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The Avengers: Infinity War

The end of the beginning…

First off, I’m an old-time Marvel guy. From the time I could read, and even before, I loved Fantastic Four and Spidey and Cap and X-Men and the whole Marvel gang. That doesn’t mean I judge Marvel movies by how close they adhere to my vision of the comics; it just means I love this material. It built my childhood and shaped my adulthood.

When the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) started with IRON MAN, it mined material from comics that were firmly part of my memory. I knew these characters and I knew their stories. INFINITY WAR is the end of that.

As such, I love parts of INFINITY WAR. I like other parts of it. But some of it, not so much.

Here’s what I love about AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR –

One – Thanos is great. He’s the best part of the movie. His story matters. It’s unusual for a villain to matter in a Marvel movie. I can think of only a few. Loki in THOR. Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane in IRON MAN. And Killmonger in BLACK PANTHER.

The rest, no big deal. Red Skull. Robert Redford. Dark Elves. Hela. Whiplash. Guy Pearce of AIM. What’s his name in Dr. Strange. Dormammu. Yellowjacket. Abomination. All pretty forgettable.

Two – The Guardians of the Galaxy are great. Quill and Gamora. Gamora and Thanos. Even the guest-star stuff with Thor is entertaining.

Three – Iron Man is great. Robert Downey Jr. still blows up the screen whenever he’s on it. He is the core of the Marvel Universe.

So what’s not great? Three big things:

One – Dr. Strange. I’m not a big fan of MCU’s Dr. Strange. Unfortunately, he’s really important to the movie because he owns one of the infinity stones. Aside from how boring I find him, they established in his own movie that he can use the time stone to create an infinite loop and re-fight a fight for eternity until he wins. That’s how he beat Dormammu. Maybe I missed something, but why can’t he do it this time?

Two – Vision and Scarlet Witch. Much of the movie’s emotional thread winds through this couple. That’s a problem because we barely know them. It’s not enough to say they’ve been together for two years and throw in a melodramatic “stay with me” scene.

Remember when they first show the Guardians? Quill is jamming to Rubberband Man. No one else in the ship cares except – pan down to Gamora – and she is quietly singing along. Bam! That one shot establishes their relationship. They are simpatico. They are in love. Vision and Scarlet Witch don’t have – can’t have – that simple moment. And that’s a problem because the movie hinges on us caring about their love.

Three – The whole “we don’t trade lives” theme. Heroes trade their lives all the time, or at least they’re prepared to. Iron Man was willing to sacrifice himself at the end of the first AVENGERS. Cap sacrificed himself at the end of THE FIRST AVENGER. Hell, even pre-Cap Steve Rogers jumped on a hand grenade he thought was live. The big difference here (I guess) is that it wasn’t just Vision’s sacrifice. Scarlet Witch would’ve had to sacrifice too; she had to kill Vision.

Okay, I understand standing up for the value of even a single life. If we surrender that without a fight, the villain wins anyway.

Tell that to all the dead and injured in New York and Wakanda.

More important than that, I understand if they kill Vision and bust the yellow stone in the first hour of the movie, the movie is over. So whatever. Plot device. Move on. Sort of like the lame excuse why Hawkeye and Ant-man weren’t available. It’s a movie. It’s a story. Stuff has to happen because it has to happen.

Despite these problems, I like INFINITY WAR. It’s a miraculous juggling of storylines. Terrific set-piece fights. Good dialogue. Satisfying meet-ups of characters from different parts of the MCU.

I would’ve liked more of a celebration of the Big 3 – Iron Man, Cap, and Thor. Iron Man and Thor get a lot to do, but Cap gets short shrift. He gets a nice reveal at Waverly train station, and Thanos gives him a “what the hell, this guy is tough” look just before he whomps the Jesus out of him.

On a personal note, I was excited to see the fight in Edinburgh. I’m sure the producers of this movie thought “Where can we set a fight featuring an emotionally complicated woman with great mystic power and her distantly dignified but striving-to-be-human boyfriend? Oh, I know! Edinburgh. Just like that great VAMPIRE EMPIRE series we read!”

I was lucky enough to avoid all spoilers going in, but none of the deaths or appearances surprised me. I suspected Loki would get it. I thought Thor might get it too (or another of the Big 3). I had a strong suspicion Red Skull would show up, but didn’t know how. I figured they’d do a scene where they’d run Hulk in like he did to Loki, but Thanos would stomp him. I also thought they might add Warlock, but I’m glad they didn’t and I guess they’re saving him for the next GUARDIANS (I hope).

I still suspect they’re going to insert the Fantastic Four when they do the universe reboot. Maybe Marvel will get the X-Men too, but I hope not. The mutants work better in their own universe.

My great fear is that when they do reboot the MCU (post-Robert Downey, post-Chris Evans, post-Chris Hemsworth), it won’t hold up.

But that’s just my growing sense of melancholy sparked by this movie. Heck. It’s just the MCU leaving me behind. I started to realize that when I saw the post-credit sequence. I know it’s Captain Marvel, but it’s not my era Captain Marvel. She came along in the last decade or so when I wasn’t reading comics. I hear she’s fantastic. I could certainly read the collections, but that’s not the point. It’s a new day and it feels like a last hurrah for the film versions of my fan life.

No matter what, I hope the new movies mean the same thing for those of you who saw the Captain Marvel sign on Fury’s phone and got the same “Oh cool!” jolt I felt when they first mentioned S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers Initiative in IRON MAN.

It’s impossible to overestimate what comics, particularly Marvel comics, meant to me growing up. This last decade of the MCU has been pretty amazing for a guy like me. Not sure what the next decade will be.

Like the end of INFINITY WAR, the future is unknowable dust. All that’s sure are the memories of heroes I used to love.

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