Spoiler Quasi-Review of Thor: Infinity War

I wasn’t originally planning to write a review of Infinity War.  I didn’t see it until Wednesday and by then it seemed that the moment had passed.  But after reading several reviews and some rumination on the movie, I have a few thoughts.  And that is what this will be, less a review and more me laying out a few thoughts.

Major SPOILERS throughout.  Since this is a spoiler “review,” feel free to discuss any spoilers in the comments, including ones I don’t address in my post.

I have three thoughts.  Four if you count “this was a really good movie overall and probably my fifth favorite MCU movie” as a thought.

If Captain America: Civil War was really an Avengers movie (it was), then Avengers: Infinity War is really a Thor movie.*  It isn’t an Avengers movie because the Avengers are never assembled (Iron Man and Spider-Man are already in SPAAAACE by the time the others assemble in Wakanda).  The story, too, is bigger than them.  The Avengers don’t have any greater role than Dr. Strange or the Guardians of the Galaxy.  Iron Man plays a very significant role, but the other primary Avenger, Captain America, is reduced to playing a second-tier role.  I agree with Adam Whitehead that Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Thanos, Gamora, and Thor are the main characters.  Well, almost.  Because, if this isn’t Thanos’ movie (more on that next), it is Thor’s.  Infinity War is a direct sequel to Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and Thor: Raganrok.  Thor losing his hammer and gaining his new lightning directly affect the story in Infinity War.  The only character actively moving against Thanos instead of just reacting is Thor.  The entire movie sets up a final confrontation between Thor and Thanos (taken from us in a twist that I thought was effective, but YMMV).

Thor is positioned squarely against Thanos, but then Thanos dominates every other plot thread as well.  You can fairly say that Infinity War is a supervillain movie and that it is Thanos’ movie.  There are a few things you cannot fairly say.  Thanos’ actions and motivations are not “understandable.”  They are understandable in that there are people walking the earth today who will openly claim—without basis, mind you—that there are too many people, although they usually stop short of the end implication.  But it isn’t understandable.  It’s crazy.  And that, I think, is why Thanos works as a villain.  He is so clearly mad, and it is terrifying, because he has the power to put his insanity to bloody effect.  He is a monster and he does monstrous things.  One of the weirder ideas to take hold in popular culture is that a villain, to be effective, must have understandable motivations.  One, there are ample examples to the contrary.  My favorite example being The Judge from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, who is so chilling exactly because he is inexplicable (he is also clearly supernatural, which means that McCarthy has written two SF novels).  Two, this reflects moral relativism nonsense (“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”).  Which leads to even people like Anthony at SuperversiveSF bizarrely redefining the word “monster” so that it doesn’t apply to Thanos.

It is okay if your villains are morally incoherent!  It is not okay if your heroes are.  And that is the fundamental flaw of Infinity War, the one thing that keeps it from being a great movie (well, that and the fact that it is only half a movie).  The issue pops up four separate times, so it has to be intentional.

It’s setup almost immediately by the conversation between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts.  How dare Iron Man risk his life defending the world when it might leave his lover alone?  (So Hollywood definitely thinks every police officer, firefighter, and soldier in America is an asshole, huh?  Yeah, that isn’t surprising.)  After this setup, at least three times characters are given the chance to put duty above self.

Vision is willing to give up his life if it means denying Thanos the Mind Stone.  His fellow Avengers are insistent that they not do so, shortly after risking their lives to stop Thanos’ henchmen from seizing the Mind Stone.  Gamora leads Nebula to the Soul Stone rather than see Thanos continue to hurt Nebula.  Doctor Strange hands over the Time Stone to Thanos to save Iron Man’s life, saying, “It was the only way.”  They do all of this despite (1) repeatedly being willing to put their lives on the line in combat and (2) Thanos’ well known goal of wiping out half the life in the universe.  Which he does.  Good job saving Vision, Nebula, and Iron Man: trillions upon trillions are dead now.  Vision winds up dead anyway.  Nebula lives but Gamora dies.  Nebula and Iron Man live, but they just as easily could have died at the end as anyone else.  Heroic sacrifice is one of the most powerful tropes in fiction; Infinity War doesn’t just seem not to get that, it seems to actively think the opposite is preferable.  (Of course much of this could be undone by the second half of the movie, as the deaths themselves surely will be.)

*By the way, I said before seeing it that the three “must-watch” movies in anticipation of Infinity War were Guardians of the Galaxy 1, Captain America: Civil War, and Thor: Ragnarok.  The third was the one where I went a little out of a limb.  I feel completely vindicated now.

Thoughts?  Disagreements?  Feel free to spew your nonsense below.

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About H.P.

Blogs on speculative fiction books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday.
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13 Responses to Spoiler Quasi-Review of Thor: Infinity War

  1. Bookstooge says:

    If someone holds a gun to a loved one’s head, you don’t lay your own gun down. You shoot the bloody son of a gun. I seem to remember getting this same vibe from the Doctor Strange movie too.

    I am glad you mentioned some of the movies you did, as I have not seen GG2 or Thor Ragnarok. Honestly, I’ll probably wait until Part 2 of Infinity War comes out and watch them together and then I’ll have twice as much material to moan about 🙂

    I might have already asked this (it’s hard to keep track though), have you read the Infinity War comics?

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      I actually think Guardians of the Galaxy 1 is the more important movie to watch prior to this one than vol. 2, because it establishes the characters and is probably the best introduction to Thanos. It is also the better movie.

      And Yondu from GotG gets it. When Ronan’s henchman demands he tell his men to lay down their arms or die, he responds by killing all of them.

      I haven’t read the Infinity War comics. I was mostly an X-Men and Spider-Man fan when I was an avid comics reader, and I’ve continued to pay more attention to those movies, even though the MCU movies are better overall.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bookstooge says:

        Ok, I’ve watched GG1, so I’ll not sweat GG2 then. It’ll be one of those “someday” movies.

        I can’t even remember who Yondu is 🙂

        I only read the comics a few years ago, when I was on a kick. I always ask just in case someone is a big fan. I like the movies and have had no problems when they depart from comicbook storylines.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Er, what I wrote does not imply moral relativism.

    I know you don’t think I used the word correctly but please don’t accuse me of that.

    Let me be clear, since there was confusion apparently: There is such a thing as good and bad, right and wrong. What is good and bad, right and wrong, is objective, not relative. Morality is objective, not relative.

    That I think Thanos did evil things for reasons that are not selfish does not mean that I think morality is relative.

    Your issue with me is definitional, apparently, not fundamental.

    Sorry if I seem annoyed, but that is a mighty big accusation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Also, I think it’s pretty clear in movie that Doctor Strange obviously has a larger plan in mind here Thanos and Tony are not aware of yet. Strange’s dialogue seemed to strongly imply that.

    I have the same issue with what Gamora did, though. As for Vision, that one was strange. I thought it was reasonable and made for a good character arc that Scarlet Witch not want to be the one to kill him, especially considering her actions at the the end of the film, but it was weird that the other Avengers were on her side. They should have been on Vision’s side.

    Starlord destroying half the universe to punch Thanos was a little contrived too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      I assume Strange does, but as I think you said, it isn’t really setup well.

      Quill’s actions are more understandable—he got emotional and human’s (and, we, half-humans) do stupid things when they get emotional. But it,
      too, is evocative of a deeper problem with Hollywood storytelling. A character simply must act selfishly in that situation.

      Like

      • They should have done more to set up Strange’s plan, yes. It make the ending sit kind of weirdly – like, I know that’s not it but I have no clue where they’re going next. It’s not so much a cliffhanger as the end of the story, except they all jump out from under the table and yell “PSYCH! GOTCHA!”

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is also worth noting that the Avengers’ reluctance to sacrifice Vision leads to the death of hundreds of people in the *best* case scenario, while the army was holding the aliens off.

        Scarlet Witch leaving Vision alive – totally get it, good character arc.

        The Avengers not seeing the necessity of his sacrifice…weird.

        Liked by 1 person

        • danielshumphreys says:

          “Starlord destroying half the universe to punch Thanos was a little contrived too.”

          Not at all, I feel it was perfectly true to the character.

          In the first Guardians movie, he’s an emotionally-stunted loner, who cares pretty much only about himself. In the second, he grows a bit as a character and we see the deeper connections to his new family.

          IW is, IIRC, supposed to be about 3-4 years GOTG2, as that sequel was set shortly after the first. So in that time, romance has bloomed between Gamora and Star Lord, and the Guardians have obviously stayed close since they’re still together and bickering. The defining moments of his life have been the loss of his mother, the reveal of his father’s betrayal, and the loss of his ‘real’ father, Yondu. He’s rebuilt a life out of that emotional rubble, only to learn that the woman he loves was killed by a monster . . . right in front of him.

          Of COURSE he’s going to snap and react irrationally. And you can see the regret on his haunted expression when he asks, “Did we just lose?”

          Liked by 1 person

          • Starlord is an emotional person, but despite protestations by other characters, not an idiot.

            To me, this made him look like an idiot.

            It wasn’t egregious, but it smacked a little of “They can’t win here yet”.

            Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve only seen two Marvel movies, so the post was more incomprehensible than spoiler to me!

    I will say that a bad guy who wants to destroy half of all life in the universe (and apparently has the power to do so) is at least a villain worth sending all the heroes of the galaxy after.

    Liked by 1 person

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