So, you remember how it was back in the day, when you’d be bullied in school by a guy 4 times your size (and height) and you’d cry home to go call reinforcements in the shape of your “bigger” brothers, sisters and sometimes even your parents to come teach the bully a lesson or two, very confident that after the fact, the bully would not even be so bold as to dare step in your shadow? Well…
Imagine an alternative, seemingly less plausible, frighteningly more terrifying scenario, where the bully beats and maims (possibly even kills) your brothers, sisters, parents, and everyone in your family (nuclear and extended). LOL – In Marvel’s newest, action-packed, enthralling cinematic masterpiece, Thanos, the powerful cosmic villain of the multiverse, is that guy!
In every practical sense, Avengers Infinity War, Marvel’s 3rd installment of the 4-part franchise of the Avengers, is a show-stopper. There are several awesome scenes in the movie that compels us to pause and savour the awesomeness: Tony Stark’s incredible suit-up as he, Doctor Strange and Wong prepare to take on the children of Thanos (Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian); the attempted abduction of Vision by Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight (Thanos’ other children and members of the Black Order) and the brilliant, “just-in-time” saving of the day by Steve Rogers (Captain America), Falcon and the Black Widow; Thor’s grand entry from Nidavellir with his newly-forged axe as the Avengers battle hordes of Thanos’ demons at Wakanda, Doctor Strange’s epic signature move in his battle against Thanos where he multi-replicates himself, and several others.
For more than a decade, the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) & MCU battle of superhero movies has raged on. Our favourite superheroes from both comic superhero powerhouses have treated us to a delectable, heart-stopping array of blistering action, suspense and epic battles. Indeed, at some point last year, it seemed DC had won this battle – but only momentarily as it later turned out. DC’s adaptation of Wonder Woman, very brilliantly executed by the impossibly gorgeous Gal Gadot, and its rallying of some of its mightiest heroes – Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne (Batman), Ezra Miller as Barry Allen (The Flash), Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry (Aquaman), Henry Cavill as Clark Kent (Superman) and Ray Fisher as Victor Stone (Cyborg) – in the Justice League, seemed to have provided formidable competition for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
However, the Justice League underperformed in the Box office, with some accounts suggesting that the movie grossed just around $657 million worldwide against its massive budget. It also received heavy criticism for its uninspiring storyline (plot), overuse of CGI and its failure to present us with a villain worth his calling. Steppenwolf, the beastly military general from Apokolips fails to inspire the sort of overwhelming sense of fear we feel when we meet Thanos in Avengers Infinity War. Although both Thanos and Steppenwolff’s characters are CGI-ed, the Russo brothers (Directors of the Avengers Infinity War) succeed in creating a character whose complexity or ambivalence is as much a desirable trait as his insatiable intent to decimate half the universe in a bid to restore balance in the multiverse. Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon (Directors of the Justice League) are unable to do this with Steppenwolf, and for a superhero movie, investing into a villain that the audience love to hate is a crucial decision that cannot be left to chance.
In Marvel’s latest entrée, Thanos presents us with a character whose villainy is admirable as it is unnerving.
Action, action, more action and a sprinkling of relentless humour
If there is one thing MCU movies can be lauded for, it is its incorporation of heart-stopping, eye-popping, unforgettable sequences of action. If you are an action-addict, this might just be the movie for you.
The movie begins (from where Thor: Raganarok ends) on the ruins of an Asgardian and Sakaarian spaceship. Josh Brolin’s Thanos and his multi-powered henchmen, the Black Order, have wreaked havoc on the ship, murdering almost every soul on the ship besides Thor and his half-brother Loki. Although fans of the MCU will remember Thanos’ cameo from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and the post-credit scene of Avengers: Age of Ultron, this is the first time we get to see Thanos and his henchmen in all their imperial majestic splendor. The über-muscled giant of a cosmic villain towers over all who stand before him. His smile is menacing, his stride is petrifying, his speech is disquieting and discomfiting, all at once – we see Death when we see Thanos. His brief (I refer to this as “brief” because Thanos wills it) duel with the Hulk is probably one of the most epic scenes in the movie. The anticlimactic resolution to this duel stupefies us.
Marvel definitely went all guns blazing (and fists punching) in this movie, literally and figuratively. Unlike most CGI-ed fighting scenes, where the special effects and character movement seem rather intrusive and unnatural, the battles in the Infinity War possess an unmistakable realism. For a movie with a little over 2 hours running time, Marvel gives us a generous array of brilliant battles to choose from.
Further, it is almost enviable how Marvel is able to create an action-packed movie with a staggering, stunning ensemble of earth’s mightiest heroes while incorporating some bit of humour in almost every scene.
If you are one with a taste for beautiful dialogue and memorable one-liners, you will adore this movie. It is almost unreal the lineup of A-listers who make up the cast of the Avengers: Benedict Cumberbatch (Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange), Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/The Black Widow), it is quite unsurprising how Marvel is able to wield both humor and action in rhythmic harmony.
Thanos, the plot, characters and the end that made us cry (A few spoilers here and there)
As with all villains that seek the destruction of the universe and all life, Thanos might come across as your archetypal power-drunken, power-seeking senseless megalomaniac – but far from it, Thanos is beyond stereotyping (and this is one aspect Marvel scores full points). Unlike Steppenwolf in the DCEU, who is basically Darkseid’s henchman, Loki and the chitauri army (in the 1st installment of the Avengers), Ultron and his tinkering destructive-bots (in the 2nd installment of the Avengers), Thanos is a god unto himself.
Thanos is imbued with a personality and character that Marvel invests significant time in the plot sequence to develop: we see him express different shades of emotion. He gets upset/angry (most of the time), he smiles, has a sense of humour, and sheds tears (when he sacrifices Gamora at the edge of the cliff in Vormir in order to acquire the soul stone). He explains his motives to us, however ill-intentioned or warped, how he intends to restore balance in the multiverse by embarking on a purge to ensure that there is a clear nexus between available resources and people. It’s almost as if Thanos is saying “I love you, and that is why I am going to kill all of you”, and somehow, we agree with him.
One of the major criticisms of this MCU movie is that it submerges us in an ocean of characters and storylines that we are unable to connect emotionally with all of them. With over 20 characters drawn from the MCU, this argument does not seem misplaced at all. However, if we were to consider how the movie ends, Marvel’s greatest drawback becomes its major strength. By wiping out half of these beloved figures, it gives us a shocking catharsis while fixing the overcrowding problem for the final showdown.
After collecting all six infinity stones, Thanos’ power becomes inconceivably unrivalled. He destroys Xandar in order to acquire the power stone, which makes him invincible and almost indestructible, murders almost everyone on the Asgardian ship in order to retrieve the space stone from Loki, which helps him creates rifts in space and move across domains at will, plunges his fingers into Vision’s skull in order to acquire the Time stone, which gives him divine insight; sacrifices Gamora at Vormir in order to acquire the soul stone; seizes the Reality stone from the collector at Knowhere which helps him manipulate reality around him, and compels Doctor Strange to give him the Time stone lest he kills Tony Stark (Iron Man).
Despite Thor impaling Thanos with his new hammer, “Storm-breaker”, Thanos snaps his fingers and the world goes quiet. The aftermath shows half of everyone we know (T’Challa/Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Spiderman, StarLord, Drax, Winter Soldier/White Wolf) fading into dust, leaving the survivors stunned and the audience in a mixed state of disbelief, shock and tears.
However, all who have been following the MCU in earnest, would find comfort/assurance in the fact that Spiderman 2 premieres in July 2019, Captain Marvel (in the post-credits scene to the Infinity War, as Fury fades away, we see him drop a pager that reveals Captain Marvel’s insignia) who is set to play a crucial role in the sequel of the Infinity War, gets her standalone movie in 2019 as well, along with Black Panther 2 & 3, Doctor Strange 2& 3 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Labeling this movie a blockbuster, almost seems a gross oversimplification – if you haven’t seen any of the earlier MCU movies, you might struggle with this one, as there is very little hand-holding, however, it’s certainly one you are going to relish.