Marvel actually did it. The reigning king of planet blockbuster crammed 30-plus superheroes into a single sardine tin of a movie. Did it work, though? Was it any good? Compete staff writer Maddy Myers, Kotaku social media editor Seung Park, and I sat down to discuss the lengthy punchfest’s ample highs and lows.
Nathan Grayson: Alright, time to talk about Avengers: Infinity Thor, the latest in Marvel’s successful Thor movie franchise. Let’s get right into it: Maddy and Seung, did any of the deaths do it for you? Do you feel like the movie had actual stakes, or was it all smoke and mirrors?
Seung Park: Hi Nathan! Wow, what a question to start things off. I think the deaths in this movie can be divided into two parts: Stone-related deaths, and normal deaths. The former being all of the Avengers that turned to ash in the end (Black Panther, Spidey, and the like) and the latter being the other deaths that happened during the course of the story. My gut feeling is that everyone who died before that grand finale will stay dead, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing Loki or Heimdall back in the Marvel cinematic universe anytime soon.
Now, you could potentially put Gamora into this category, but I have a pet theory that Gamora was actually absorbed into the Soul Stone when Thanos pushed her over the edge (in what was possibly the most emotional part of the movie). That last flashback Thanos had when he snapped his fingers and chatted with kid Gamora for a bit? That was actually Gamora. Still alive, somewhere. Possibly trapped in the Soul Stone (which we don’t really know how it works, quite yet).
Maddy Myers: Remember at the end of the Harry Potter books when there’s a huge battle and an itemized list of characters that die right in a row? This felt similar to that, in the sense that I felt a total emotional disconnect from the supposed stakes during the last few minutes of the film. Except that the key difference is that the promise of Infinity War Part 2, as well as the upcoming slate of Marvel film properties, guarantees that most of these characters will be alive again anyway.
So, I feel emotionally disconnected from the supposed dire consequences of this film, but I’m not mad or disappointed. I know a lot of people left the cinema feeling mad or ripped off. And I get that.
I do feel kind of sorry for the Russo brothers for catching that audience flack, though. I feel like they got asked to do something impossible with this movie, and a lot of its pacing problems and the lack of emotional payoff can be traced back to the fact that it got divided into two movies partway through development and also the fact that there are 26 dang characters.
I agree with Seung that the pre-stone deaths probably matter. But… do they? If you introduce a character who has a time machine and a reality-altering machine in his hand, then… anything can happen, right? Which is either fun, or just a sign that nothing matters, or maybe both.
Nathan: Right, at this point it’s comic books on fast-forward, which means they both introduced the looming specter of death and killed death in a single movie. We pretty much KNOW a lot of these heroes will be back at the end of the second Infinity War, which saps some of the authenticity from the adjacent “real” deaths, which themselves might not even be real! It didn’t help that the “fake” deaths happened to characters who deserved better (Black Panther, Falcon, Bucky, etc). By the end, I recognized that the “real” stakes of the movie were anything but, and the only thing keeping me emotionally involved was the idea that characters were allegedly vulnerable this time. To me, it all felt like a hypothetical Dragon Ball Z arc in which the villain actually got all the dragon balls and made their wish. The very existence of the dragon balls or other omnipotent collectible device means there aren’t really rules anymore, and any of this can be reversed.
Seung: Wow, I very much disagree with you, Maddy. I think Infinity War absolutely had an emotional payoff, and then some. Because at the end of the day, the protagonist of this movie aren’t the Avengers—it’s Thanos! He is the one that gets the story moving, he’s the one with a stated goal and even a bit of a hero’s journey, and the Avengers are only there to be foils to his quest to bring balance to the universe. I think when you look at the movie from that perspective, you definitely get some sort of closure. (Although I will never argue that Infinity War’s ending isn’t a cliffhanger, because, well, it totally is.)
Maddy: I worry about the potential goodwill lost if Infinity War Part 2‘s narrative pulls the equivalent of “it was all a dream,” but maybe no one will mind? I won’t be angry if that happens, but only because I expect it. I have some theories about how it could work, mostly to do with Doctor Strange handing over the time stone in exchange for Tony Stark’s life—an action that he explicitly warned Tony he would not do. I don’t blame Tony for not being suspicious, given that Tony’s own ego would lead him to believe that everyone wants to save him. But I think Strange is pulling some timey-wimey shit right there, and that’ll be the moment that Part 2 circles back to, somehow.