Strap yourselves in, folks. Josh Stevens, Demelza Ward and I have all been to see Avengers: Infinity War, and we just can’t help but talk about it! This is outside our usual areas of gaming and anime, but with Infinity War being such a cultural hit right now, this might help those who’ve seen the film process everything that happened – because, yeah, there’s a lot. This isn’t replacing the regular Monday Tanuki Talk with Ashley Harrison and I (this week we talked about Virtual Console and Nintendo Switch) – this is a bonus crossover with other writers here at Tanuki Bridge. A Tanuki War, if you like. OK, that’s the terrible joke out of the way – let’s get into it!
WARNING: WE’RE GOING INTO SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. IF YOU WOULD NOT LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT CERTAIN MAJOR EVENTS, THEN TURN BACK NOW.
Welcome to the War
William Robinson: So, this is a bit of a different Tanuki Talk. For starters, we have a rather different cast; I’m joined today by fellow Tanuki Bridge writers Josh Stevens and Demelza Ward! Why the special occasion? Well, after 10 years of build-up, Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War dropped yesterday to take over the planet. Whilst it isn’t directly game-related, it’s such a big deal that we just had to talk about it here. We’re going full spoilers, and that means we have a LOT to discuss. Maybe we should start with whether this film satisfied your expectations?
Josh Stevens: Yeah, this one’s a little different to what we usually cover – it’s not a game, or an anime. We’re just all also huge Marvel film fans and given the film just came out, it’s hard to find someone willing to talk spoilers with, so we need an avenue to vent! Just to really set in stone that we’re not shying away from any spoilers, I’ll start by saying that I got what I’ve always said I wanted from this film: I’m glad Thanos won.
Demelza Ward: It’s definitely nice to have seen the film and immediately be able talk about the nitty gritty of it given just how much happens this time around. It certainly wasn’t holding back! I must admit though, in terms of meeting my expectations I have some problems with Infinity War, and that’s a shame given the hype around it.
JS: Oh yeah, the film definitely has its problems and flaws. After the initial shock factor wore off, I found that putting many aspects of the film under even the lightest scrutiny can make some parts fall apart. Especially when you’re dealing with literal deus ex machina like the Infinity Stones. I think the film’s pacing suffered; mainly due to having to cram so much in. There were hardly any moments for characters to breath and talk about something not Thanos-related. Thor and the Guardians had some great interactions, but Strange’s meeting with Stark was way too quick, in my opinion.
WR: Before we start ripping it apart though, let’s at least focus on the stuff we liked first. On the topic of Thanos, I think that the best way to view this is as Thanos’ film, and from that perspective he gets a great arc. His introduction in the opening scene is imposing, he has significant challenges on his path to obtaining the 6 Infinity Stones, but at the end he manages to succeed. It sounds a bit like the story of a Marvel superhero lead… Did he work as a villain for you two?
DW: I think he was probably the best villain in a Marvel movie so far. They managed to make him human, which I feel is really important instead of him just being someone who is evil for the sake of being evil. Thanos has a reasonable ideal in mind (for him, anyway) and I’m not sure he agrees with what he has to do to gain the power to see it through.
JS: I think Thanos will go down in movie villain history. I’d say he’s comparable to Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica; ruled by logic above all else, which makes him even more terrifying. Thanos showing genuine remorse over having to kill Gamora was a really nice touch. I agree with Demelza about him being the best Marvel Studios villain yet. So far, only Loki and Killmonger really came close.
Demelza Ward: Thanos has a reasonable ideal in mind – for him, anyway
WR: It felt like some tricks were carried over from Killmonger to Thanos, in terms of making a great antagonist. We get time to understand his ideals, at times even start to agree with him, but then he goes over the edge in how he is executing them. I mean, killing half of the universe is a tad much. Despite THAT ending, which we will get on to, I think Gamora was the biggest death impact for me. It also feels like she is truly gone, even if they do some time magic in the sequel.
JS: Just a tad. I think Thanos’ motivation goes back to my Kyubey comparison. Kyubey makes Magical Girls go through the suffering that turns them into witches, for the sake of ultimately delaying the heat death of the universe. Thanos noted that Gamora’s home world prospered after he drastically reduced their population, but that doesn’t make it morally right. It’s as Captain America said: “We don’t trade lives” (or something like that).
DW: I think to talk about the losses, the biggest for me were Loki and Vision. I mean, yes, Loki has had it coming for a long time, but I genuinely will miss him if he stays dead. Vision’s death was very emotionally charged – although I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt they spent too long on it.
JS: I think Loki was a long time coming. Thor: Ragnarok made me realise that Marvel Studios didn’t really have any more ideas for the character; he just kept repeating the same motions. I think Wanda’s agony over having to kill the man whose love she finally got to realise was heart-breaking. The slow motion sequence of her simultaneously trying to destroy the Mind Stone and push away Thanos was nail-biting, and Wanda’s scream when Thanos activated the Time Stone was one of true terror. Elizabeth Olsen was incredible here.
WR: On Loki, I very much liked that he got his final moment of trying to do the right thing, even if he failed. Now, it’s time to talk about the general structure of the film, because with so many characters, the Russo Brothers had a mammoth task. We saw separate stories with different combinations of characters, before some of these stories started to converge at the climax. After starting in New York, Iron Man, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange went off towards Thanos’s home planet of Titan; Wanda and Vision went with Captain America and company to Wakanda; and Thor spent a lot of time with the Guardians of the Galaxy in space. Did the way this played out work for you, and did any characters stand out to you in particular?
DW: I think, where the characters are concerned, I was disappointed by the fact the Avengers were all split apart – I’d wanted to see them together as one big group. I also think there was a sense that the more similar characters were being pushed into each group, or characters that already knew each other were coming together – Like Iron Man babysitting Spider-Man again.
JS: I agree with Demelza about the cast being splintered. Doctor Strange and the Guardians were really the only ones who even interacted with new people, due to them being so shut off in their solo films (bar Strange briefly meeting Thor in his film’s post-credit scene). In terms of pacing, I think the film was too fast. It had a lot to cram in, so it was really jumping from one bullet point to another. This meant that aside from very rare moments, we didn’t get to see characters interacting about anything other than Thanos.
For example, am I supposed to believe that Tony Stark would see Doctor Strange’s magic and just roll with it from the get go? The chemistry between Thor and the Guardians was brilliant, and Chris Hemsworth really does shine as a comedic actor. A lot of characters were really underutilised, though; particularly the Wakandan based cast and the Black Order. Seriously, the Black Order was a waste. When Ebony Maw was taken out really on, I thought “Really? Is that it?”. I wish the film had spent more time to elaborate on the Hulk, too. We had all this hype about the character having a 3-part arc that will take place between Ragnarok, Infinity War and the sequel, but he didn’t really do anything here. I deduced that maybe Hulk was scared after losing to Thanos at the start, but it would have been good to have that explored a bit more.
Josh Stevens: The chemistry between Thor and the Guardians was brilliant, and Chris Hemsworth really does shine as a comedic actor
WR: To me, it felt a little paint-by-numbers at the start, as we went from area to area to see characters rather than them coming together naturally like in New York, where it makes sense for Spidey to rock up not knowing what he’s doing. We were being reintroduced to the likes of Wanda, Vision and then Black Panther a long way into the film. What that tells me is that we may have just about hit the limit of characters in a film; the original Avengers looks cute now! Imagine when the X-Men turn up…
A friend I saw the film with noted that they would have liked a bit more info on the Black Order. They had certain qualities such as a weapon that can hurt Vision, but we never really got details – could we have lost a joke or two and got that instead? Hemsworth is certainly hilarious (the you-copied-my-beard joke was brilliant) but some of the film went overboard for me, comedically. You mention the Hulk; there was a lot of time spent on him not being able to unleash himself, but never a moment to explain that that is probably because he is scared of Thanos. That would be a dramatic line, but instead we got more half-green Ruffalo. There were a lot of jokes, but was it too much for you?
DW: I think the Hulk is a very important piece to focus on here, because you’re both right in that his issues weren’t explained very well. Realistically, this is probably due to it being held back for the second movie; I expect Hulk will finally make his entrance and Hulk Smash the enemy to bits. With so many characters to work with, something is always going to go amiss, and in this instance it was definitely development for Hulk. Its a shame because, like Josh said – this was meant to be a multi story arc for him, and Ragnarok did develop him a great deal.
Demelza Ward: With so many characters to worth with, something is always going to go amiss, and in this instance it was definitely development for Hulk
JS: I think, instead of Banner yelling at Hulk calling him an asshole, that line could have been used to at least acknowledge his fear. Ragnarok established that Hulk has the mental age of a child, so being knocked around by Thanos would scare him. I think we had a nice balance of humour and seriousness – we certainly don’t want another Age of Ultron.
WR: We know a sequel is coming that will likely have a very different focus cast-wise (we’ll get onto the ending eventually, don’t worry everyone) but does that excuse a film for that sort of character use? Should it stand on its own? I mean, I was surprised how little Captain America we got in this film, and the lines he did get were mostly pretty generic. I expect he will have a lot more to do in the next film, but that doesn’t necessarily give this movie a pass (also, we better get a LOT of Hawkeye next year).
JS: I think your earlier comment about hitting the peak cast size was spot on – especially when they tried to cram the supporting cast in. Ned only got a single line, Shuri only a few, etc. Hopefully the next film having a smaller roster will mean a more cohesive movie. When the films were first announced as Infinity War: Part 1 & Part 2, that set my expectations for what this would be, even after the titles changed. However, Infinity War really feels incomplete. It’s like we’ve had Act 1 and 2 of a story, but not 3. I think I would have actually preferred to watch a 5 hour long film than have to wait a whole year to see this story end – because, despite what the Russo brothers or Feige say, this really was just the first part of a story and, as such, doesn’t really stand on its own.
WR: I would agree that some characters didn’t get story arcs that felt complete, but like I mentioned previously, I think Thanos is not one of them. He gets 3 distinct acts.
An Attack, on the Planet Titan
WR: Let’s get back onto the sheer spectacle of this film, though, as there is just so much going on. Take the analytical hats off for a second, and let’s talk about all those incredible brilliant action scenes. Which moments stand out as living up to the hype? Personally, I’d start with that whole fight scene with Thanos on Titan. Watching the team-up of heroes there was incredible, and Dr Strange is emerging as one of my Marvel Cinematic Universe favourites.
DW: Oh yeah, the fight scene on Titan was definitely my favourite. I think Dr Strange, Iron Man and the Guardians made for a well put together team and had the most to compliment one another in a fight. I think the very first battle with Dr Strange/Iron Man was equally compelling, although a large part of that was thanks to the quips between Tony and Strange.
JS: Doctor Strange’s stand-off with Thanos was easily my favourite action sequence of the film; seeing the Sorcerer Supreme’s magic going toe-to-toe with the Reality Stone was incredible. You guys know me, Doctor Strange was my favourite hero long before his solo film came out. I definitely wasn’t disappointed by him here. Like Demelza, I enjoyed the brief antagonistic relationship he had with Stark; I just wish the hectic pace allowed us to see more of it. Thor really proved why he’s called a God in this film as well. His entrance into the Wakanda battle was superb. Another incredible moment, was Thanos’ walk towards Vision. So many heroes tried to get in his way, but were just effortlessly tossed aside, in near silence and slow motion.
DW: I also liked Thor’s entrance, although I don’t really understand why he needed the axe considering the idea of the previous Thor movie was that even with the destruction of his hammer, it didn’t mean he’d lost any of his power. I guess the idea of it was so the axe could be a catalyst for his power as well as allowing him to travel through space, but I think the pace of the film meant it wasn’t explained very well.
William Robinson: Stormbreaker, the awesome new suit, and the whole scenario made it such an amazing, fulfilling moment for Thor
JS: To be fair, the whole point of Thor: Ragnarok was literally blown away in the first few minutes. Well, half of the point at least. Maybe the Russo Brothers just didn’t like the film?
WR: If they didn’t, it wasn’t shown in that Thor entrance. That might have been the biggest hype moment for me – the axe (Stormbreaker), the awesome new suit, and the whole scenario made it such an amazing, fulfilling moment for the character. In terms of the Stormbreaker itself, it was basically a McGuffin – early on we got a brief line about it being able to kill Thanos, which felt pretty lazy honestly. Actually, that whole sequence with Peter Dinklage dragged; it was a means to an end, and I was looking for the film to progress at that point, especially with the compelling action that was happening on Titan.
It was worth it in the end, though. As you say, Thanos makes that walk to Vision, uses the Time Stone to revive him, and claims the final Infinity Stone. Then, out of nowhere, Thor comes in with the axe. It overcomes the power of a full Infinity Gauntlet, and for a horrible second I thought it was a really cheap victory, and Thanos was defeated. Then BAM – Thanos clicks his fingers and does what he kept telling us he would do, wiping out half of the living beings in the universe. Something I took from this, other than the boldness of Marvel actually going through with it, was that Thor was the last line of defence. Even just from the start of Ragnarok, he has developed into a fantastic, rounded character – perhaps the most complete hero out of the current Avengers roster.
Y’know, this is a bit big for one article, isn’t it? It’s as if a discussion about this Avengers film, which is itself part of a narrative which will continue in a sequel next year, deserves two pieces to fit everything. That’s a great idea, actually! Tomorrow, the sequel to this Tanuki Talk will discuss the powerful ending of Infinity War, as well as the prospects for the next Avengers film. Everyone loves a cliffhanger, right?