Man oh man oh man!!!
It’s not a stretch to say that we have been waiting for Avengers: Infinity War for ten years, and in some ways even longer than that! The much hyped, much anticipated crescendo to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was released this weekend, having already conquered the presale ticket market, outselling presales of the last SEVEN Marvel movies combined! The first trailer also shattered records when released last fall, having garnered more views in a 24-hour period than any video in the history of Youtube. Clearly, you can say that folks were a little excited for this movie.
I went to the Thursday screening the night before the film’s premiere date, because needless to say, I wasn’t going to miss it and couldn’t wait! But did the movie live up to the hype? Read on and find out!
It has all come down to this. After ten years and eighteen movies, each adding a little more and a little more to the mystery of the infinity stones, Thanos, Gamorra and everything else that has been building in the Marvel U, it has all come down to this. Avengers: Infinity War, released worldwide on April 27, 2018, a day I’m going to remember for a long time. All I can say is WOW!!! I’m pretty sure the friends I went with heard a little splish-splash as I walked out of the theater, after stepping in a puddle of drool at the foot of my seat having been mesmerized for nearly three hours.
Does this give you any indication of my reaction to this movie?
In a very general sense, there are a lot of franchise films that are built up and built up, only to not live up to the massive hype surrounding their releases. Every Star Wars movie made since the original trilogy springs to mind, as well as the last few Bond movies and sci-fi movies, and certainly DC superhero films. A lot of times I ask myself if a movie was legitimately a letdown or if it was just too much hype. While I can only speak for the franchises I follow, I think that this was the first movie in my experience which has ever lived up to massive hype! Infinity War was undaunted in its ambition and fearless in its delivery. It included every single major character in some form or fashion and gave all of them a time to shine. A huge, single story was built around many, many supporting characters and leads, and actually succeeded.
(Except if you’re Ant-Man or Hawkeye, but we’re told they did film footage with everyone and will be in Part 2!)
The main antagonist, Thanos, who has been teased since the first post-credits scenes of The Avengers in 2012, is one of the most menacing threats ever depicted in comics, and is translated perfectly here. Though his motivations were slightly altered somewhat for the movie, one might argue that it works even better! Without giving anything away, Thanos’ goals are the same in both the books and their adaptations: the elimination of half of all life in the universe for the sake of resources. Using the film’s “macguffin” (a term Alfred Hitchcock used to use for “that thing in the movie everybody wants”) the infinity stones, neatly configured in a gauntlet on his left hand, he has the power to do so. The film’s story progresses with each gem he acquires, each time building more and more power and strength and menacing the heroes of the film to the point where by the ending, let’s just say it may not be what is expected.
The film benefits from this, of course, since a movie is only as good as its main antagonist, especially when it comes to superheroes. What’s interesting about this antagonist, however, is the “why” and “how” he does it all. Perhaps THE key scene of the movie takes place when Thanos and Gamorra (of Guardians of the Galaxy) find their consciousnesses within one of the stones called the “soul gem,” which asks the holder of the stone a question. In order to possess the power of this gem, the bearer of the stone is required to offer something of their own which they treasure above all else. The ensuing scene, without giving anything away, almost makes you feel sorry for Thanos, something which is no easy feat for a villain that wants to commit mass genocide! I would even offer that the sympathy and motivation for this big bad is better here than in his original stories, which are brilliant in and of themselves. Compare this with the likes of Justice League, whose main antagonist had a very thin motivation, weakening the film significantly. I was floored.
The tone of the film was pitch perfect as well. Prior to this movie, the directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, had only directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, both completely different films and more grounded in reality (at least in a spy movie, as opposed to sci-fi movie, kind of way). Personally, I wasn’t sure how or even if they would handle a movie whose essence was far more heavily sci-fi than anything they have directed before, not to mention anything the MCU has ever seen! Yet they passed with flying colors. The space scenes were great, the earth scenes were great, the scenes in people’s apartments were great, and most importantly, the character moments were great. Everything was handled well, with seriousness but also a little light-heartedness sprinkled in (see the Thor and Rocket scenes to know what I’m talking about 😉 ).
Finally, there were characters in this movie that I thought were handled even better in this film than their own (I’m looking at you, Doctor Strange!)! Infinity War almost played out like a great sequel to many of the other Marvel movies that have been released to date, with some scenes seemingly lifted right out of those movies: Black Panther, Spider-Man, and Thor, to name a few, could have branded scenes from this movie their own and I think their fans would have been happy. I know that each MCU movie has had the same producers and a lot of the same production team, but honestly, has this ever been done before? Eighteen very different films building into a nineteenth that combines everything? Certainly no easy task, and yet the film seems to do it with ease. Nothing needs more explaining when you leave the theater (unless you’ve never seen a Marvel movie, in which case you probably won’t be watching this, anyway), and no character was handled any less well than in any other Marvel movie. I mean, wow.
There’s so much more that could be said, but I think you follow where I’m going with this. Let’s just say the movie succeeded on all levels- script, action, acting, universe-building (or destroying?), directing, integrity and depictions of the characters… I could go on and on. Just great, great stuff.
We have to wait a whole year to see how this movie wraps? It made you leave the theater wanting more? It was too short, it should have been five hours?
Seriously though, other than maybe a couple of corny lines in the beginning, I got nothing.
There’s a lot I could say on this topic about the movie as well. Self-sacrifice, stewardship of the environment, teamwork, and family are all themes in this movie that could be explored through the lens of theology. However, I’ll focus on one that is most important to me.
When Thanos lands in Wakanda toward the end of the movie, gauntlet in hand with several stones in it, Captain America is the only hero who stands between the villain and the last piece of the prize he covets. Having decimated every obstacle in his path to earth, cutting swaths through armies of heroes and ships, one wonders what any one character might possibly do to stand against such an unstoppable force. When Thanos sees Cap standing in front of him, he swings his open palm downward to smash him. Steve however, grabs Thanos’ hand, infinity stones glowing mere inches from his head, and does his best to hold it there for a few seconds so that the final stone can be whisked to safety. The moment was so cool it even found its way into a few of the trailers!
Seeing this moment in the theater, I couldn’t help but get choked up a little (I’m a nerd, yes, I know…!). Maybe because the moment personified what we love about any heroic adventure: in the face of impossible odds, a hero does not turn and run but stays and fights. A hero stays even knowing that harm will come to them. Whether they succeed or not is not as important as standing up and trying, because to do otherwise would be to allow harm to come to others, or something far worse. Putting their own well being on the line in the face of disaster is not something that a hero chooses to do, for they simply know no other way. Even the Lord said, “Greater love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
(NOT a spoiler!)
Just take a step back for a moment and think about that in the context of one’s own life. There is always going to be some kind of “Thanos” in our life, whether an actual person or, more than likely, some kind of challenge that threatens us. Often it is something which would be far easier and less messy for us to simply avoid. There might be pain involved, there might be embarrassment if we lose, people may think differently of us in a way we don’t want. In these moments we may find ourselves saying, “Who could possibly want to do that?” In all cases, it is something that involves fear, uncertainty, and at the very least, discomfort.
And yet that is the whole point. To be a Christian, and I would say to be a true human being, is to admit that there is something greater than just ourselves. For some that may be family (as Thanos discovers in a brilliant scene earlier in the movie), marriage, nation or faith. These are things that give our life meaning and give the rest of the world hope and belief. Each of us are part of them in some way, but this also means they require effort and sacrifice on the part of each person. When the time comes to do so, let us not underestimate the incredible power that we have!
At the root of all of this is the message that truly, one man can make a difference. We never know who might happen to be standing next to us when we treat someone with respect, demonstrate generosity or say a kind word. We don’t know whose life will be changed by seeing one person cross themselves before a meal, mention prayer or going to church or just going out of one’s way to do the right thing! It is absolutely something powerful when seen! I would even say it is more powerful when one person stands up for what is right than reading about it in a philosophical, generic sense. Oftentimes people can question if the Christian message is applicable or even doable in everyday life. When they see someone actually committing to do it, we are standing up to the Thanos of our day and inspiring others.
Truly, one person can make a difference. It’s a message that I love seeing and try to use as motivation for challenges in my life.
I asked a fellow geek friend of mine what he thought of this film and he, usually very verbose, simply said, “They landed it.” I’m inclined to agree. 🙂