Warning: contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.
Avengers: Infinity War tried to revolutionize the Marvel Cinematic Universe by introducing real stakes, but its bold ending falls short. It definitely hits an emotional mark, yet the ultimate feeling is somewhat hollow.
That's not to say Infinity War isn't an event. Fans shivered with anticipation at the prospects this film hinted at, and ven the most cynical critics and journalists agreed to keeping the films secrets locked down until the general public could see the thrills for themselves.
It was tough not to be overwhelmed by two hours and forty minutes of action, twists and one of the series’ bleakest climaxes. While audiences and critics debate over the quality of the movie – is it really Marvel’s best or was it an underwhelming addition to the franchise? – it’s worth taking stock of what happened. Not only did Thanos acquire all six Infinity Stones – sacrificing his own daughter, Gamora, in the process – but he used that godlike power to eradicate one half of the universe’s population. With barely a blink, some of the MCU’s most beloved characters disintegrated before our eyes – Bucky Barnes, T’Challa, Star-Lord, Groot, Drax, Nick Fury, Dr. Strange, to name a few. To say that the bad guy merely won would be an understatement. But was this "real" stakes?
Infinity War Ups the Emotional Stakes
Whatever you think of the ending – and it has its detractors – the emotional resonance it created was undeniable. The MCU hasn’t been short of tear-jerking moments (think the death of Agent Coulson in The Avengers or the emotional climax between Peter Quill and Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). Yet Avengers: Infinity War’s raising of the stakes invested heavily in making sure every death mattered. It’s hard not to be invested in these heroes when audiences have spent close to 20 movies with some of them. The franchise has accomplished a lot in its decade of life, but the sheer emotional force of that climax could be a new peak for it.
The emotions were also high for Thanos himself. The franchise has had issues with its villains for a while, and up until this point, many fans felt that Thanos lacked true menace or any grounding in humanity. While his motivations remain questionable, the stakes felt tangible for him in Infinity War. To gain control of the Soul Stone, he must sacrifice that which he loves the most, and so with real tears in his eyes, he tosses Gamora to her death. The relationship between Gamora and her unwanted adopted father has formed one of the MCU’s most intriguing subplots, but it’s one the franchise held back on until this film. The complexities between the two felt authentic and the audience keenly understood that, even for a narcissistic tyrant, the decision would haunt him for the rest of his days.
It can’t be enough for a film to make the stakes high for the heroes: It must be the same for the villain, and in that aspect, Infinity War delivered on its promise. The problems come when you apply this to the wider franchise.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019