Avengers: Infinity War―Where Do We Go From Here?

infinity war

This movie broke me. I’m not the kind of girl who cries at the movies. Heck, I haven’t cried at the movies since Les Miserables and then this movie comes along and gets me bawling by the time the end credits are rolling. This movie is not for the faint of heart and no matter how much you prepare yourself, you will not be ready for what’s to come. All I can say is that if it wasn’t for the fact that I know there will be sequels planned for this movie and for some of the characters, I would be inconsolable.

That’s not to say that this movie is bad. If anything, it really did its job. I wouldn’t be crying if it didn’t make me care about the characters. This has been the work of ten years of buildup, with movies that made us actually care about star-spangled spandex men and men in robot suits. If anything else, this movie shows that all the work that Marvel has put into their movies has paid off.

When people call this an event movie, they aren’t kidding. It’s a major crossover with a great villain. I am ranking Thanos up there with Kilgrave, Loki, Kingpin, and Killmonger as far as effective and compelling Marvel villains. He’s brutal, he’s got some aspects of his life that make him sympathetic, but make no mistake, he is not one to mess with.

Every character gets a moment to shine here, even the heroes who would be labeled as supporting characters or second string/B-team. I honestly wish there were more moments with the “second string” characters, but that would make the movie longer than it already is. The story is tragic in the best way possible (see my crying face), the effects are a spectacle, and the action is visceral. I felt like I was pulled out of my body for a while and then thrust back in, Doctor Strange style.

Overall, I want to give this movie and 8/10. It’s not absolutely perfect, but it is worth seeing, especially if you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Congratulations, Russo Brothers. You blew us all away.

Now if you want to know why I don’t give this movie a 10, read below. Spoilers ahead.

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The Importance of Being Mantis

mantis

What exactly makes Guardians of the Galaxy so beloved within the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe? Aside from the soundtracks, the real driving forces behind Guardians of the Galaxy and the sequel are the protagonists. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 gives everyone character development that takes them from being “Space Avengers” to stand-out individuals. It also introduced Mantis, Ego’s adopted daughter, played by Pom Klementieff. Mantis is a unique character compared to the others in the movie and even in the larger scope of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe characters.

 

Up to this point, the female characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have either been very stoic and efficient in battle (Black Widow, Gamora, Daisy Johnson) or love interests that are relegated to supporting roles (Pepper Potts, Jane Foster). Mantis, however, is neither a love interest nor an action girl. Instead, she connects to the Guardians of the Galaxy by her empathic abilities. The fact that her character arc centers on emotionally connecting with others and sharing her social awkwardness is a breath of fresh air when considering how often people want women in the media to either be tough, strong, and stoic or the emotional damsel in distress or just act as fanservice.

 

Mantis is the first character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I could say is the character who is most like me. Given that the MCU has been around since 2008, it’s hard to believe that it took almost a decade for Marvel to introduce a character like her. It’s not to say that I didn’t like The Avengers or the Guardians or the Agents of Shield or the Defenders. I love all of them to certain extents. However, something that made Marvel comics appealing was that it introduced characters that felt relatable, like an average teenage boy from Queens suddenly getting spider abilities or an average Muslim girl from New Jersey suddenly being able to stretch and shrink her body. While Mantis is by no means an average human being, she was based on a half-Asian human character from the comics. What makes her relatable to me is her social awkwardness and empathic abilities.

 

In an interview with Carson Daly, Pom Klementieff said:

In Marvel movies, we’re used to seeing badass and strong female characters, which I love…But it’s cool to show something else, you know, to show someone who’s less self-confident, who’s a bit weird.

 

Throughout the movie, Mantis connects to the other Guardians, especially Drax (played by Dave Bautista). It makes sense, given that they’re both socially awkward. However, what really seals their friendship is when she uses her empathic powers on Drax as he reflects on the loss of his wife and daughter. She breaks down in tears while he looks out at the beautiful scenery with a smile. It’s not certain whether Drax is at peace with what happened or if he happy that he’s just starting to move on. What is certain is that Drax finally found a friend who understands his grief.

 

Of course, my shipping radar went off the roof with how Drax and Mantis interacted with each other. I find relationships based on emotional connection and attraction very appealing. However, it’s made explicitly clear that Mantis and Drax find each other physically repulsive and do not want to pursue anything romantic. This averts any ideas of the emotional, empathetic one being anyone’s designated love interest.  (Apologies to the Drax/Mantis shippers.)

 

In a world that’s trying to figure out the ideal heroic woman, having a character like Mantis is a step forward in the right direction. It’s important for young girls to know that there are times that call them to be strong, but they shouldn’t discard their ability to empathize with others. The purpose of stories is to create empathy for people we wouldn’t normally connect with. Mantis shows that there is a great strength in being empathetic. Having empathy allowed Mantis to find people who cared for her as a person, a new family beyond just Ego and her empathic abilities actually helped in the inevitable final battle. I seriously can’t wait to see what she does in the next movie the Guardians appear in!

Avengers vs Batman/Superman AKA Why Angst Is Overrated

I’ll be the first to admit that I am just a casual fan of superheroes at best. I didn’t grow up reading comic books. I watched anime and read manga (Japanese graphic novels) growing up. However, as I also stated before, I’m always appreciative of stories with good writing and compelling characters. And I’m growing to love the fact that superheroes are becoming a thing.

But there’s something else that I need to bring up: Stories, especially superhero stories, don’t have to be overly dark and angsty in order to be compelling. What exactly is “angst” you ask? Angst is, according to dictionary.com “a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish.” Lots of tv shows and movies use a lot of angst to drive the conflict, creating more drama than your average daytime soap opera and relying on what some people call “pretty people problems,” more commonly referred to as “first world problems.” But while some shows can use angst and actually use it to develop the characters in a smart way (watch Buffy Season 6 and cry your heart out as an example), other shows, and oftentimes, superhero movies tend to be too dark and rely on angst way too much.

The early 2000s saw a lot of movies with characters that were up to their knees in angst such as The Punisher. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were able to balance out the angst with some humor, heartwarming moments, and character development, but The Dark Knight Rises was way too rushed. This brand of brooding would later be passed on to  the current run of Superman films.

Now, I grew up watching Smallville. The show was your usual WB/CW teen drama with soap opera levels of writing and teenage-levels of whining and angst, but in spite of that, I liked that the show didn’t come at the expense of making Clark a brooding Byronic hero. There were still some levels of humor that balanced out the less-than-stellar moments such as everything related to Clark and Lana. The current run of Superman films are a stark contrast to this. They build up Superman to be a man with a god-complex (and yes, even I got sick of the pretentious Jesus Christ comparisons in Man of Steel) and the trailer for Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice looks to be something Frank Miller would feel very proud of. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.

Contrast this with the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. While the early days of the Marvel movies had a shaky start with some of the movies doing well (like Iron Man and Thor) while others didn’t (such as the Hulk movies) , the company finally hit the ground running with Captain America and eventually Avengers. They even succeeded in making a movie of one of their more obscure groups of heroes, The Guardians of the Galaxy successful. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll be looking more into Captain AmericaAvengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Now that’s not to say that Marvel has never made overly angsty movies in the recent years. The Spider-Man remakes starring Arthur Garfield are a bit too angsty for my taste and rely way too much on building up questions that never get answered and introducing way too many characters at once. You know, like the writers of Lost and Once Upon a Time. I’m just creating this post to express what I think makes a good story overall.

Spoilers ensue. You have been warned.

You can make a lot of comparisons between Captain America and Superman. Both heroes are seen as American icons and always want to do the right thing, sticking to their ideals and rarely, if ever, resorted to killing to get things done. However, there’s a huge difference between them as portrayed in their films. Captain America is shown to be artistic, sensitive, and self-sacrificing. He wants to stand up to bullies of all sorts, whether it be Nazis or HYDRA. In spite of the fact that he’s a man out of time, he’s socially functional and is great at making and keeping friends. His friendship with Black Widow is hilarious because she keeps trying to set him up on dates and you can totally imagine her being his best man in his wedding. (Whoever he marries, of course, is up in the air.)

You don’t see the Superman from Man of Steel being the guy who makes friends easily. All the characters talk about how important he is and how much responsibility he has on his shoulders. The whole Savior complex has been done a million times and with a lot more subtlety than in this movie. And yes, I do have issues over the fact that Superman killed Zod. Mostly because Superman never kills and what Zak Snyder said to try and justify this murder doesn’t really make that much sense. You know it’s bad when even a casual fan of superheroes calls you out on a glaring inconsistency.

The Superman vs Batman trailer honestly disappointed me. I understand that there was a Superman vs Batman storyline in the comics, but it made it seem like the two heroes are going to go in an all-out war with each other. Contrast that with the Thor’s Hammer trailer from Avengers: Age of Ultron.

When was the last time you ever saw superheroes having fun? Or hanging out with their fellow heroes like a bunch of college kids? I honestly can’t recall that, even from the days of the DC Animated Universe. I mean, it’s one thing to see the Teen Titans having downtime because they’re teenagers, but I felt genuine excitement and laughter as I watched it. It was hilarious to see Tony’s three attempts all failing, including getting War Machine’s help. I loved the look on Thor’s face when Steve Rodgers was able to make Mjolnir budge ever so slightly. It made so much sense that Natasha wouldn’t play along because the guys were clearly having a sizing-up contest and she didn’t want any part of it because she’s mature like that. Plus, Maria Hill is with them, so it’s not like she was the only girl not playing. And then Ultron comes in and totally ruins the moment. The other trailers for Avengers show that there are gonna be major obstacles ahead for the heroes, but what makes Avengers as a whole work is that they’re not just heroes, but also people.

Now take a look at Guardians of the Galaxy.

These heroes aren’t even as well-known as the Avengers or the Justice League. But when I watched it last summer, I had a lot of fun. The moments that come to mind are always the moments that make me laugh, which makes the dramatic climax all the more startling because it still fit the tone of the movie, but came with a shocking death in the end. Thankfully, Groot came back. The funny thing is that these heroes didn’t come with that expectation of doing the right thing hanging over them. They reminded me a lot of the crew of Serenity from Firefly. They aren’t heroes because they wanted to be or because greatness was thrust upon them. Instead they became heroes by chance. So while they’re not as straight laced as Captain America or the Justice League, you know that you’re going to have a fun ride with them.

Maybe it’s just my personal preference, but I always love stories that make me laugh just as much as they make me cry and/or scared out of my mind. The best movies and stories are able to balance out angst with humor and heartwarming moments. Characters are ideally seen as people first and not archetypes or cliches. And while I can allow characters to have moments of tragedy and sadness, it’s always great whenever the characters finally take action and do something to solve their problem.

It’s also why, so far, I like the latest Daredevil. As I said yesterday, I don’t think I ever recall seeing a villain on a human level the way they wrote Fisk in “In the Blood.” Usually, villains already come with a love interest or act more forceful in the pursuit of a love interest. Fisk, on the other hand, is actually nervous and courteous, genuinely in love with Vanessa. Contrast this with Daredevil’s overly angsty predecessor, as reviewed by the one and only Nostalgia Critic:

My latest Daredevil recap will be posted later today, so stay tuned!