By Anthony Romanelli, Executive Opinion Editor
*Spoilers in review
Balance. Balance is the twisted goal of Infinity War’s villain, Thanos, and the theme that Marvel Studios is using to herald the closure of its saga. Though recent movies have shaken up the formula, Marvel has built an empire on disposable villains, inappropriately-timed levity, and heroes that shrug off fatal wounds. It was time for a balance, and Infinity War has certainly tipped the scales.
Like most people heading in, I was aware that some characters were going to die, but I wasn’t sure who. The first of many deaths are of Asgardians Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), both of which were sad to see, but predictable. Their character arcs were finished. These first two brutal killings are more to introduce Thanos, who dominates the screen while the heroes have to shuffle between multiple storylines. Josh Brolin’s menacing growl coupled with the lifelike visual effects work (a rarity in Marvel’s work) make Thanos a perfect blend of man and monster, a visionary corrupted by his own ideas.
He isn’t one-dimensional, abiding by his own moral code and admitting he loved his adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana), but still ruthless and imposing in every respect. He is joined by the Black Order, a group of alien minions who are scary in their own right. His plan is simple; to eradicate half of intelligent life in the universe, using the power of the Infinity Stones, powerful artifacts that control aspects of the cosmos, increasing in power as they are added to Thanos’s gauntlet.
Facing Thanos are the Avengers, now numbering nearly thirty, including Chadwick Bozeman’s Black Panther and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, fresh from their latest solo outings, as well as series staples like Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. as Captain America and Iron Man, respectively. Infinity War spared no expense in bringing all of its characters together. It was truly glorious to behold every hero from past movies fight together. When Thor made his grand entrance at the final battle, my theater broke out in applause. However, when they are separated the movie slows down, and cuts from key scene to key scene, disrupting the flow of the movie. There were too many things going on at once, and it took away from the climactic battles being raged against Thanos.
The third act, the battle in Black Panther’s kingdom of Wakanda, is filled with confusing edits where heroes on different sides of the map are inexplicably finding each other in minutes or traveling miles in seconds. This was likely done to keep the movie at a watchable length, but the sudden appearances are all too obvious.
However, it was this third act that introduced what is both the best and worst, and certainly most emotional scene in the film. Thanos, finally collecting all of the stones, snaps his fingers and completes his mission, killing half of humanity. What follows is a musicless, haunting scene of iconic characters crumbling to ash and dust. Like Thanos’s gauntlet, Marvel does not discriminate, killing low-tier sidekicks as well as big-time budget-earners. The most bittersweet goodbye by far was Tom Holland’s excellent Spider-Man, who portrays his character, little more than a scared kid, perfectly as he meets his end. Finally, for Marvel, there is balance. For too long, there have been no consequences to blowing up the bad guy and saving the city. There was no deus ex machina to save our heroes, no redemption for the villain.
Marvel has finally let the bad guys win.
The deathly silent finale has Thanos looking over Wakanda, resigned and resting before the film cuts to credits. He has accomplished his mission, and while of course he will not win forever (a part 2 is already on the way), his victory threw everyone off balance. Society tells us evil is evil, and has to be punished. But Infinity War took the logical conclusion, making its ultimate evil a reason to claim that title, by actually accomplishing something.
That’s why it was both the worst and best. I had to see superheroes, some that I grew up with practically, die without a fight, but they gave their lives to the most satisfyingly evil villain Marvel has ever brought to life. Though quick, the losses didn’t feel cheap or undeserved. I’m unsure where part two will go on from here, but while we mourn several of our revered pop-culture icons, I am eager to see how this war ends.