The only way Avengers: Infinity War (2018) works is if you think of it as a Thanos (Josh Brolin) movie. You see, I come from this school of thought that if you are going to make a film, you should not have to rely on remembering a bunch other movies before it (what is it, twenty or so?) for it to make sense. This is tricky. When you are dealing with a story told on a galactic scale like Avengers: Infinity Way and its sequel (Avengers: Endgame) with their myriad of characters, it could devolve into a tedious sequence of backtracking to make sure the audience is up to speed with everyone and everything. Luckily, Infinity War did not do this, but it also relied on moviegoers recalling bits and pieces from the MCU in order for it to have any semblance of coherence. Many apologies to my readers out there who are Marvel fans (and I swear I am among you), but that is just lazy writing. I have seen all the previous films and there are still many parts of this that do not make sense, unless, again, you watch it as a Thanos movie and ignore pretty much everything else.
For over a decade, in some form, the events of the MCU had been leading up to Avengers: Infinity War. When we finally get to this one, our characters (and I guess all the good guys, by appearing in this film, are now Avengers) are scattered across the globe and the galaxy. And there are a lot of them. We start where Thor: Ragnarok left off. Thanos has caught up to the Asgardians, somehow, and because space magic knows that they have one of the Infinity Stones, in this case the Tesseract. Heimdall (Idris Elba), the keeper of the bifrost (an Asgardian teleportation thingy), manages to beam the Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) down to Earth before their ship is completely destroyed. For the sake of plot convenience, Banner crash lands in the New York sanctum of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Doctor Strange steps through a portal to find Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), and now the Earth is warned that Thanos and his minions are coming for the rest of the Infinity Stones because space magic has told the Mad Titan where the rest are located. When two Thanos thugs show up in Manhattan, Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) spidey-sense goes off . . . from miles away. So he joins the fight, only to have all of them (sans Banner) sucked up into the flying donut spaceship that the Thanos thugs came in. Meanwhile two other Thanos thugs also use space magic to find Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and a suddenly human looking Vision (Paul Bettany) in Scotland, of all places. They are rescued by Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who just knew (Earth magic?) that the strange couple were in trouble. In yet another subplot, the Guardians of the Galaxy pick up the distress signal from the Asgardian ship and find Thor (Chris Hemsworth) still alive but floating in the wreckage. Thor’s appearance splits the Guardians. Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) travel with the God of Thunder to Nidavelir where he will have a new axe-hammer made called Storm Breaker that he believes will kill Thanos. The rest go to Knowhere where the Collector (Benicio Del Torro) had another of the Infinity Stones, this time the Reality Stone (what a convenient plot device!). Of course, they do not stop Thanos from getting the stone, and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) gets captured. Thanos’ one-time daughter is then used as a sacrifice to obtain the Soul Stone on Vormir. The rest of the Guardians and the Stark crew end up on Titan, with Doctor Strange still holding the Time Stone. Thanos inevitably shows up, and despite coming within a whisper of yanking the Infinity Gauntlet (the item housing all the stones) off Thanos’ hand, they are defeated and the Time Stone ends up as a part of the collection. Thanos then zooms over to Earth because space magic tells him that the rest of our heroes are in Wakanda fighting to protect Vision from one of his disposable armies bent prying the Mind Stone off his forehead. Not until Thanos shows up does this happen. Thanos then snaps his finger, half the life in the universe dies (including Black Panther/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the Winter Soldier/Buck Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Groot, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Drax (Dave Bautista), Star Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man), and Thanos rests. The end.
That was exhausting. I left a ton out of my summary of Avengers: Infinity War and yet it still amounted to a very clumsy paragraph. As I mentioned at the beginning, the film works better if you watch it as a Thanos movie. He is the only who has any clear motivation, and the events center on him and what he is trying to accomplish. It is a strange way of thinking about it because, clearly, there is nothing heroic about the Mad Titan, though he thinks of his grand design of wiping out half the life in the universe as an act of mercy. Obviously it is titled as an Avengers movie. But all the other characters, be they official or unofficial Avengers, lack any kind of well-formed subplot. The whole relationship between Scarlet Witch and Vision exemplifies how disjointed is this film. The last time we saw these two together was in Captain America: Civil War where they had a few scenes together, but were on opposite sides of the Iron-Man/Captain America divide. That films also ends with Scarlet Witch imprisoned on the Raft (a jail for super-powered individuals in the middle of the ocean). Yet when they show up in Avengers: Infinity War they are in a comfortable hotel room overlooking the romantic(?) confines of Edinburgh. What? How did that happen? Another issue I had with this film pertains to a line in Avengers: Endgame. When Captain American and Iron Man finally reconnect, Stark complains that Rogers was not by his side when he fought Thanos. Yet it is Iron Man that decides to hitch a ride on Thanos’ flying donut without giving Captain America a chance to catch up. Iron Man also passes on a chance to return to Earth after he frees Doctor Strange. I understand this critique is contingent on another movie, but it makes a bit of a hypocrite of the MCU’s longest standing hero. There was also the sequence where they almost get the Infinity Gauntlet off Thanos’ hand. Quill ruins it because he reacts to Thanos killing Gamora to obtain the Soul Stone. It is a cringe-worthy moment, and frankly I do not understand why it happened. Earlier, Quill had been willing to shoot Gamora in the face to stop Thanos. But now he is all emotional again. Nonetheless, as was sprinkled into the summary above, my biggest critique is space magic. All the characters, Thanos included, just seem to know things that the audience could not possibly know. I guess they know because they read the script? That is the real space magic.
There is one thing I liked about Avengers: Infinity War is the debate about not trading lives. In the Bible, Jesus tells His disciples that there is no higher act of love you can do for your friends than to lay down your life for them. Doing so, though, involves a very personal choice. Throughout the film, particularly in regards to Vision, there is the opportunity to destroy the Mind Stone that is the source of his power. But that act would mean Vision’s death. Vision, of course, is willing to sacrifice himself to stop Thanos. The others, particularly Captain America, find that option distasteful and instead take Vision to Wakanda to safely remove the stone. By trying to find another solution, Captain America demonstrates the Christian ideal of all life being sacred. Thanos was going to do what he did no matter what, thus rendering any potential selfless act by Vision pointless. It is their desire to protect life that makes them heroic, and is the one saving grace of this film, even though they fail.
Had it been me making Avengers: Infinity War, I would have combined it with Avengers: Endgame into one movie called Avengers: Infinity War. You will see how much of an even bigger mess is Endgame if you read our review of it. This hypothetical version of mine would have the same problems with all the characters fighting for attention in the plot. But again, if you look at it as a Thanos film, it works much better. I would also avoid having Thanos actually succeed in his grand design. Hey kids, want to see a movie where a bunch of your favorite characters die, include the youngest in Spider-Man? It is the mass genocide that ultimately makes this one very difficult to stomach. Maybe I think about movies too much. However, they are much more than just pretty colors.