Avengers: Infinity War ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Jesus Christ, they finally did it. They actually did it. They've killed more than half of the Avengers. *slow clap*

I mean, I did expect some deaths to occur. This is the build-up of 10 years, after all, so there has to be more stake in it than the other MCU films. But this is something beyond my expectations. And that shows how little faith I had in the MCU, not to mention unobservant. I should've seen the signs. The stringency in keeping the cast members unaware of what the script is about (you could see it in the actors' expressions at the end; they were totally clueless what was about to unfold!), not to mention the strangely conspicuous statements of "this will not be a two-parter." I even remember one statement saying how Spider-Man's sequel will be released immediately (or almost immediately) after Infinity War as he reflects on the events on the film, making me believe that those with blatantly long-term contracts will never die.

Poor Peter... oh god, poor Peter Parker. I broke down at that one scene. I almost wished he wouldn't have said those words before he actually said them. I kinda wanted that scene to unfold the way it did, because it would've driven home that in spite of his powers, he's still just a kid among these grown-ups. But actually seeing it broke my heart and my tear-ducts.

And that ending. When it arrived, and the credits started rolling, I was literally left speechless. Not that I usually talk to myself in the theater after a movie ends, but this ending was different in a lot of ways beyond the obvious. No fancy credit sequence, no uplifting Avengers theme, just a silent credit-roll. It was somber and depressing, like an obituary or a funeral. A perfect fitting ending. I kept waiting for a silver lining, for some mid-credit sequence to show Dr. Strange reversing time, or something... anything that would have cheapened the ending. And nothing. All I was left with was the haunting memory of Peter's wailing, that he didn't want to die.

Shit, I'm tearing up.

But putting aside the shock factor, is it a good movie? I'd say more than yes. Much like Thanos' twisted philosophy, the movie itself is very well-balanced with drama and comedy. When things become terribly heartbreaking, it would often skip to funny parts and lighten the audience up. And the reverse is true too; the laughs don't overshadow the emotional stakes.

And boy, were there emotional stakes. There were stakes for everyone, Thanos included. Almost everyone had something to lose, from Thor to Star Lord to Iron Man himself. Putting that ending aside, the death sequences that were given more screentime and significance - Gamora, Loki, and even Spider-Man in spite of him joining the disappearing act - those deaths were the best moments in the movie and very well-executed. It's easy to mess up a death scene and make it anticlimactic, whether it's through the sprouting of cheesy "last words" or because there was no build-up to the sudden death, a death scene just has many ways to be ruined, and I think Marvel did it perfectly here with those three aforementioned deaths. Loki's in particular, was the perfect way to start the movie. It's Marvel telling us, "Shit just go real, gentlemen. Shit just got real."

But of course, there was one particular death that was kinda weak. It's the very same 'death' that left me speechless in the first place. Yep, the disappearing act at the end.

Look, I'm thoroughly impressed that Marvel did it. This was what I wanted. But only after watching my dream coming true did I learn an important lesson on how a good idea that sounded good on paper can be disappointing when made into reality. We all know Black Panther isn't going to die permanently, nor Spidey, nor Star Lord, and especially not Dr. Strange. That ending made it a bit too obvious that Dr. Strange is going to pull some kind of Deus ex Machina to reverse this, and that's a big problem with the script. In exchange for being so ambitious, Marvel overplayed their cards a bit.

And it's only just "a bit" with emphasis, because it was still done very well. Killing off so many characters in the Infinity Gauntlet comic was such an important and integral part of the story that I just don't know how else Marvel could have imitated the kind of stakes that existed in the comic. Irregardless of hindsight, that surprise was a big surprise. It might have felt like an illusion after some realization of Dr. Strange's inevitable reversal in Avengers 4, but that's the beauty of movies - an illusion that feels real in the moment. And more importantly is that one scene that comes directly before the disappearance - Thanos solemnly telling a young Gamora that yes, he did it. He killed the Marvel Universe. Not only was it a very "waitwut?!" moment that would make the audience do a spit take, it was a very powerful moment that makes you feel the pain of Thanos, that he had to do the inevitable, and that there was nothing that could have prevented this ending, not even Thanos himself. He probably cried along with the audience at the loss; his loss. That's how that final scene with young Gamora felt like.

And that's another checkbox that's checked in my book - Thanos' relationship with Gamora explored and given a powerful spotlight. I wanted Gamora to be more than just one of the many who wants to kill Thanos. I wanted her to play a pivotal role in the movie, and she did so beautifully by being Thanos' very own emotional baggage, being the very heart he had to gorge out of his chest to achieve his insane destiny.

Now that we've gotten all the awesomeness outta the way, it's time to get into the faults (though I wouldn't necessarily call them faults and more like squandered potential that would've made the movie better). Let's start with the most obvious one: too many characters.

There are a few characters that didn't receive the proper spotlight I wish they would've been given, but it's very few. The one name that comes to mind is Drax. Thanos killed his family, but the purple Titan merely shrugged him away like it's nothing. That bugged me a little, and I kinda wish Drax would have more to say about Thanos or more involvement like Gamora did.

Then there's Cap himself. While him wrestling with Thanos holding the Power Stone was impressive, I feel like we didn't get to see as much involvement on Cap's part as Iron Man, Dr. Strange and the other big players. Even Bruce Banner edges out a bit more in the level of significance his role is to the story. Black Panther is even worse because he only arrives at the final part as a very secondary side character. Both of these heroes are leaders who are at the forefront of the biggest war in the universe, and more to the point, both of them are strategists, Cap more so than Panther, but neither of them had enough screentime to display their tactical prowess in the most important war of the MCU. Cap, especially, is a soldier, so I wish he had a bigger involvement in a movie with "war" in its title, especially when it's, like I said, the most important war.

Finally, I feel like they've missed a chance to let Spidey do his friendly neighborhood thing when New York is attacked. I wanted to see that parallel where he, just a street-level hero, is faced with the realization that he has to confront a cosmic-level threat. I wanted visual storytelling to show that Spidey knows he's way out of his league (since internal monologue doesn't work in movies). But again, Spidey's main reason for being there was for that very emotional death scene at the end. It was a good death scene nonetheless, but when I put it like that, in that kind of sentence and context, it made it seem like Spidey's main role in the movie is just to die, which almost makes him seem like a plot-device at best, and a contrived way to manipulate the audience's emotions at worst. It doesn't help that "the kid dies" isn't a very original way to insert a tragedy.

But I'll be honest with you. When I started writing this review, I knew that I would really have to dug deep in order to find any proper "faults" at all, because this movie has really impressed me and has left me more than satisfied. Those "faults" barely even outweigh the good points at all. Marvel has accomplished an amazing dream that defies cinematic conventions, building up a story that made up of 18 movies and 10 years. We care about these characters because their story and character development have been established for a long time, and this movie is the culmination of all those plot-threads tied together. It's a massive story told over multiple movies, and I don't think I've seen any other franchises quite like this, save a few very long-running series like Star Trek and Star Wars, maybe.

Unfortunately, that's the final fault of Infinity War: you have to watch the other movies. In order to have the kind of emotional investment the creators intended, you have to watch Guardians, you have to watch Thor, and you have to watch Spider-Man (and his role in Civil War). Otherwise, Spider-Man's death and Tony's biggest fear that Peter's blood is on his hands would mean nothing to you, and he'll be just some kid who dies. A movie that relies on other movies to tell its story is something I still have trouble accepting, especially when Infinity War relies so much on that build-up over 10 years to have that effective emotional resonance and investment. So for that, I have to minus half a star. This might change in the future, however. I'm still figuring how how I feel about the cinematic universe design.

Final point of this review: I hope Avengers 4 doesn't suck. Marvel has built up so much of a good thing here in Infinity War with the stakes being more real than any of their other movies, so I hope those stakes won't go to waste. I hope Avengers 4 won't be just "Hooray! We are alive again! Okay, let's party." I hope some deaths remain permanent. I hope that when they do get revived, they will retain the memories of being dead. The afterlife, I want to see their reaction to that. The spring has been loaded; let's hope that Marvel maintains that momentum and make it bounce back up properly.