaking off to see each other and trying to decide if they should run off together by the time we catch up with them. Another relationship that was underdeveloped in the MCU previous to Infinity War, they had a heavy lift to convince the audience that theirs was a true sacrifice.

The team makes a quick trip to Avengers HQ in the U.S. to see Rhodey (Don Cheadle) and determine what is being done about the incoming threat of Thanos. Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt) makes some holographic threats until Rhodey waves him away. So if the United States won’t help, where should they go to make their stand to save Vision and the Mind Stone, and perhaps separate the two? There is only one obvious place, Wakanda.

Wakanda, in Infinity War, is a shadow of the place it was in Black Panther. We get a touch of our favorites, Shuri (Letitia Wright), Okoye (Danai Gurira), M’Baku (Winston Duke), and of course, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). But it lacks the richness of the movie we saw just a few months ago. This isn’t their movie, and we get very little of many of our favorites, and Infinity War depends on the audience already knowing and loving these characters. It’s disappointing because we just recently fell in love with Wakanda, but there was no way they could have known just how successful Black Panther would be and how beloved the characters would become.

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Shuri quickly figures out a method of separating Vision from the Mind Stone with some comic book-science lingo, throwing a little shade at the brilliant Bruce Banner, and cementing her place as the smartest person in the MCU. But she needs time which she might not have, setting up the ticking clock of our third act. T’Challa has united the tribes of Wakanda once again to save the world and the universe, in alliance with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Nidavellir

But they’re missing one of their mightiest players, Thor. Thor has trudged off to Nidavellir with Rocket and Groot, a.k.a. his new friends, “Rabbit” and “Tree.” Thor is obviously one of the strongest characters in the MCU, and Thanos tossed him around like a ragdoll in the opening act. Thanos destroyed what little Thor had left of his home and family, and he’s feeling vengeful. He quickly forms a plan when he wakes up with the Guardians to find a new weapon, and Rocket and Groot tag along to visit the dwarves who forge God-level weapons. As they travel to Nidavellir, the movie takes a beat to address what Thor has gone through. He’s lost his family, his home, his hammer, and his people. What more does he have to lose? Chris Hemsworth sells Thor’s loss as he tries to temper it with humor, but ultimately sounds a little fatalistic, “what else can I lose?” he asks Rocket. Rocket, adorably thinking this is what captains do (which I think says a lot about how he regards Peter Quill), gives Thor time to talk about his losses. And as Rocket always has some spare body parts lying around, he restores Thor’s sight. These small acts of kindness from “Rabbit,” affect Thor, and he remembers that he has a found family too. Adolescent Groot seems to be ignoring all of this and playing video games…but he’s clearly paying attention.

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“Time to be the Captain…”

We meet Peter Dinklage’s Eitri on Nidavellir, the last remaining dwarf after Thanos killed them all after he forced Eitri to forge the Infinity Gauntlet. This does bring up some possible continuity errors, when did he forge the Gauntlet? And how did Odin have a fake sitting in Asgard if they just recently forged it? We can think up some possible excuses, but it at least tells us that the Asgardians have been doing a terrible job of protecting the Nine Realms of late (thanks Loki). Thor convinces Eitri to help him create a weapon to take down Thanos, Stormbreaker, a weapon that has already been shaped and needs to simply be forged. Thor, showing his power even further, restarts the star that lights the forge of Nidavellir, and holds the iris open that focuses the energy of the star. Thor takes on the potential of his own death, and nearly kills himself as Eitri melts the uru and shapes the weapon. Rocket guides Thor’s limp body back into the forge room, and Groot finally looks up from his game with concern. As Eitri runs off to find a shaft for the mystical axe, Groot looks with empathy on Thor’s body, and sacrifices a part of his young self to create the haft of Stormbreaker, which means he temporarily held Thor’s weapon and thus has been deemed worthy.

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The Final Battle

TITAN

The third act of Infinity War encompasses the battle on two fronts, on Titan and in Wakanda on Earth. On Titan, Star-Lord, Mantis, and Drax have arrived and mistaking Doctor Strange, Iron Man, and Spider-Man for the forces of Thanos, attacked one another. Eventually, they sort things out and join forces. Tony Stark comes up with a plan, which as Star Lord points out, is terrible. They’re about to fight about it, when Mantis points out that Doctor Strange is being weird. We see him using the Time Stone, and he reveals there is only one way to win this fight.

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“Dude, don’t call us plucky. We don’t know what it means.” 

Thanos arrives from Vormir expecting to see his remaining children, hoping they have the Time and Mind Stones, his final quarry. Instead, he finds Doctor Strange with the closed Eye of Agamoto around his neck. A fantastic fight sequence begins that nicely blends the strengths of each hero and it looks, for a moment, like there is hope. Spidey and Star Lord use Doctor Strange’s portals and shields to fun and exciting small victories, Drax and Iron Man use brute strength to distract and hobble Thanos (slightly), until finally they drop Mantis, their secret weapon, to take him down. As Iron Man and Spider-Man struggle to remove the Gauntlet, and Mantis pleads with them to hurry because Thanos is strong (but she can control elementals, we know she’s strong too), Peter Quill steps in to taunt Thanos’ and see if he can extract Gamora’s whereabouts…and everything goes wrong.

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Mantis reveals Thanos killed Gamora and Peter can’t hold it together. He already emotionally sacrificed Gamora once, the knowledge that his mission to save her has failed pushes him over the edge. He shoots Thanos, which has no real impact on the Mad TItan except to allow him to shake Mantis’ hold on his mind. Spidey nearly had the Gauntlet off! I know we want to vilify Peter Quill for his moment of weakness, but I think we can cut him a little slack. He took the brunt of a lot of emotional savagery from this movie. Thor faced the same emotional damage and immediately ran to find the weapon he thinks will kill Thanos, Peter has Thanos in his sights, a weapon in his hand, and a freshly wounded heart that hadn’t had time to heal from its last battering. His mistake is understandable, if not easily forgivable.

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Thanos easily dispatches the Avengers and Guardians after Mantis loses her hold on him, even going so far as to throw a moon at Iron Man. But as he moves to finally crush Tony, Strange speaks up. He sacrifices the Time Stone to save Tony Stark, a move he swore he would never make, and Thanos transports himself to Earth in victory. “We’re in the end game now,” he told Tony, it was the only way to save the universe, he hints to us.

EARTH 

Shuri is hurrying to disentangle Vision from the Mind Stone when the forces of the Black Order arrive outside the force-field dome of Wakanda. T’Challa’s forces have arrived, but can they defeat the horde of terrifying, four-armed, aliens known as Outriders? The Black Order is using them as canon fodder who will sacrifice themselves to get through the force field that surrounds the Golden City. Okoye and M’Baku wonder at their single mindedness, and confirm their willingness to die for what they believe in.  To avoid letting the Outriders surround them, they open a section of the force field to funnel the Outriders in as slowly as possible. Our warriors race forward.

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Scarlet Witch watches from Shuri’s lab, she’s there to protect Shuri and Vision with some members of the Dora Milaje. But when the battle takes a turn for the worse she can’t help but move to the battlefield to help her friends. She, Okoye, and Black Widow combine forces to take down Proxima Midnight in a great moment of hand-to-hand combat that manages to be a break from the CGI Outriders. But her absence in the lab means that Corvus Glaive can make his move to take the Mind Stone from Vision. Shuri and the Dora are no match for him, and Vision must defend himself.

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Thor arrives on the battlefield with Rocket and Groot to assist in the fight, correctly assuming Thanos would make his way to the Mind Stone on Earth. Bruce yells, “You guys are so screwed!” as he sees his friend arrive in a flash of lightning. Thor makes quick work of the Outriders with Stormbreaker, and Rocket quickly makes friends with Bucky (“I’m gonna get that arm,” he cackles to himself.), in their enthusiasm for large weaponry. Groot meets Captain America when Thor introduces him as Tree, “I am GROOT,” Groot retorts. “I am Steve Rogers,” Cap tells Groot earnestly. Oh Cap, if only we all had your goodness.

Our heroes combine their efforts to protect Vision, and Scarlet Witch arrives to sacrifice her heart. Vision begs her to take him out of the equation and destroy the Mind Stone as Thanos arrives on the battlefield. “You could never hurt me,” he tells Wanda, “all I feel is you.” And again, it speaks to the skill of the actors and directors that we feel for this short-lived relationship, as Scarlet Witch powers up and begins to destroy the Mind Stone and her love.

Thanos cuts through the Avengers quickly to get to Scarlet and Vision. Scarlet Witch shows how powerful she is by holding Thanos off while also destroying the Mind Stone. When she accomplishes her goal, and Vision and the Mind Stone atomize, she and the audience sag with relief and sorrow. But Thanos hasn’t given up, he has so many weapons now, and one of them is the Time Stone. He steps forward to reassemble Vision, then collapses his forehead and viciously yanks the Mind Stone from him. Vision collapses again, now a greyed out shell, as Wanda has to watch her love be killed twice in front of her. This will not be good for her mental health.

Thanos has all the Infinity Stones now, and as the audience and as the Avengers look on in horror, SNAP. Thanos himself falls into the Soul Stone to find young Gamora waiting for him. “Did you do it?” she asks. He says he did. “And what did it cost you?” He replies, “Everything.”

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Half the universe begins to fade. Our favorites, whom we just got back, like Bucky, Sam, and T’Challa crumble. Scarlet Witch grieving over Vision looks almost relieved as she turns to dust. Groot reaches for Rocket, and James Gunn informs us his last word was, “Dad..?” in case your heart wasn’t broken enough. On Titan, the Guardians all fall to dust after surviving so much. But Spider-Man, is stumbling, his death lasts much longer than most. “I don’t feel so good Mr. Stark,” he says. We know now that his Spidey sense has kicked in as part of his superpowers, and as such, he’s feeling half the universe die.  Trillions of deaths on the shoulders of one kid. Tony watches his only child fade from the universe in his arms, and looks to Doctor Strange. “This was the only way,” Strange tells us as he dusts, reminding us there was a future in which they won. Is this it? This result will not help Stark’s PTSD.

Thanos has accomplished his lifelong goal. He sacrificed everything he loved, and lost everyone he might have even regarded as friends, for his universe-wide mission of “mercy.” Thanos retires, exhausted, to watch the sun set over his farm.

The Avengers look on in stunned silence in Wakanda, the screen turns black, the credits roll, and the audience stares back in stunned silence. Normally, after the latest installment to the MCU rolls credits, the audience cheers! T’Challa is alive and opening Wakanda, the Avengers got rid of Ultron and his clones, Cap is free, the Guardians saved the Galaxy. But…not this time. We remind ourselves this is Part 1 of a two-part movie, and most of these characters have sequels coming up and the actors have movies left on their contracts…but the impact of having half your most popular characters turn to dust at the end of the film is so nihilistic and against everything the MCU has ever stood for. We have spent 18 movies learning about these characters and loving them and cheering for them. Having them wiped out in a literal snap in front of our eyes is traumatizing for the audience.

The end-credits scene, and there is only one, features Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), in New York City trying to coordinate a response to the invasion on earth after the events with Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange that opened the movie. Traffic screeches as cars are suddenly emptied of their drivers as the Snap dusts them. A helicopter crashes into a building as presumably it lost its pilot. Nick and Maria begin to help, but as Maria dissolves Nick realizes he’s going to have to make a call for help from outside forces. He scrambles to find what looks like a suped-up pager (this feels very Whedonesque, “If the apocalypse comes, beep me!”), and sends a message that isn’t received before he begins to dissolve. “Motherf…” he’s cut short, the pager falls, and we see Captain Marvel’s logo on the tiny 8-bit screen. Message received…but how will she get there? Captain Marvel’s film, released March 2019 ahead of Avengers 4, will take place in the 1990’s (thus the pager is appropo of the time Fury probably got it). But where has she been since? She is one of Marvel’s most powerful characters, why hasn’t she been protecting the earth? Where was she during this fight for half the universe?

We know that the Snap is likely to be reversed in Avengers 4. But we don’t know how. Will the next movie feature a time jump? The Snap seemed to have damaged Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, will the remaining Avengers need to find Thanos and demand the Gauntlet from the weakened Titan?

All in all, Infinity War traumatized its characters and the audience. It didn’t allow for us to get to know to much more about the characters or for them to grow, but we already know and love them, after all we spent 18 movies getting here. The actors all came through with stellar performances, and the Russos directed the heck out of all the aspects of this movie. They gracefully allowed James Gunn, Taika Waititi, and Ryan Coogler, to assist with writing and directing how their characters would react. We don’t get to spend nearly enough time with characters I love like Cap, Black Widow, and the Wakanda contingent, the movie was so overstuffed it was unlikely we would be able to get a lot of time with anyone, but they manage to get meaningful moments with humor and pain, and a few badass fight scenes. The villain is a character with a lot of depth, a problem that the MCU finally seems to have solved with Hela, Killmonger, and now Thanos. And for the first time in a long time, the final fight wasn’t simply a CGI-pixelfest of explosions. There was still plenty of CGI, but there were enough great character moments, excellent stunt work, and practical effects to strike a better balance that didn’t lead to the usual VFX fatigue by the end of the film.

A- (pending that I get all my favorites back in Avengers 4)

 

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