Written by Fajar binti Benjamin
Plot: D E V A S T A T I N G
Avengers: Infinity War, if you haven’t heard, has absolutely smashed box office records, taking over roughly 72% of the worldwide box office since it’s opening on Wednesday with a 63 million dollar gross. In Malaysia alone it earned 8.4 million USD, one of the highest openings in the country, ever. It’s been out for at least nine days by the time this is published, so if you haven’t seen it, you simply aren’t interested. Personally, not being caught up in the phenomenon that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe is incomprehensible to me. This universe is part of my identity and soul. More than that, it is an experience open to all skin colours, religions, political alignments and continents.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Infinity War is the culmination of 10 years of blood, sweat and tears raining down on our screens. There never will be a movie with quite as much build up, quite as high the stakes, and quite as worthy the experience to let go of yourself. If you haven’t invested yourself in the MCU the way it demands of you, then I will tell you with all the conviction and self-righteousness of Iron Man standing toe-to-toe with Thanos and calling him a madman: you are missing out.
I won’t do a spoiler-free review. Not for this one. It isn’t too late for you to see the 16 films you need to before Infinity War and then catch it in theatres. From the next paragraph out, we are talking with everything on the table.
I felt physically sick as the camera panned over the dead bodies of Thor’s people. Asgard is not a place, it’s a people, but with all the people dead, it is simply non-existent. I couldn’t believe it when Loki let that dagger materialise in his hand. Surely the Trickster God had a better trick? Was he really going to make that obvious play? Swear his allegiance to Thanos just to bring a dagger halfway close to his neck? I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the stone to be fake, for a clone to jump out as part of a better plan, for Loki to gasp back to life and give us that “you really thought I was gone?” smirk we’ve grown used to seeing.
We are given the opening logo sequence to mourn, and then Banner crashes into Strange’s hideout and we’re thrown into that familiar land of Marvel Banter™ that we so desperately crave.
Up until Iron Man 3, I didn’t like Tony Stark. Not in his standalone movies and certainly not in Avengers Assembled. However, over the years, we have watched Tony grow first a conscience, then a heart. From a rude, cocky and entitled manchild who treated people like toys or tools, to a vulnerable, generous, fully-realised genius. A soldier who has sacrificed himself over and over to protect the people and planet he loves.
Every time Tony was on screen, my breath caught in fear. Every scene I fretted this would be the one where he met his end. Where Thanos would crush his skull or bash in his chest or debris would pierce him through the heart and we’d all be torn apart with him. But what he suffers in the end is worse than anything I could’ve dreamed up for him. He loses everyone. We all know, for Tony Stark, it doesn’t get worse than that.
Spiderman, Peter Parker and Tom Holland all blended into one entity on the screen. Mask on or off, he was all of them at once. His “Alien” kill was a highlight in a movie of highlights. Despite having but a few quips, a few stunts and no arc to speak of, he was the brightest spot in a suffocating movie and his “death” was the most gut-wrenching of them all. “I don’t want to go” has broken people across the globe.
The scene that brings a huge grin to my face every time I think of it is when Eitri (the giant dwarf) tells Thor “This will kill you!” and Thor just smiles and says “Only if I die” before throwing himself in front of a pure concentrated ray of starlight. Think of it this way, Thanos takes an axe to the chest and starts rasping like a chicken, Thor takes an extended blast of light through the chest and comes out the other side better than ever. Who’s the real power player here?
I cannot put into words the PURE ESCALATION we feel when Thor comes crashing down along with torrents of lightning, more powerful suddenly than the rest of the Avengers combined, frying wave after wave of those hounds. We got to see him in his element again, quite literally, crackling with lightning, his shiny new axe turning him from a goofy dude who chucks a hammer around to a fully-realised God Of Thunder . He has the most character development in the movie, from the light-hearted yet emotionally resonant moment where he acknowledges how much he has lost, to his arc in recreating his weapon, to that brief glorious moment when we all thought it was over, he’d saved the day, only for the finger snap to happen and for everything to crumble.
What is a movie without its villain? Wait, let me try that again. WHAT IS A MOVIE WITHOUT ITS VILLAIN?
Thanos is not what we’ve come to expect from these team-up movies. He was no Steppenwolf that’s for sure (DC Bros, come at me). The time they give him, for us to see the tenderness with which he treats one daughter yet the cruelty with which he treats the other, the monologues we actually listen to because he has a point worth considering, those CGI tears that leak from his eyes as he drags the one person he loves off a cliffside and the last moment where we see him smile, at peace, after he’s finally brought balance to the universe. He was the hero of his own story. He got his way. It’s astounding, but Thanos, at least in this movie, won.
Some characters who never made much of an impact before, did the impossible, and made an impression on a screen time split between over 50 heroes. Gamora who always seemed a little too “one dimensional angry girl” to me became “someone who ugly cries as she attempts murder on her father”. Dr Strange who I’ve always had beef with for being an asshole and only an asshole, cemented that critique but also added in a side of “I’d trade the world for Tony Stark” which I fully sympathise with. Vision, previously a mild, overpowered weirdo became more human just in time to helm (arguably) the most devastating moment in the movie.
The moments that really hit that nostalgic sweet spot are when Cap, Nat and Wanda are all on screen, all kicking ass the good old-fashioned way that we haven’t seen since Civil War (a full 4 years ago, would you believe?!). Seeing Wakanda again along with all our new favourites (Shuri, I missed you!) felt fantastic. The breathtaking power that Scarlet Witch yields with such precise control is a pleasure to watch. She seems indestructible, even when being batted around by space fish baddies. After the movie was over, I felt a touch of sadness over how little we’d heard from the original six. I understood that it’s time for the next gen to shine, but the bittersweet realisation of knowing that Civil War was the last movie where we’d truly see our original heroes up close and personal stung.
If I had to come up with a theme for this movie (which I do), I’d say it’s sacrifice. A common enough supporting theme for most movies, but rarely the center focus. From the get go, Loki and Heimdall make their sacrifices, Tony gets his call with Pepper cut off, Gamora asks it of Quill, Rocket offers that eye, Thanos for the Soul Stone, Strange for Tony, it keeps repeating. Again and again characters are forced into sacrifice after sacrifice.
The big theory is, all the characters who “died” will be reborn in a new universe, and the ones who “lived” must live within that reality where all their friends are gone. That is devastating. Absolutely devastating. We won’t know until the next few movies happen, but if this really is the endgame for Tony and Co., I will spend the rest of my time in the Marvel verse in anguish.
It was the best movie it could have possibly been, somehow managing to keep up a somber tone while still pulling unexpected laughter and thrilled grins from the audience. No one saw that ending coming. No one really thought Marvel had the guts to pull it off. After years of playing with us, bringing back Coulson, Nick Fury, Bucky and Loki (repeatedly!), we thought Marvel would give us another neatly wrapped Disney ending. Hell, part of me still wishes that they did. Despite the fact that a sequel is coming, we’ve been left with an air of finality. This is how our world of heroes ends, not with a bang, but with a snap.