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Avengers: Infinity War (2018) REVIEW

Ten years ago, I recall gazing up at the screen where genius-playboy-billionaire-philanthropist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) was set to the task of navigating himself out of a hostage situation in Afghanistan in Iron Man (2008.) Stark, who canonically has a heart condition and anxiety, was a new breed of character. Despite his arrogant bravado, it was important to see the representation of physical and mental illness on the big screen. At a young age, it was thrilling to see a superhero that suffered a heart disease. I had received open-heart surgery at five months old, and noting the similar scars on his chest was comforting, even if I didn’t have an ‘arc reactor’ of my own. In 2013, I remember sobbing into my hands as Stark had undergone a panic attack- one quite resemblant to the ones that my own anxiety had caused in the past. I knew this character was more than a character to me. A decade later, Marvel released their most ambitious crossover to date: Avengers: Infinity War (2018.)

*SPOILERS*

Picking up from the aftermath of Thor: Ragnarok (2017,) the confrontation between the Dark Order, headed by The Mad Titan, Thanos (Josh Brolin,)  looks pretty grim for the “brothers” Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki Laufeyson (Tom Hiddleston.) Loki, who had possessed the Tesseract, one of six Infinity Stones, is pressured to overturn his power in exchange to spare Thor. At first, it seems like the Frost Giant is willing to comply, as the Jotun pronounces himself as “a God of Mischief, son of Odin, prince of Asgard and rightful king of Jotunheim.” The line alone is certainly a drastic character arc, as Loki’s remorseful, loathing nature is displaced for one more resigning and guilty. When he attempts to stab Thanos in his bout of deceit, he is seized and swiftly killed off. The sound of his neck snapping is chilling. We see Thor grieving profusely over his lifeless body, which sets the tone for the film. Hold on tight- this is only within the first five minutes.

Thor is cast away from the scene, sent to hurdle through the vastness of space before slamming against the windshield of the beloved Guardians of the Galaxy’s ship, where he is quickly harbored in and examined. It’s a pretty enjoyable scene, as Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista,) Gamora (Zoe Saldana,) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) swoon over his physique, despite the jealousy from Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt.) Pratt is one of the most memorable in this film as his performance ranges from astounding bouts of anger to carefree, waggish nature- which includes his contesting with Thor for attention.

Cut to Stark and Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow) chatting casually about their “future,” though it doesn’t seem like the couple is on the same page of their engagement. There are hopes that the whole ordeal could fall through.  The scene is short, however, as Dr. Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch,) makes his appearance and demands that Stark come with him. There’s evident between the pair from their get-go, as two intellectuals butt heads continually. It’s amusing, of course, as their similar personalities clash. Dr. Bruce “The Hulk” Banner (Mark Ruffalo) has returned to Earth after his conflicts on Asgard during Thor: Ragnarok. It seems that he’s struggling to harness his anger that produces The Hulk, as his alter-ego refuses to take over on multiple accounts.

Stark, Banner, and Wong (Benedict Wong) are regrouped with Strange at the New York sanction, where clarification of the rising chaos is made sense of.  The flip-phone in which Captain Steve “America” Rogers (Chris Evans) had given Stark at the end of Captain America: Civil War is put into use, though Tony can’t make the call. Perhaps there’s guilt that hinders him or supposes it may be a trigger for his anxiety. It isn’t clear, but the phone is overturned to Banner, who contacts Rogers in the time of need. Despite his title of “Captain,” Rogers resembles his second alter-ego, Nomad, sporting thick beard, long dark hair, and starless suit. His shield has been replaced with a Wakandan prototype instead of his iconic red-and-white Vibranium one.

We catch a glance of The Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda “Scarlet Witch” Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) as they grow weary of the fate of the Mind Stone that is prominently displayed in The Vision’s forehead, serving as his life source. The use of the thick, Sokovian accent has been abandoned from Maximoff’s character, as her Rumney heritage seems to be erased. It’s obvious that The Vision will die, but it was a surprise to see him die at the hands of his partner.

As greater teams are assembled, don’t expect to see Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (Jeremy Renner,) Scott “Ant-Man” Lang (Paul Rudd) or Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson.) They’re nowhere to be found, nor even mentioned once. It’s odd, that former partner Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff (Scarlet Johannson) refuses to acknowledge this. The Russian spy is still boring, but this time, with platinum blonde hair chopped into a sharp bob.

Peter “Spider-Man” Parker (Tom Holland) is thrown into the mix as he is announced to be an Avenger. Innocently, he’s only a child, and his heartbreaking “death” is Holland’s most impressive scene executed yet. It spears into the heartstrings as he turns to Stark, pleading that he wasn’t ready to die, begging for help as his mentor scrambles to save him. It’s a haunting sight when Stark collapses over the ashes that are Parker’s remains, and Downey delivers enough that you can feel the grief, blame, regret, and self-hatred. It’s one of the most emotional and devastating scenes in the movie as a whole.

The country of Wakanda is opened to outsiders as King “The Black Panther” T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) allies his nation with Rogers and other heroes as they come to retrieve James “Bucky” or “The White Wolf” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) from his rehabilitation. He is rewarded with a new arm as he suffers his second amputation. The arm is impressive, crafted from black Vibranium and accented with flecks of gold. It’s heartwarming to see the reunition of Barnes and Rogers as they reconnect. Don’t cross your fingers too hard- Barnes “dies” once more as he reaches out towards Rogers hopelessly.

The Russo brothers take an interesting perspective with their villain as Thanos’ angle is more humanized. They include the backstory on the relationship between Thanos and Gamora, which details her adoption and her upbringing by The Mad Titan. Contrary to the in-depth feel that is splashed into the plot, Gamora ends up dead at the hands of her “father.”

The final battle scene is unfathomably painful. It results in a high body count, as fatalities are surprisingly numerous. When Ruffalo said that “everyone dies,” he wasn’t playing around. There isn’t a “happy ending” for this Avengers film, though it is riveting from start to end-credit scene. Strange, after evaluating every possible outcome in which the war for the gems could end with, which leaves him to self-sacrifice and leave Stark to live. His sacrifice triggers others’ “deaths” as they fall to dust.

This disheartening film is one of the most impressive installations in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it conquers expectations and claims triumph over filmgoers’ emotions. While it marks the near end of the Avengers, it isn’t a movie to miss as it plays a vital role in the future of the MCU.  It’s powerful, it’s draining, it’s fantastically harrowing.

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