April 27, 2018

∴ Finally, an Avengers of consequence

I went to see the premiere of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War Thursday night. I walked in with middling expectations, but I emerged impressed. It was really very good.

There are no spoilers in this article (I lie), but perhaps there’s a hint or two if you read between the lines. Like this: Infinity War is the first Avengers story of any actual consequence. It’s about losing. Ultimate loss. It opens with Thanos speaking of it, and it ends with it.

The story is well-written and well-directed, keeping my attention throughout its two-hour, thirty-minute-long runtime. In this way it exceeds Black Panther, which dragged at times. I was as enraptured by Infinity War as I was by Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Action fans will not be disappointed, either. The CGI was seamless, and fit right in with the story-telling. There was no FX for its own sake; this was good, modern film-making.

The theater was full of cheers and laughter as the plot moved toward a dreaded possible conclusion, but fans expected the Avengers to save the day. That’s how it’s supposed to go, right?

That did not happen.

Gasps heard throughout the theater during the final twenty minutes of the film were loud and in unison from fans not expecting what they were seeing. As the picture faded to black and the credits rolled, I heard cries of “no!” At the very end, where Marvel Studios often deposits a trailer of things to come, there was again unexpected, impactful loss, and bewilderment among the audience.

Fans were subdued as the lights came up. Many were looking at each other, slack-jawed. Did that really just happen? Quiet discussions ensued before people moved out of the theater.

I loved it. After two Avengers stories bearing little consequence for the main characters, this time out not everyone lived happily ever after.

This film clarified that the lack of consequence amid the battles and destruction of previous movies is what left me expecting another ordinary experience last night. It’s the difference between a film akin to an amusement park ride and one that tells a story worth hearing. Tragedy and comedy should appear on opposite sides of the same coin. A story without one or the other is out of balance.

Let’s review.

The Avengers: ok, the title of this one snookered me. Somehow I thought this film was to be a remake of the 1960s British TV spy series starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg. Imagine my disappointment.

Regardless, the plot involves the god Thor’s crypto-adopted brother Loki leading an alien invasion of New York. The Big Apple gets beat up, the Avengers save the day, and they eat shawarma. Joss Whedon wrote and directed, which made it entertaining, but still. Tony Stark as Ironman actually almost died at the end, but no cigar. The Hulk shocks him back to life with a scream. No lasting consequence to the Avengers; fans knew they’d triumph.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: I liked this one primarily because of James Spader’s voice-over of Ultron. He’s a terrific actor and he played Ultron almost identically to his Raymond Reddington character in the TV series The Blacklist, which Kelly and I enjoy.

Ultron does some bad things leading up to dropping a city back upon the Earth, which the Avengers must blast apart lest it creates an extinction-level event like the one that killed the dinosaurs. The plot ends with Sokovia (the city) destroyed, but the residents safely evacuated by the Avengers. Sucks if you’re from Sokovia, or the Scarlet Witch’s brother what’s-his-name, but not too bad for the Avengers. They even get a new superhero pal, Vision. So there’s that.

Thursday night things didn’t end too well for the Avengers, and that made it a complete story.

Actions have consequences. Lives are not fairy tales. This film takes comics fun and smears it red across the screen. Well, there’s no red blood to speak of, though Black Widow did get a few drops of someone’s blue blood on her, but you get the idea. Tragedy complemented comedy, with plenty of action as the backbone of the story.

Not to worry, there’s much more money to be made off these comics characters. A look at the cast of the fourth Avengers film, due out next year, reveals that some characters just can’t stay away for long. I’m glad of that for Black Panther and Scarlet Witch, kinda meh for others, like Dr. Strange. Love Cumberbatch, not so sure about the Doctor.

I was bummed about the Panther. Black America clearly had a moment going after Black Panther debuted, only to see him …

Ok, enough sorta-spoilers. Go see the film. It is the best of the three Avengers films extant, and given the casting of the next outing my satisfaction at seeing consequence befall these characters, though grim, will be short-lived.

#TheAvengers #deadNotDead #TonyStarkShouldHaveBeenVictimNumberOne