How do you make a movie that is the culmination of ten years and eighteen films? How do you make a movie that encompasses a universe?
Well, first you take that universe that you’ve been building for ten years and you start smashing it together. And then you blow it the fuck up. It’s almost like Marvel and the Russos thought, “Oh, you thought there was too much humor in Age of Ultron? You thought it wasn’t dark enough? I’ll give you dark. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Look, this is a film where the ending almost overshadows the rest, so let’s get this out of the way. There’s Empire Strikes Back-level bleak, where the ending is sad, but there’s a glimmer of hope. Then there’s Brazil-level bleak, where hope is nothing but a lie. The ending to Avengers: Infinity War lies right in between those two, right in the middle. Perfectly balanced.
How else can you explain an ending where most of the heroes die? Where Doctor Strange says, “This was the only way” as he dissolves into dust? Where Peter Parker begs not to die and does so anyway. Where Maria Hill and Nick Fury dissolve into dust, but not before sending out one last signal.
That’s all the ending is: dust and blood.
But let’s take a step back and watch those toys being smashed together. Thor ends up working wonderfully with the Guardians, especially Rocket and Groot. Even though his scenes at the forge of Nidavellir go on for a bit too long, they still work as a break in the action, a pause before in the emotional whiplash that is to come.
Oh and Thor has a new eye! Too bad Rocket had to smuggle it out in his...well, you know. We all knew that was coming (as well as Rocket wanting Bucky’s new arm), but even though it was obvious, it had to be done. Just like Strange and Stark’s rivalry. They are too alike — obvious, yes, but had to be done. To not have them get on each other’s nerves would have been wasting the opportunity.
And boy, did they not waste any opportunities. From the reveal that Vision and Wanda have been in a secret relationship for the past two years to the fact that the Keeper of the Soul Stone is the goddamn Red Skull, they tied things together in ways I never even imagined. Again: the Red Skull. And he wasn’t even the biggest surprise.
And then there were the deaths. They started with Heimdall and Loki and then kept going. By the end, Thanos has killed Gamora and Vision, too. And then, with a snap of his fingers, half the universe.
It takes a lot of balls to end a movie like that. Not on the snap itself — no, lots of people predicted that the movie would end with Thanos snapping his fingers. No, the balls came right after when the universe that Marvel, Disney, Kevin Feige, and the Russos had built crumbled into dust. Characters we had known for ten years turned to dust in front of our eyes.
Does Infinity War have problems? Yes. The pacing of the film is...off. Cutting back and forth between the Avengers on Earth, Tony, Peter and Strange on the ship, Thor, Rocket and Groot in Nidavellir, and the Guardians was always going to cause pacing problems. In fact, it felt like an hour went by before we saw Cap and the others arrive in Wakanda. But considering all the moving parts in the film, the fact that the pacing was kind of off is a pretty damn small complaint. And when the characters converged — when the Guardians met Tony, Peter, and Strange, when Cap and the Avengers arrived in Wakanda, when Thor, Rocket and Groot arrived in the middle of the battle with a blast of lightning — yes, those were the moments where the film excelled. Where it said, “This is a comic book film and we’re going to give you comic book moments. Here’s Thor killing a spaceship with his axe.”
That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have heart. It does — and it knows when it rip out that heart and show it to you. After all, the film didn’t end when Thanos snapped his fingers.
It ended with Thanos carefully sitting down and staring into the sunset.
What comes next? After the sunset comes the night. It’s the darkest thing that’s ever happened to the MCU. So what now? What time is it now?
It’s time for the Avengers to assemble.