Avengers: Infinity War is an absolutely beautiful testament to the potential of the Superhero medium. As a film, it successfully avoided many of the dangerous pit falls that Superhero films tend to fall into, such as confused pacing between too many characters or an underwhelming villain (the latter of which this movie was definitely FAR from). However, I wanted to talk about probably my favorite thing about this movie, which is something that I think is getting overlooked, or at least I haven’t seen much discussion on it.
SPOILERS for Infinity War ahead.
Throughout this movie, we saw multiple conflicts, from the showdown with Ebony Maw in the streets of New York, to the final confrontation in Wakanda, and various Thanos beatdowns on and off earth. Conflict is what drives this movie, what with “war” right there in the name, and the Super Russo Bros. did an excellent job balancing and managing this conflict, delivering it in pieces to show a galaxy spanning battle with different fronts all fighting toward the same goal, despite not being aware of each other. We see Tony, Peter and Doctor Strange fighting alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy to try and stop Thanos in his tracks, while Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and the rest of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (not featured: Kevin Bacon) fight with Black Panther and his people to protect the one remaining Infinity Stone.
Often in Superhero films, and more specifically Action/Adventure films, there is a tendency to oversimplify the conflict. In the early acts, the villain may win, and the reasoning is typically simply because they are super villainous and mean. We see the hero fight valiantly and exert themselves, only to be brushed aside by the villains sheer badguyness. Toward the end of the film, the hero will recall something vague someone once said to them, or have some sort of sudden epiphany as to the badguy’s weakness. They exploit this newly obtained information and save the day thanks to their resounding goodguybrations! Yay, heroes!
This is not Infinity War.
Nearly each of the confrontations begins with a look at the careful planning of the heroes. In fact, the two confrontations that didn’t have a planning phase, namely the fight against Ebony Maw and
Black Dwarf Cull Obsidian in the streets of New York and the ambush of Vision in Scotland, go INCREDIBLY poorly for the heroes, with the former ending in Dr. Strange’s capture and the latter nearly ending in Vision’s demise. Of the two unplanned encounters, only the ambush of Vision ends with a heroic success and that is purely a numbers game, really, with Cap, Falcon and Black Widow arriving to fight of an already reasonably pummeled Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive, essentially returning their ambush in kind.
From these two opening moments, we never see the heroes dive mindlessly into a fight, always taking a moment to get the drop on the individual. I think this is HUGE. The heroes succeed because of tactical planning and proper execution of those plans. Ebony Maw is defeated because of Peter Parker’s “Really Old Movie” plan. Wakanda is defended because of the various tactical minds involved and good strategic communication between Falcon, War Machine and Captain America. Thanos very nearly loses the Gauntlet because of Starlords “drop a telepath on his head” plan. Overall, planning seems to be the general theme of this movie, and it WORKS. Bravado and blind heroism have no place here. It’s very cool to see a movie’s main character be teamwork, and it very much fits with the theme. The Avengers, in movies, shows and comics, have always been very team oriented, often so much so in the comics that most of the big Avengers stories end with a syrupy “teamwork is key” or “we do better when we work together” moral. Marvel has done very well setting this up throughout the Avengers and Avengers focused movies, from the very first one where the team finally gets into a groove in the battle of New York and spends the whole time communicating with each other and working together. Juxtaposed against this, we have the Guardians of the Galaxy who spent two movies learning not only how to function as a team but also as a family. All this teamwork and unity, it’s amazing this movie doesn’t end with a big 1980s movie group high five!
It instead ends with misery and heartache.
Ultimately, the heroes lose in this movie. All their careful planning dissolves thanks to the character’s individual weaknesses. As Peter and Tony are prying the gauntlet off Thanos, Starlord’s unruly and brash attitude causes him to lash out at Thanos over the loss of Gamora (who was murdered by Thanos to earn the Soul Stone). He begins punching Thanos, giving the titan enough rage to break free of the hold the team has on him and regain his weapon. Back on Wakanda, the removal of Vision’s Infinity Stone is interrupted by
The Sneakiest Goblin Corvus Glaive, forcing Shuri and Vision to fight. However, the process, which we were lead to believe was very close to being done, may have been able to continue had Scarlet Witch remained, instead of jumping to the ground to help the troops with Giant Spinny Wheels of Death (technical term). Ultimately, she did save Black Widow’s life, but her fear of losing any of her friends took her away from where she was potentially more needed and resulted in the Mind Stone being eventually retrieved by No Country for Purple Men. In the end, Thor had one final blow to end everything and stop the deaths of half of the creatures in the universe, but his pride drove him to strike Thanos in the chest, hoping to give him a slow death and allow himself a chance to gloat. The mad titan simply reminds Thor that he should have struck to kill, snaps his fingers and win.
I feel the conflict in this movie is just incredibly organic. Teams and individuals lose because they were either unprepared, less prepared or some weakness of character gets in their way. They succeed because of planning, skill and patience. This results in the struggles and achievements in this movie feeling completely realistic, as we’re able to see the steps that resulted in that outcome and say “oh yeah, see THAT is how they got there.” It’s not a game of who can punch the hardest (which I applaud the removal of the Hulk from this film) and it does not just boil down to nobility winning over evil, and in the end the mistakes made by different heroes result in Thanos achieving his ultimate goal with a snap of his fingers.
Now to wait until next year to see how all of this is fixed by the remaining heroes because YOU CAN’T JUST TAKE GROOT FROM ME LIKE THAT YOU MONSTERS