This review contains spoilers. So reader beware, I’m going to go analytical on this one… but first I’m going to preface the spoilers with some generic comments. Yes, I enjoyed the movie. I think people should see it themselves. Other (mostly) non-spoilery comments: I think Cap’s new shield(s) are lame. I want a Wakandan energy shield. Spider Man steals the show.
So, now into the actual review. It starts out with a bang and with a mass murder of Asgardian survivors. There’s a bit of continuity issues here (as later on in the film, Thor says that Thanos killed half his people, but Thanos blew up the ship and we don’t really see any survivors). So there’s an issue. Loki’s death was interesting, but there was an inevitable element of it, it wasn’t really a surprise and frankly, was pretty stupid of Loki. I would have rather seen him join up with Thanos to betray him at a truly opportune moment, maybe even chuck Thor out an airlock. Instead, we could see it coming. There was no surprise in it. Heimdal sort of stole the scene, too, in his sacrifice to send Hulk to Earth to give them warning.
The introductions and initial confrontations on Earth were good. They set the scene well, and there’s enough humor and mixed desperation to make it all entertaining and engaging. I would have liked to see Vision in full fighting form. Having him barely limping along through most of the movie was a bit of a disappointment. I get it, he was injured, but you would think they’d try to fix that.
The Guardians of the Galaxy really stole the show, them and Thor, anyway. Pretty much every scene with them was highly entertaining. The pace through the whole movie was fast, faster than I would have liked, but it wasn’t as frantic as people have complained about. No, there’s not a lot of time for character growth and such, but that’s not what this movie is about. It’s about the end of the world, it’s a disaster film more than anything else, and if there’s one thing that this movie does very well is to show the cost of a terrible disaster.
I’ve got to say, it’s almost Wagnerian Opera, at times. From Heimdal through to the very end, we see the cost of fighting evil. It doesn’t pull any punches and it doesn’t let up. It’s dark, but the strong point of this film is that the heroes don’t flinch. Most of them realize that they’re not going to survive, that they’re fighting to save others and not themselves.
The middle act is full of that sort of thing. We lose a few characters, we see Thanos toy with some of them, letting them think they’ve done well, only to pull victory away from them, often in comical fashions. Bubbles in Starlord’s pistol was the most brutal, I think. The torment on Quill’s face as he worked himself up, only to have all that effort pulled away was heart-wrenching. The return of Red Skull was a nice touch, but I would have liked to see more done with that. Make him join up with Thanos, give Thanos a minion we actually recognize and already dislike. Give Cap an enemy to fight that he knows and already hates (oh, and Bucky, too).
That brings us up to the final battle where Wakandan warriors start dying in droves. We see them almost take the Gauntlet from Thanos (so close, yet I can’t help but think that Strange planned it, planned for them to lose so that Thanos could take the Time Stone, so he could then take the Mind Stone). We see Thanos toss the mightiest heroes of Earth around like they are children. Then he rips the Mind Stone right out of Vision’s head. It’s all brutal, very metal, and terribly operatic. The choices they made on who lives and dies were telling, though. We knew the Hulk wouldn’t be one, not since Bruce Banner has character growth to figure out why the Hulk is gone all cowardly lion. They kept Ant Man out of it all since he has a movie coming out in a couple months. Scarlet Witch was obviously grateful to die after having killed Vision for no reason. Doctor Strange was an interesting choice, especially since he saw this all coming. He knew and planned for it, which makes me wonder what Wong is doing back on Earth as this all happens. Bucky and Falcon just felt like cheap shots. Neither of them have had enough screen time, their characters are both interesting, but Marvel doesn’t seem to know what to do with them, to give them a movie or what.
The Guardians… damn, if anyone paid a price for fighting Thanos, the Guardians sure as hell did. Rocket is the only survivor. Gamora’s death was similar to Loki’s, we saw it coming, it still had emotional impact, but her death was for Thanos’s sake, to humanize him somewhat, and it achieved that. Peter, Drax, and Mantis *all* dying on Titan seemed rather harsh. It would have been nice to see Drax and Mantis running around trying to save the universe without Peter Quill.
Spiderman… well, we know he’ll be back. He’s got a movie due next year, after all. (For that matter, we know many if not all of them will be back, because comics) his death was meant to humanize Stark, to humanize the cost of fighting Thanos… but it just let me down a bit on the writing.
Stark’s survival is the thing that leaves me shaking my head. I get it, RDJ is sort of the backbone of this universe. It all started with him… but come on, let some of the younger generation step up. Tony Stark’s story and character have been complete. There’s not much more for them to do with him. I get it, I realize that Doctor Strange orchestrated Stark’s survival, getting a promise out of Thanos because of whatever he saw in those multitude of futures…but still, the writers made that choice because they wanted RDJ in the lead… again.
For the rest of it, Black Panther going down was a nice touch. An emotional impact that I wasn’t expecting. The others, including at the post-credits scene, showed the impact, well enough.
In the end, however, what do we come away with? The fight isn’t over. There can be no doubt about that. Thanos may have had his way, but that means little when they left heroes like Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. They’ll go after him and they’re going to find a way to fix things (in as much as that’s possible). Avengers 4 is going to be focused on fixing all of this, and with the power of the Infinity Gauntlet, anything is possible.
I think that something many critics missed is that despite the title, this isn’t just an Avengers movie, this was very much a Thanos movie. Thanos showed the biggest character arc, the most growth, and in the end, it was Thanos who achieved his goals. We can argue all day about the rationality of his motivations (ridiculous in so many ways as to be utterly insane), but his drive and implacable resolve made the movie.
What would I have changed? Oh my word, so very much. I would have used Red Skull for more than a throw away here and gone character. It would have been great if he joined Thanos and worked with him from then on. The motivations for Thanos are a bit silly, but Josh Brolin lived it up well enough that we can accept them, the character was far more interesting in play than as a concept. Stealing a few more moments for character growth, a scene with Banner and Natasha (Widow) would have been nice. Use of some of the earlier enemies: Red Skull, Loki, Baron Nemo (whose motivations are similar to Thanos’s) and even an Ultron robot (whose motivation was basically the same as Thanos) as his lieutenants would have been interesting, especially with the scheming they would have done against one another and Thanos. That would have also given us some real emotional hooks when one of them were taken down or switched sides. Red Skull facing off against Steve Rogers and Bucky, backed with Thanos and Hydra goons would have been great. Baron Nemo, granted powers by Thanos, would have been terrifying. Ultron with alien tech? Yes, please.
All in all, it’s a fun, fast-paced movie. It hits you hard in the feels, though I think the writers played it safe a couple times near the end. They’ve built the House of Marvel on RDJ’s shoulders and I think they’re terrified that if they kill him off, they’ll kill the franchise. Overall, it was basically what I expected of the movie. I enjoyed it, I give them props for managing so many characters and giving many of them engaging and awesome scenes. I really want to see the impact of Thanos’s victory in the upcoming movies (plus the TV shows, which I need to get back to watching, assuming I ever have free time again). I think it’ll hold up well, better than Age of Ultron. It’s not my favorite Marvel movie, but it still beats the socks off of the DC cinematic universe.
Oh, and as a final thought, who else thinks they’ll use “fixing” everything as a chance to bring the Marvel X Men into the MCU? I mean, continuity issues, Time Stone… what better way to get Wolverine and Hulk into a drinking contest? Here’s to hoping.