Infinite Possibilities, by Tyler Smith
Two weeks after the release of DC’s Justice League, Marvel has premiered its official trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, a film that has been meticulously set up since the brief appearance of Thanos at the end of The Avengers. Reactions to the trailer have been generally positive, quite possibly because of the lackluster response – critically and financially – to Justice League. Many seem to take the attitude of, “See? Now that’s how you do that!” This is a sentiment that I’m inclined to agree with, especially when it comes to the assembly of established characters. Where DC was eager to get its heroes together in one movie, needing to resort to clunky exposition in order to introduce its new characters, Marvel patiently rolled out its universe one movie at a time and, with it, the increasing promise of a cosmic being that will pose a genuine threat to our heroes.
However, it is in this development that Infinity War could fall well short of the huge expectations it has set up for itself. I’m certainly not the first person to acknowledge Marvel’s villain problem. With a couple of exceptions – notably Loki, Red Skull, Ego, and Ultron (and even those are debatable) – Marvel’s heavies have been vague in their abilities, forgettable in their personalities, and simplistic in their motivations. This is especially true when it comes to their cosmic villains. Is there really any difference between Malekith from Thor: The Dark World and Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy?
This is my concern with the Thanos character. Considered one of the greatest villains of the Marvel universe, much of what makes him unique is his cocky attitude, thirst for power, and his love of Death (Death being an actual character in the Marvel universe). If the writers of Infinity War get these aspects of Thanos right – with the possible exception of the Death thing, which might wind up being a bit too odd for mainstream audiences – that will go a long way towards these films being as effective as they need to be. I was certainly encouraged when they announced that Josh Brolin would play Thanos. The casting of an intense-but-0ffbeat American actor instead of a grandiose Brit already speaks to the desire to make Thanos a little different than what one would expect.
But, then, I had high hopes for Hela from Thor: Ragnarok, played by the always-dependable Cate Blanchett. But once the plot started kicking in, Hela’s personality flattened out and her motivations became just as generic as those of the previous Marvel villains. So there is still the very real possibility that the central point around which the entire Infinity War concept revolves could be boring and by-the-numbers.
Ultimately, though, the real appeal of Infinity War is the coming together of dozens of characters that we’ve come to know over the last ten years. Imagining Tony Stark interact with Dr. Strange or Starlord talking with Spider-Man is quite delightful. What’s more is that we actually can imagine these interactions, because we have a previous understanding of these characters. We don’t have to just guess at what these relationships might be like, as we did in Justice League.
So, yes, as I watch the Infinity War trailer, I have hope that the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe could be every bit as exciting as it is meant to be. But with every opportunity to get things right, there are just as many to mess things up. And, unlike many others, I wasn’t a big fan of what the Russo Brothers did with Captain America: Civil War. I felt the script was all over the place and the action was surprisingly bland. Here’s hoping that they’ve matured as filmmakers and are able to deliver a film that is every bit as exciting and powerful as the comic that inspired it.