Ironically, the groundwork for the enormous success of Avengers : Infinity War was laid almost EIGHTY years ago by Marvel’s main comic book rival DC Comics in Justice Society of America.
The first JSA story featured the team’s first meeting, with a framing sequence for each member telling a story of an individual exploit.
In the next issue, the team worked together on a common case, but each story from there on still featured the members individually on a mission involving part of the case, and then banding together in the end to wrap things up.
The concept of splitting up a big team into smaller missions for easier consumption has been a template for many so-called event series from both Marvel and DC, including the Jim Starlin-authored trilogy that the latest Avengers movie is based on viz. Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War and Infinity Crusade from the early 1990s.
SPOILERS FOLLOW! Non-spoiler review here.
With this movie featuring almost all of the MCU characters (excluding Ant-Man and Hawkeye – conveniently on house arrest, we are informed), juggling the various appearances for maximum effect was a crucial success factor from the get go.
In that respect, Infinity War succeeded wildly. The various character interactions contained in the different set pieces were expertly handled.
The best team-ups :
Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man gel together effectively – whether in New York (with Wong and Bruce Banner) or on the space ship or on Titan (with Starlord, Drax, Mantis and Nebula).
Thor and Rocket Raccoon (with teenage Groot) have a surprising chemistry between them as they head to Niðavellir on a quest to fashion a new hammer – Stormbreaker. They are aided by Eitri – a giant dwarf played by Peter Dinklage!
The other grouping is more earth-bound and somewhat less stellar in comparison. Although the development of the Vision – Scarlet Witch romance is welcomed, the re-emergence of Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon , War Machine and a de-powered Bruce Banner, is a tad bland.
This state of affairs continues even when this group of Avengers travel to Wakanda to link up with Black Panther and Bucky Barnes (now designated the White Wolf). A minor quibble though even if the ensuing battle with hordes of faceless minions is a clichéd superhero trope.
The Russo brothers deserve commendation for the manner in which they moved from set piece to set piece seamlessly so that the story-telling is smooth.
But what truly sets apart Infinity War from every other superhero movie is its engaging villain, Thanos.
At a superficial level, Thanos is not too different from other super-villains we have seen. Like Luthor or Apocalypse or Magneto, Thanos believes that his cause is righteous and in fact, thinks of himself as the hero of the piece.
To be specific, Thanos believes that in order to save the universe, half of its inhabitants need to perish so that the remainder can survive. His logic is that limited resources and over-population mandate this necessity.
Infinity War is basically Thanos’ quest to assemble the six Infinity Stones (viz. Power, Space, Reality, Soul, Time and Mind) which will allow him to erase half of all life, as our heroes try their best to stop him.
There is a chilling pragmatism to Thanos’ agenda heightened by his own (deluded) belief that he is making the ultimate sacrifice to achieve his goal when he murders Gamora to obtain the Soul Stone.
The scene in which a tearing Thanos flings his adopted daughter off a cliff in Vormir is deeply affecting.
Josh Brolin plays the Mad Titan with aplomb – the motion capture work imbuing Thanos with a range of emotions, that make him compelling to watch.
One by one, Thanos is successful in collecting all six Infinity Stones, leaving a wake of death and destruction, and despite Thor’s last ditch effort, the villain snaps his fingers and Thanos’ grand plan is realised.
Indeed. The sight of our beloved heroes fading into ash is not easy to take – though seasoned comic book readers would know that death is never permanent for superheroes.
A bold move by Marvel Studios. In fact, the marketing of Infinity War was at a genius level ‘hitherto undreamt’ of – to quote Doctor Strange.
If you recall, when first announced, Infinity War was a two-parter. Then, Marvel communicated that Part 1 was separate from Avengers 4 – an elaborate ruse to confound viewers’ expectations, which work marvellously (excuse the pun).
Thus, when Thanos succeeded at the end, it was a shock to the system, especially for non-comic book readers.
This increased the emotional impact of Infinity War and made Avengers 4 (still unnamed) an absolute must-see to find out what came next.
Not only that but the various trailers were deliberately presented to mislead the fans.
For example, in the trailer, Hulk is shown to be in Wakanda but of course, the green behemoth never appears after his defeat by Thanos on the Asgardian ship. Classic misdirection!
Not only that but it allowed the writers to insert a character development for Bruce Banner as he is forced to demonstrate his abilities and skills without becoming the Hulk. The internal arguments between the two are hilarious to witness!
In addition, the post-credits scene teases Captain Marvel brilliantly even as her first movie is released two months before Avengers 4. Like I said, genius marketing!
So much to savour about this almost perfect comic book adaptation. How the conundrum is resolved will be presented in the next Avengers movie.
It is interesting though that the original Avengers team – Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk and Black Widow – survived Infinity War, and quite possible Avengers 4 will be their last hurrah even as they try to figure out how to bring back their fallen comrades.
Can hardly wait!
… still there’s more …