We’re just over a week out from Avengers: Infinity War, and folks, I’m a wreck.
As of now, I’d put my average view count of all the 18 Marvel movies at around 3.0 views per film—the ceiling stretches up to seven or eight times for my favorite MCU flicks (Winter Solider, GotG, Avengers, Iron Man), with the floor being set at 1.5 times by Thor 2: The Dark World And Some Busted-Ass Elves And Good Lord Why Didn’t They Give This Series To Taika Waititi Sooner). I read the Infinity Gauntlet books as a kid and re-read them twice before this film; I did the same for the entire Civil War comics run, which, hot damn, was a long stretch.
I understand and accept my obsession; likewise, I understand and accept that the magical feeling I get in my belly will probably wane a bit as we move into Phase 4. I hope not, but I do expect it to happen, one day.
Accepting this, I thought I would put all my thoughts in one place, to be torn to shreds by fans more committed than me, in the hope that I can at least look back in just over a week’s time and remember the sheer amount of anxiety and anticipation I had for what will amount to just over two-and-a-half hours of my life. I’ve dreamt of this film—this specific film—for the better part of my conscious life, and now, thanks to heaps of cash and modern film technology, it’s happening. I don’t expect I’ll last until next Thursday.
Here’s How The MCU Is All Connected, Or A Semi-Condensed Version Of Those Annoying “Everything YOU HAVE TO KNOW” Posts
Okay, so if you’ve seen all 18 movies and remember where all the Infinity Stones are located, keep scrolling to the next section. Otherwise (inhales):
During World War II, Captain America becomes Captain America, sacrifices himself to beat the Nazis, and is frozen; he’s thawed out about 70ish years later. Hulk becomes Hulk and destroys Harlem to defeat Abomination (yeah, I forget that movie exists sometimes, too.) Military guy meets Iron Man at a bar because Hulk is too strong for the feds. Iron Man becomes Iron Man, beats up his CEO and some bad-accent Mickey Rourke character, and gives his military buddy James “Rhodey” Rhodes a cool suit, making him War Machine. Thor comes to Earth—oh shit, there are aliens and demigods and gods and all that! Then, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury gets all these guys (plus Black Widow and Hawkeye, two otherwise normal humans who are really good at killing) together to beat Thor’s brother, Loki, who has one of the six Infinity Stones—very important!—and steals another. These two are known as the Space Stone (teleportation) and the Mind Stone (I don’t have to explain this one, do I?). Iron Man gets PTSD, gives his girlfriend and company-runner Pepper Potts a cool suit but then breaks up with her? Unclear, really. Then Thor 2, which is only good for introducing the Reality Stone and reminding us that Natalie Portman was, in fact, part of the MCU, happens. They give their Stone to this guy called The Collector, who, well, you get it. Back on Earth, Nick Fury dies but doesn’t, leading Captain America to help his military buddy Sam Wilson (from here forth known as Falcon) get a cool suit and team up with Black Widow to dismantle S.H.I.E.L.D., which was being run by HYDRA, who brainwashed Cap’s best friend, Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, and turned him into a dope killing machine with a metal arm. Oh shit, now we’re in deep outer space and the Guardians of the Galaxy are born—you’ve got Peter Quill, a human who turns out to be a demi-god because his dad, a planet, boned a bunch of other planets; Gamora and Nebula, daughters of Thanos (again, super important) and super-strong alien-types; Rocket, a really smart raccoon good at craftin’ and killin’; Drax, another super-strong alien-type; and Groot, a sentient tree that can fuck shit up and regrow himself from a limb if, say, he’s ever blown up. They uncover—well, steal—the Power Stone that grants unlimited power from this evil blue guy with a cool voice and not much else; that Stone is given to the Nova Corps, who are basically Lame Space Cops. Back on Earth, the Avengers, now with the help of Scarlet Witch (her brother dies), battle Ultron, a crazy android really only saved by having James Spader voice him. Ultron used the aforementioned Mind Stone to create Vision, a former British-talking Siri-type for Iron Man that’s now a being that can drift through walls and pick up Thor’s hammer. Ant-Man appears out on the West Coast—he gets really small and controls ants; more importantly, we discover he can shrink down to the point that he enters the Subatomic Plane, which introduces the concept of the MCU’s multiverse, where the original Wasp (the old Ant-Man’s partner and bae) is trapped. Then BIG GUBMENT gets in the way and tries to restrain the Avengers, so the Avengers fight each other. Also, hey, Spider-Man and Black Panther are here now! War Machine is paralyzed in the fight, a few Avengers are imprisoned in an underused underwater prison, and Captain America, Falcon, and Black Widow go off to form the Nu-Avengers. Dr. Strange shows up in Manhattan, and he’s got one of those little gems, the Time Stone, and he introduces us to another couple realms of the multiverse. Spider-Man tries to make Tony Stark his dad but we spend more time with his boring driver/Not-Phil-Coulson character; after Spidey does a good job, he gets an offer to join the Avengers and get this sick new suit, but he says, “Nah, I’m good” to show he’s Mature (such a teen move). Suddenly, Thor gets cool and funny as hell, and he pairs up with Valkryie and Loki to beat up his sister and destroy his home planet, Asgard, but before that happens and they all fly off into space, Loki nabs the Space Stone. On Earth, Black Panther handles some annoying political business and opens up Wakanda and all its super-advanced technology to the rest of the world. This whole time, fans have been treated to snippets of Thanos lurking out in space, bankrolling the lesser villains and their failed attempts to obtain the Stones; he was last seen rolling up on Thor and Loki and all the Asgardians in the middle of space.
Collapses into a heap, muttering, “But where ... is ... the Soul St—.”
If you’ve watched every clip and trailer released (here’s an excellent/horrifying spreadsheet someone’s constructed to keep track of them), then it’s not hard to guess where Infinity War is headed. What it does when it gets there is another question—let’s be honest, what follows is based off a grand total of, at most, five minutes of hand-selected footage released by Marvel to drive fans to this exact form of insanity. Obviously, spoilers and completely inaccurate guesses are to follow.
Thus far, Marvel’s done a better job than HBO at keeping its megaseries finale secrets under wraps. To my knowledge, there haven’t been any script leaks or major published spoilers, thanks in part to the fact that Marvel gave their actors fake scripts. (Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Dr. Strange, pulled the résumé card and made them give him the whole thing, but he’s been silent so far).
Lots of people like to experience these movies or TV show events, like Game of Thrones, untainted—save for the two official trailers Marvel put out, my girlfriend’s seen and knows nothing about this movie, aside from the guesses she’s formed from watching and rewatching the previous 18 installments. Other people, like me, prefer to push for a little bit more, partly because we’re deranged nerds that can’t get enough hints about what might happen, but also because I believe that there exists some perfect space, some balance of juuuust enough knowledge of what’s to come, without completely spoiling the latter third of the film. (When I write “we” here, I want to be clear that I’m talking about people who post to Avengers-related subreddits and people, like me, who devour them like Galactus devours planets. “We” are gross and obsessed and yes, “we” know it.)
So, here’s what we know, and here are some guesses based off that.
We know Thor, Hulk, and Loki lose their initial fight on the ship with Thanos, and that all or most of the Asgardians on board are killed—the Mad Titan already has invincible skin and is stronger than The Hulk, per the Russo brothers. We know from the first trailer put out last November that Thanos obtains at least two of the Stones, Space and Power, early on in the film. We don’t know if Loki survives this moment; some talk has come out that major death happens in the opening 20 minutes, but that could just as easily be Heimdall.
We know the Guardians roll up on the God of Thunder floating through space and have some laughs. Also, once Thor tells them who kicked his butt, we’re going to get a flashback, at some point, from Gamora, explaining who Thanos is, why he’s on this quest (no Mistress Death in the movie, unlike the comics), and what, if anything, they can do to stop him. This is where the movie will present the objective all the heroes should be focused on: Getting the Infinity Stones before Thanos. We don’t know how Hulk ends up in Manhattan, lying in some debris in Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, as seen in the initial trailer—my guess is Loki uses the Space Stone to teleport him back to Earth to warn everyone Thanos is coming, but who knows.
On Earth, various members of Thanos’s Black Order will split up and go after Dr. Strange and Vision, looking for the Time Stone and Mind Stone, respectively.
We know from the “Chant” TV spot that Tony Stark gets some nanotechnology—the kind introduced in Black Panther—which will be used to make Iron Man’s “Bleeding Edge” suit; it’s also thought to be used in Spider-Man’s new suit. Maybe this is explained by a simple hand-wave or in a line about how glad Tony is that Wakanda opened up their border; maybe he stops by early on to scoop it.
We know from some Disney footage that Iron Man and Spider-Man fight Black Dwarf in Manhattan, with Spidey in his old suit. No Hulk fighting, though, so Bruce Banner will be with us at least for this stretch. Presumably, Dwarf and/or Ebony Maw get Strange on the ship and torture him, possibly even controlling his mind; based on the trailers and this TV spot, Spidey hops on the ship to follow them but falls off in space when he can’t breath in space in his old suit. Iron Man, with his new nano-suit, jets off to save Spidey and, I’m guessing, save Strange from Maw. At some point after this, they end up on Titan.
Meanwhile, Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive take off to pry that Mind Stone from Vision’s head; they fail when Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon show up to help Vision and Scarlett Witch and save the day, spurring the group to take him to Wakanda for protection. There, Shuri, Black Panther’s scientific genius of a sister, will study Vision and find a way to get the Stone out of his head and the Wakandans will store it somewhere they believe to be safe; also, Bucky and Cap get a chance to reunite, again. Aww.
Across the galaxy (per a short leaked clip), Star Lord, Gamora, Nebula, and Drax sneak up on The Collector, only to discover Thanos has found him first. The obvious reason why Thanos is about to axe a thankfully-not-stuttering Benecio Del Toro is that he wants the Reality Stone. This isn’t exactly breaking news for anyone that takes the time to keep up with all this—both the Nova Corps and the Collector were going to die, or get their asses extremely kicked, over their respective stones; the only real question was whether these ass-kickings would be granted screentime. The Collector will have his moment, it seems.
As Del Toro gets the big purple Vaudeville Hook, we know, based off toys already being sold, Thor is off searching for a new weapon with Rocket and Groot on Nidavellir. This is likely where Peter Dinklage’s character will appear, as signs are pointing to him playing the dwarf in charge of the forge that produced Thor’s first hammer, Mjolnir. Based on set visits by journalists, Rocket, Groot, and Thor end up back on Earth, helping the Avengers defend Wakanda against Thanos.
This is where the timeline gets a little murky. The way Marvel marketed this film made me think the Wakanda battle is The Final Battle, but that doesn’t really make sense considering we see Thanos in the woods there with just two Infinity Stones.
I’m somewhat sure that the the battle on Titan, with Thanos also wearing just two Stones, will come first. That one will feature Quill, Iron Man, Mantis, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Nebula, Drax, and Gamora. This is mostly conjecture, but I’m guessing they lose a whole bunch of times in a time loop, a la the delightful Dr. Strange climax. That, or Strange will show us this in a flash-forward—in this TV spot, Dr. Strange mentions to Iron Man that he “went forward in time to see all possible outcomes.” So, once they realize they can’t win (and maybe after Nebula, Drax, and Spidey die temporarily or are sent back to Earth—Anthony Mackie, who plays the Falcon, said both Drax and Spider-Man show up at the war in Wakanda), Strange sends Iron Man off with Star Lord and Gamora, realizing that Thanos can’t be anywhere near Gamora, because the Soul Stone appears after you’ve killed someone you love—note that at this point, the Soul Stone has not appeared or been referenced yet in any of the MCU movies; it was thought that it would be introduced in Black Panther, as an explanation for his ability to visit to the Astral Plane (the Soul Stone gives you power over life and death.) To do this, Strange winds the clock back and has those three go, while the rest of them stay on Titan as a distraction and a (potentially temporary) sacrifice, or head back to Earth to help protect the Mind and Time Stones.
In Wakanda, at some point prior to the invasion, Vision or the extracted Mind Stone is moved from the main city center of Wakanda. My guess is the heroes and Wakandans will fight back Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Black Dwarf (if he’s still around), and the six-armed aliens, but only for a time. Either Corvus Glaive or Midnight will be using the aliens as a distraction and trying to breach the city walls in hopes of finding Vision, hence Shuri shooting her hand cannons in the lab in the “Chant” trailer. Thanos, done with the team on Titan, shows up in Wakanda to help out his Black Order, who are struggling to fight off Hulk and Co. (Banner will be in the Hulkbuster armor to start the battle—per Thor: Ragnarok, he’s scared he’ll not be able to change back to Banner if he Hulks out one more time—but ends up going green, either when the aliens overrun him as seen in the trailer, or when Black Dwarf shows up.)
Thanos and Cap’s little handshake in the woods comes when the purple guy realizes the ruse and goes off to get that Mind Stone; Cap tries to head him off, though it looks like a whole bunch of Avengers and Wakandans will join him in the woods, away from the open fields where the initial battle will take place. That seems like the moment Chris Evans’s amazing run as Captain America ends, which will likely produce another sprawling blog post from me, given that I’m a big lame and he’s my favorite Avenger. Hopefully he won’t just get backhanded to death like he does in the comics, but I’m guessing quite a few deaths are coming in those woods.
Now, as has been pointed out, in the trailers and in the image at the top of this blog, Thanos very clearly only has two Infinity Stones in the woods. But thanks to the taller video display on this Instagram version of the “Chant” TV spot highlighting Wakanda’s role in the movie (“Yibambe!!!”), we know that Thanos also nabs the Reality and Mind Stones. However, it’s not clear where he’s teleporting to in the trailer when he has four of the Stones, so we have no clue when this happens. It’s cut to make it look like it’s on Wakanda, but I’m not so sure this isn’t just some clever misdirection from Marvel.
Past this, we have no idea as to what happens. Gun to my head, I’d guess that by the final space battle, the entire Black Order is dead and it’s just Thanos left charging toward Gamora to secure the Soul Stone. It will likely be that we’ll get a good bit of spaced out character-building throughout the film, establishing their father-daughter relationship to be much, much healthier than the one between him and Nebula, who gets absolutely wrecked in the comics before snagging the Gauntlet for herself when Thanos tries to become an omnipresent god and leaves his physical body and the Gauntlet defenseless. While I think Nebula’s screen version has been fun and interesting, especially in Guardians 2, I don’t see her being the one to save the day here.
More likely, the Russo brothers will pay off the built-up relationship by having Thanos kill Gamora in a final space battle to obtain the Soul Stone, but again, it’s unclear how this battle will turn out, which is a great thing! I’m guessing this is also where Iron Man will bite the dust, which, damnit, nobody’s going to be ready for that one.
This is plenty of information, for me; I’m sure others want to know the whole dang thing. I have exhausted all my available Online threads and forums, and I can say with confidence that the build-up, when written out, sounds fantastic. In my head, as long as they execute these pairings and side stories well, the movie will be very good, probably even amazing. Hopefully it won’t drag in the middle like the last two Avengers movies did (counting Civil War here). This one has a pretty obvious advantage thanks to what amounts to a big-ass golden clock being worn as a glove on Thanos’s left hand—once that final stone clicks in and the gauntlet is filled, well, we all know what comes next.
My honest gut response here is that they can’t. Quite simply, the Russo Bros., Marvel Studios, Disney, whoever, cannot mess up this movie or Avengers 4, not because it’s impossible—we all saw or at least heard about Justice League—but because there would be such an uprising that it might cause a global war, followed by a descent into chaos not even the Mad Titan could comprehend.
That said: There are a couple ways, when looking back at the last Avengers movie (no, not Age of Ultron) that the Russo Bros. had their hands on, that are worth reflecting on before building up Infinity War as the blockbusters to end all blockbusters. Ultimately, this is probably going to amount to Tiny Bones I Have To Pick With The Russo Bros., but it’s only because they did Winter Soldier so damn well that their bar deserves to be held high, especially for a project this ambitious.
The first issue is the settings for action sequences.
Lots was made of the airport scene in Civil War. Here, go watch it to jog your memory. In this movie, they choose to introduce RAFT, arguably one of the coolest places introduced in the MCU so far, and it’s sequestered to a couple stops for some tidy but boring exposition. Meanwhile, The Big Fight, the one where they line up every hero they have and pull out all the stops, is duked out ... at an airport? Of all the setpieces they could have gone with, they go with the tarmac of some German airport! It doesn’t make the actual punches or quips thrown in the duel less fun, but it certainly saps any potential of having an interesting environment play a part in The Big Fight.
Based on the bits and pieces that can be pulled from the trailers, the newest Avengers movie doesn’t seem like it’ll have this problem, at all. So far, we’ve got confirmed battles, of varying sizes, happening in the following places: the Asgardian ship; Manhattan, where we’ve already seen the best team fight scene in any superhero movie ever; Edinburgh, a cool city where Vision and Wanda are chilling; Titan, a dope red-dust-and-rocks planet/moon with unclear gravity rules; and Wakanda, a high-tech nation with plenty of cool toys and defense measures, like fucking WAR RHINOS, at their fingertips.
Ensuring that all these unique environments will play a noticeable role in the world-shattering fights that unfold doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be better than the airport fight of Civil War, but it does mean that the Russo Bros. at least put a little more creative thought into where they wanted their heroes to throw down.
The second issue is tone.
In Civil War, the Russo Brothers couldn’t quite decide what kind of movie they wanted to make. It felt like everything was shot on this grayish palette, with all the furniture and backgrounds giving off these sleek, modern, muted vibes that, ultimately, made certain stretches of the film, such as every scene at the Avengers upstate compound, look completely bland, like something out of a Hello Fellow Millennials catalogue. There was no personality to anything behind our heroes, nothing particularly cool about where they lived or where they met to discuss the Sokovia Accords, or even to fight each other.
They did this because they were trying to bring the feeling they developed in Winter Soldier over to this much more ambitious movie. The plot with Cap, Bucky, Tony, and Zemo really should have been its own movie, not tied to this larger international debate and eventual fist-fight, because now, sitting here, the only reason I remember Zemo is simply because I’ve seen the movie too many times. It’s not even that there was too much going on, but that in light of the different storylines and accompanying tones they tried to establish, they never really drew a through-line that could make it feel like one movie, so instead, they just formatted it using the big white-block location identifying texts and set it on the same color palette and pushed forward. Captain America movies, especially the second one, brought this real-world, grounded weight to them that really isn’t present in the other MCU films. When they tried to merge that with the quick-quip, laid-back style of the Iron Man films, and then tried to merge that with the fan-pleasing Avengers style, it came across as a film that had some really, really interesting ideas and things to say, but was at least 20 minutes too long.
Reports from people who have seen the first 20 minutes of Infinity War have said that this film establishes very clear lines, at least initially, between who we’re watching and what we’re supposed to be feeling. So, expect the Guardians/Thor scenes to be funny dick-measuring contests; the Iron Man/Spidey/Dr. Strange scenes to be fast-paced and entertaining action sequences; and the Cap/Falcon/Black Widow scenes to be more serious and foreboding. As all the heroes swap teams and move around in the film, it’ll be key that the directors ensure that the characters established in the previous 18 films maintain the core components and styles that make them so damn fun to follow.
The third and more pressing issue is the one that’s plagued Marvel from the beginning: The Villain Problem.
In a cinematic universe that aims to be, for the most part, friendly, bloodless, funny, entertaining, and light-hearted, crafting a villain—more to the point, crafting real, weighted stakes for your heroes—is a problem that recurs in almost every film. You can count the good Marvel villains on one hand, with a smattering of so-so characters sitting on top of a pile of god-awful fill-ins, like Malekith and Whiplash and Yellow Jacket.
The Russo Brothers and the screenwriters were gifted an opportunity to eschew the normal no-consequences rule for the heroes in Infinity War in the form of certain expiring contracts that all but confirm the stakes will not be as low as lower-body paralyzation followed 30 minutes later by a miraculous recovery thanks to Stark technology. Heroes are going to die, I hope—I was the one that, despite my love for Evans’s Cap, was secretly wishing they’d follow the lead of the comic series and actually kill him off in Civil War. Now that I’m certain we’re getting a Cap death, I’m not so sure I got what I wished for, because it honestly makes my palms sweat just thinking about it.
This movie has been described by the Russo Bros. as Thanos’s movie—he apparently has more screen time than any other character. Thor is No. 2, and even then, his story was only bumped up after the Marvel execs realized Thor: Ragnarok wasn’t going to be the same mess the previous two Thors were. Now, there are plenty of reasons Josh Brolin is starring in two major superhero movies this summer: The man has a fantastic gravelly voice that he knows how to use, and he’s fairly great at deploying a variety of mean glances, smirks, and stares to pair with it. He is the ideal Thanos, given that Thanos was always going to be mostly CGI, like the Hulk. Setting aside questions of whether the graphics squad can figure out how to make the Hulk and Thanos look normal when they run and jump—you can bet your ass making Thanos look intimidating and real as hell was task No. 1—as long as we find out that Thanos is very clearly Not Fucking Around in the first 15 or so minutes, I feel confident that Marvel will be able to handle this on-screen representation just fine.
The more worrisome matter, for me, is making sure the Black Order is introduced in a way that brings forth a similarly weighted sense of dread every time they appear on-screen, since we’re going to be spending a good amount of time with his henchmen. Everyone paying for this movie knows what Thanos is capable of, with or without the Gauntlet, thanks to a mixture of comic lore and his previous appearances in the MCU; the Black Order will have to show their powers, personalities, and goals—why the hell they follow Thanos is a good question that should have four different answers—all within the span of one movie. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour movie, so here’s hoping they make time for that. So far, reports have come in that Ebony Maw is creepy as hell and a fan-favorite, which is great! I’m sure Midnight, Glaive, and Dwarf will all be cool, too, but I’ve said that about past MCU villains.
I’m not going to sit here and play The Top 5 Characters You Expect To Die, because, through pretty obvious interviews and educated guesses, it’s clear that Cap, Iron Man, Drax, and Gamora/Nebula are going to be killed off, either in this Avengers movie or the next one. I think Captain America will go in this one, but that’s just a guess brought on mostly by the fact that he gets two feet from Thanos in Wakanda. I have no clue how these characters will die and, for me, that’s the important thing. I don’t care that I know they will; I care that Marvel does it in a way that allows me to bring the past 10 years to a meaningful close. I have guesses about how they’ll do that, but nothing worth sharing. I just know that when they do happen, I’ll probably cry in the theater and will be confined to the fetal position for at least until Friday, at which point I’ll probably go see the movie again and spend my Friday night the same way.
Ten years. Ten years! That’s how long these genius bastards at Marvel Studios have been planning this. Some of the details were certainly fleshed out along the way, and not everything stuck, but the way in which Marvel has committed to and pulled off this insanely massive general storyline is worthy of praise. Not ironic, Brands-Are-Satan (they are) praise, but honest astonishment from a guy who was 14 years old when this started. Right when my childhood imagination was receding in favor of sports and video games, a studio came along and did the very thing every kid for the past 50 years has dreamed of. Technology finally caught up, and the ability to do credible summer blockbuster superhero movies was here, and it happened as fast as you could ... snap your fingers.
I quite literally could not have picked a better 10-year span to experience these movies—they appeared right as I was weaning off hardcore comic reading at my local public library (ducks to dodge incoming spitballs) and will now conclude just a year or so before my metabolism starts to slow down and I start worrying about Real Adult Stuff. And the whole time, they’ve cranked out blockbuster after blockbuster, with just a couple duds sprinkled in there. If you watch them as much as I do, it’s basically an insanely produced TV series that has somehow (a whooole bunch of money) maintained and raised its quality. Now its conclusion, or at least part of it, is just eight days away.
One day, these movies will look dated. I’ll be watching Winter Soldier in my den, and my grandkid will come in and start goofing on me for not putting on my VR contacts and controlling my own super-hero narrative or some shit. I will be reduced to dragging my DVD player from the storage space in our fallout shelter just to show them what used to captivate me, and millions of other people. As the MCU turns into the Marvel Cosmic Universe, I’m certain we’ll get a slew of heroes even better than the ones that came first. But they will not and cannot replace what, exactly, Tony, and Steve, and Natasha, and Bruce, and Thor made me feel the first time I sat in a theater six years ago. There will never be a way to recreate the big, dumbass, goofy smile that spread across my face when I watched Banner look back, smile, and say those beautiful fucking words, “I’m always angry.” Infinity War is the end of that run, and honestly, I’m not quite sure I’m emotionally prepared for it.
Fuck me, I’m going to be a big ol’ mess next Thursday.