The worst part of Avengers: Infinity War is Thanos.
Or, at least what Thanos represents. It’s ironic, considering he is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s mantlepiece. Everything’s been building to Thanos’ arrival on Earth for so long that his arrival needed to be over-the-top and extravagant. He’s the ultimate comic book villain, and Infinity War is the ultimate comic book movie. Thanos came, saw and conquered. While his debut is everything the Marvel Cinematic Universe set it up to be — a massive, intergalactic battle between superheroes and a monstrous mad titan — Thanos still felt antiquated.
He’s no longer the most intriguing part of the MCU, and neither are the large scale battles that pack Infinity War. The kinetic energy that keeps Infinity War running is the little moments of camaraderie, devotion and love shared between characters in between each fight.
[Warning: The following contains major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.]
The MCU’s skeletal structure gets compared to TV quite a bit. Every new movie is new installment in a 22-episode network drama. Infinity War is the cliffhanger finale we’ve been slowly building to over an entire season. We’ve been conditioned to believe that Thanos is everything Marvel has been building to for 10 years, but that’s not true.
It’s the relationships between superheroes that makes the MCU so incredibly special.
My favorite moment in Infinity War is inconsequential. Members of the Avengers and Guardians meet on Titan, Thanos’ home. They begin to shoot at one another, each thinking the opposing side is allied with Thanos. When they finally come face to face, Iron Man has his foot on Drax’s chest, and Star-Lord has his gun pointed at Iron Man’s head.
“Where is Gamora?” Star-Lord asks.
“I’ll do you one better; who is Gamora?” Iron Man quips back.
“I’ll do you one better; WHY IS GAMORA?” Drax yells from below.
It’s an absolutely silly and absurd moment that helps to break the ice in a tense situation. It’s adorable, striking the right tone for each character involved in the situation. Star-Lord is heroic and aggressive; Iron Man sarcastic and witty; Drax is obtuse and unintentionally funny. It’s a scene that works within the world Infinity War sets up, but also a series of jokes years in the making.
There are so many of these jokes floating through Infinity War. Each one is just as good as the last. They’re corny — some might even call the jokes cringe-worthy at their worst — but this is what I’ve been waiting a decade to see. The jokes land because we’ve gotten to know the characters over the past 10 years, and learned how they work with one another. Spider-Man and Iron Man’s father-son relationship is extra indulgent — but it works. Groot’s teenage attitude is a joke from the very beginning of the movie almost to the very end — but it works. Doctor Strange and Iron Man find a pompous asshole in each other, bantering until their very last breaths — but it works.
I love seeing these characters rib on one another. The reason the Marvel Cinematic Universe means a lot to me is because they’re such close friends, and act as such. Some of the MCU’s best moments are also some of their most subdued. The Avengers trying to lift Thor’s hammer in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Loki, Thor and Bruce Banner working together in Thor: Ragnarok and, of course, the shawarma scene in The Avengers are just a few that come to mind.
Infinity War takes all of these small, cutesy moments between superheroes and amplifies them by a thousand. Their interactions are Infinity War’s heartbeat, steadily keeping the film going throughout all the battle sequences. Thanos was irrelevant by the end of Infinity War; just an obstacle standing in way of the film’s real magic — the Avengers’ friendship.
I couldn’t tell you what my favorite battle scene was, or the coolest attack executed. But I can list my five favorite jokes off the top of my head.
Avengers: Infinity War was a comedy-of-sorts — and it’s definitely worth the 10 years it took to get here.