Avengers Infinity War

 

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Slight Spoiler (This scene is not in the movie)

Avngers Infinity War (Non-Spoiler)
Back in the 1990s when I was really getting into comic books I would tell people how Marvel should just start making Movies and TV shows that all take place in the same universe like they do with comics. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is something I wanted for decades before it happened. And after ten years they’re finally reaching their end game for a storyline they started in 2008.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo had an impossible job: Take characters from 18 previous movies, some technological, some tactical, some magic, and some cosmic, and make a coherent story that ties up storylines that were spread throughout movies from the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is similar to what Joss Whedon had to do with the first Avengers movie except multiplied into double digits. Most of all, they had to have Thanos, a character with less than five minutes total screen time all together, be as fearsome and dangerous as he’s been built up to be. I’m happy to say that the Russo brothers not only pull this off, but go far beyond that.

With so many characters, it’s no surprise that some characters do not get much to do or say. What is surprising is how few characters I can say that about. The Russos did a fantastic job of giving even secondary characters a good moment or two.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Infinity War is how Marvel earned this. Taken on its own, Infinity War is a non-stop action slugfest. Taken with the 18 films that have led up to Infinity War and this fight is one of the most earned fights in cinema history. One of the key things that plague DC Universe movies is that they simply have no patience. The first Avengers movies was the fifth MCU movie. They did five whole movies without much more than a wink or a nod at each other. DC did exactly one movie (Man of Steel) that didn’t explicitly have direct connections to the other movies. Imagine if Captain America: Civil War was the second movie in the MCU. It wouldn’t have made any sense because we don’t yet really care about the characters. Now imagine the opposite. Imagine if Batman vs Superman wasn’t the second movie in an ongoing franchise. Instead it’s the 13th movie (like Civil War). Suddenly the stakes of Batman and Superman fighting actually matter. There’s a classic moment in the first episode of Community when Jeff Winger says, “I can pick up this pencil, tell you it’s name is Steve and go like this…[breaks pencil] and a part of you dies just a little bit on the inside.” That’s basically storytelling in a nutshell. DC is under the impression that the important part is breaking the pencil. They’re wrong. The important part is naming the pencil. It’s only after we know the pencil has a name that we care. If we don’t know the characters we can’t care about them.

The action in Infinity War is unrelenting and incredible. Given all of the things going on with so many characters it is impressive as hell that they were able to do everything they did without making it confusing.

 

Overall, Infinity War is a fine addition to the MCU and the best of the Avengers movies in my opinion. In order to talk more about this and its connection to the comics that inspired it, I need to get into spoilers.

Infinty War (SPOILERS!!!!)

Infinity War impressed me on a number of levels, but I think one of the best things about it is that it put millions of viewers in a position comic book fans find very familiar. When reading a comic book, if one of the side characters die, you know it’s kind of serious. If one of the major characters die, you know it’s really serious. And if half of the major characters die, you know they’re almost definitely going to be brought back. This was true the first time Thanos snapped his fingers and killed half the universe back in 1990.

Check out the list of dead from Infinity Gauntlet #2 (Note that only Black Panther is disappeared in both the comics and the movie.)

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There are of course significant differences between the comics and the films, but one of the other surprising things about Infinity War is that it has a lot of things in common with the comics. In the comics Thanos is in love with the entity Death. She’s resurrected him and told him to kill half the universe. And so he gets the Infinity Stones to do so. In the MCU abstract concepts aren’t entities (yet). So instead they give him the motivation of feeling the universe is dangerously overpopulated. This also comes from the comics. There’s an issue of Silver Surfer leading up to Infinity Gauntlet in which he makes much the same argument.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that unlike comic books (usually), we have to wait a whole year to find out what happens next.

This gives Marvel a great opportunity to integrate their TV stuff. They could easily have episodes of Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil, Luke Cage, or any of the other upcoming seasons of Marvel shows in which half the cast disappears into dust. If history is any indication, Agents of SHIELD will touch on it while the other shows will not.

While it’s true that they’ve killed off characters we know are coming back, (Sony isn’t going to let Spider-Man die after only one of their movies.) it’s still impressive to end a movie that’s likely going to make a billion dollars in less than two weeks with the bad guy killing half the universe and smiling at the sunset. When DC killed Superman in BvS they felt the absolute need to put hovering dirt above his coffin to make sure even the dumbest person in the theater knew he was coming back. With Marvel, at least they had the guts to kill them dead.

What happens next? Well I can tell you what happens in the comics. If you don’t want to know, skip this paragraph. In the comics it’s the Silver Surfer who falls through Dr. Strange’s roof to warn everyone about Thanos. Then half the universe disappears. Then the rest of the heroes show up to save the universe. Of course Thanos is all powerful and it does not go well. Eventually Thanos tries to become one with the cosmos, but he retains his mortal body. Nebula gets her hands on the gauntlet and puts everything back how it was, but that includes her being on fire. She loses the gauntlet only to have Adam Warlock pick it up and save the universe. Of course in the MCU, Adam Warlock has only been hinted at and isn’t likely to save the day. That role seems to be filled by another hero, Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel is the symbol you see on Nick Fury’s space pager in the after credits scene. She’s a human named Carol Danvers who has quite the colorful history in the comic books. Carol is an old spy pal of Wolverine’s, got her mind, personality, and powers stolen from her by the X-Man Rogue in Rogue’s first appearance, ended up getting a whole new power set and becoming a space pirate for a while before eventually going back to being an earthbound superhero who is more than comfortable in space. These days she’s taken up the role of Captain Marvel and runs Alpha Flight Station, an orbital platform that tries to keep the Marvel universe safe from near constant alien invasions.

Of course in the MCU, since they have yet to get the rights to the X-Men back, most of that isn’t going to happen in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie or in Avengers 4. Instead I expect that there will be a variation of the Nebula moment (given that she’s still alive) and everyone who got killed by Thanos with the snap of his fingers will come back (though Heimdal and Loki are probably dead for good). I’m personally holding out hope that Avengers 4 is going to give us at least a hint that the next big overarching storyline is Secret Invasion.

That’s all speculation naturally. Officially, next up for Marvel movies is Ant-Man and Wasp which takes place shortly before Avengers 3 and Captain Marvel which takes place in the 1990s. It’s going to be a long year waiting for Avengers 4, but I get the feeling it’s going to be worth it.

NOTE: This review was featured in my weekly newsletter, Notes From Table 30. The comments section is for those who want to talk about this review and other content from the newsletter. Not a subscriber to the newsletter? You can do that right here.

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What’s Next From Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy is the biggest movie of the year. Marvel Studios has become the most profitable franchise in history. Millions of people who will never read a comic book are flocking to see these movies and Marvel just announced what movies we’ll be seeing from them over the course of the next five years.

I’m going to go over each of them and my thoughts about them. For those of you wondering where the X-Men, Fantastic Four, or Spider-Man films fit into this, they don’t. Years ago when Marvel was far from a household name, they sold the rights to those franchises to other studios. For more information on that, feel free to click here where I talk about it more.

So what’s next for Marvel?

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May 2015 – Avengers: Age of Ultron
The next Marvel Studios movie is the second Avengers movie. They’ve just released the teaser trailer for this. Everyone (except for Loki) is back for this along with some new faces. Joss Whedon is writing and directing again so the dialog will be snappy and the possibility that a major character might die will be ever present.

For those who don’t know Ultron is an artificial intelligence bent on destroying humanity. In the comic books he was created by Hank Pym, but in this one, it looks like it’s going to be Tony Stark who makes the mistake. In addition to Ultron, other new characters include the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Vision.

Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were both seen in the after credits sequence in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s worth noting once again that this Quicksilver has nothing to do with the Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. While both based on the same character, it’s safe to say that Quicksilver and his sister, the Scarlet Witch will have very different origins in Age of Ultron as Marvel can’t use mutants (or the father of the two characters in the comics, Magneto).

The first Avengers movie made over a billion dollars and is still an incredibly watchable movie. I expect much the same will be true about Age of Ultron.

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July 17, 2015 – Ant-Man
This year the big risk from Marvel Studios was Guardians of the Galaxy. It was the first of the Marvel Studios films not to have any major film star or popular comic book characters. Needless to say, the risk paid off. Next year’s big risk is Ant-Man. While a founding Avenger in the comic books, he’s still relatively unknown and after the big action of Avengers: Age of Ultron just a couple of months earlier, Ant-Man is going to seem like a dramatic shift in gears.

For those who don’t know, Ant-Man can shrink to insect size, talk to ants, and grow really big. He does this using something called ‘Pym Particles’ named after their inventor and original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. In the movie he’s played by Michael Douglas while Paul Rudd is playing Scott Lang, who eventually becomes the new Ant-Man.

Originally this was going to be the funny Marvel Movie with Shaun of Dead’s Edgar Wright writing and directing. Unfortunately, creative differences forced Wright to leave. He’s been replaced with Peyton Reed who’s a less original voice but still capable of bringing the funny.

There’s also the question of whether or not Ant-Man might make his debut in Age of Ultron which would definitely help this movie’s success at the box office.

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May 6, 2016: Captain America: Civil War
Winter Soldier is my personal favorite super hero movie and the fact that the same creative team is back for Captain America: Civil War makes me all sorts of excited.

In the comic books, Civil War was a massive crossover in which hero fought hero. Essentially the fight boiled down to Tony Stark and others believing that heroes need to be regulated and registered and Captain America and others feeling otherwise.

Robert Downey Jr. has been confirmed as a costar in Civil War. So it’s clear that the movie will likely follow similar themes. It’s also worth noting that in the comic books, Civil War ended with Captain America getting killed.

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Nov. 4, 2016: Doctor Strange
There’s a lot of buzz about this movie right now because Benedict Cumberbatch is said to be playing the illustrious Dr. Strange. He’s a fine choice and I hope that it turns out that he gets the part. (Though personally I wanted Alan Rickman.)

This will be another risk because it will be the first Marvel Studios movie dealing with magic. They grounded Thor and his magic by basically saying they’re an advanced alien race rather than Gods. It will be interesting to see what grounding, if any, they give Dr. Strange.

It’s been said that this will not be an origin story. This is probably a good idea if only because half of all super hero movies end up being origin stories. It’s too bad though because I like the origin of Dr. Strange. He’s an arrogant world-renowned surgeon who crashes his car and crushes his hands. He then seeks out a new path in Asia and becomes Sorcerer Supreme. Fun stuff.

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May 5, 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Not much is known about the sequel except that much like the Cap movie, everyone is back again, both in front of and behind the cameras. Given how much fun the first Guardians of the Galaxy was, this one is likely to be even more so since they don’t have to spend time establishing characters. We’ll likely get to see more about Star-Lord’s father and I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a bit more Thanos. After all, so far we’ve only seen two Infinity Stones, and we need six for the Infinity Gauntlet.

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July 28, 2017: Thor: Ragnarok
Last time we saw Loki he was on the throne in Asgard pretending to be Odin. Nothing good can come of this so it’s not a surprise that Ragnarok is the result. Marvel seems to be keeping the solo movies to three movies so it also makes sense to end the Thor trilogy with Ragnarok.

Given how much The Dark World embraced the Thor mythos, we can only expect that Ragnarok will embrace it even more so. The question remains as to whether or not the happenings in Ragnarok will be connected in any way to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or if it will be like the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie where it’s still in the same universe but nowhere  near anything else that’s happening.

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Nov. 3, 2017: Black Panther
Most Marvel Comics originated back in the 1960s at a time when African Americans weren’t even allowed to vote. Diversity in classic superheroes is rare. The Black Panther is an exception. He originally appeared in 1966. Leader of the technologically advanced fictional African Nation of Wakanda, the Black Panther is both monarch and hero. At the press conference today, they announced not only that the character of Black Panther would make his debut in Captain America: Civil War, but that he’s going to be played by Chadwick Boseman.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen much of Boseman’s work, though his guest appearance as ‘Flex’ on Justified a few years ago was memorable and so far Marvel’s casting has been spot on. So while I would have LOVED it if Michael K. Williams got the part, I’m still looking forward to Boseman. No director has been announced for this one yet.

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May 4, 2018: Avengers: Infinity War – Part I
Since we first saw Thanos smile at the end of Avengers, the seeds of Infinity War were planted. This was no surprise. The big surprise is that they’re splitting it into two movies. While there was an Infinity War comic book crossover, it’s safe to say that these movies will much more likely be drawing on Marvel Comics’ The Infinity Gauntlet for inspiration.

In the Infinity Gauntlet Thanos kills literally half of the universe with the snap of his fingers (such is the power of all six Infinity Gems together). Needless to say, the remaining heroes show up to stop him. The interesting choice is that they aren’t doing Part II next. There are two movies between Infinity War Part 1 & 2. Do they continue the story of Infinity War or are they entirely separate? What will be their connection, if any? We’re going to have to wait and see.

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July 6, 2018: Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel is a well-used name. Over at DC Comics, it’s the other name for Shazam. At Marvel Comics more than a couple of people have had the title ‘Captain Marvel’. However, at the press conference today they made it clear that Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Carol Danvers.

This will be the first solo female hero movie by Marvel Studios and it’s a good choice (though there’s an argument to be made that Black Widow should have had her own movie). Carol’s known for being both Earth-bound and cosmic. It’ll be interesting to see which direction they take it. Perhaps she’ll be part of the glue between the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

With the movie only announced today and a release date four years away, almost everything else is speculation.

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Nov. 2, 2018: Inhumans

Over in Marvel Comics, there has been a big push for the Inhumans so it’s not surprising that they’d be featured in their own movie. Inhumans are basically humans that were genetically modified by the Kree thousands of years ago and once exposed the mists from special crystals they manifest unique super powers. In the comics, there was a worldwide bomb set off that caused random people with trace amounts of Inhuman blood to develop powers.

If this sounds a lot like the X-Men, there’s a reason for that. Marvel can’t use mutants, but they can use Inhumans. So this basically gives them the ability to tell whatever mutant stories they might want to tell by using Inhumans instead.

That’s not to say that the Inhumans are mutant ripoffs. They have their own back story and they have some genuinely unique characters. Their leader, Black Bolt has a voice that can shatter mountains. So he doesn’t talk except when using his voice as a weapon. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of actor they get to play a part that’s essentially non-speaking.

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May 3, 2019: Avengers: Infinity War – Part II

Four and a half years from now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe culminates in Avengers: Infinity War Part II. Given that by this time Robert Downey Jr. will be 54 and many of the actors playing other characters might well be tired of playing those characters, there’s a reasonable chance for some major changes.

This will be the end of an era for Marvel Studios and it will mark the start of something new. What comes next after the Summer of 2019 for Marvel is anyone’s guess.

And of course this isn’t even taking into account Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter shows, much less Netflix’s announced Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and Defenders shows, all of which also take place in the shared Marvel Universe.

All in all, it’s a great time to be a Marvelite. And as I’ve said before, if you can’t wait five years for all of this, don’t. Get down to your local comic book shop and start reading.

– Jack Cameron