Pit Stop After Infinity War, or, Fifty Outcomes

It’s out! It’s out! Infinity War is out! And I saw it! Twice! And now the bill has come due and I’ve got to live up to the fifty predictions I made for the film just before going into the theater opening night. I got basically everything and the stuff I didn’t correctly predict is absolutely there in the subtext, so without further adieu, enjoy how impressive I am!

 

 

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Thor and Black Panther “King High-Five”
I mean… maybe off-screen?

2. Ebony Maw is horrifying
This is a bit of a gimme, since he was a total creep with his creepy little “shush” finger in the trailer, but whatever punks, called it!

3. Cap and Doctor Strange “Steve High-Five”
This is a sore one as not only did Cap and Doc not “Steve High-Five,” I also failed to predict that Star-Lord and Spider-Man would “Peter High-Five” and on top of that Star-Lord and Spider-Man didn’t “Peter High-Five”

4. Cull Obsidian turns to camera and says “remember when my name was Black Dwarf? Anyway, where’s Supergiant?
Look all I’m saying is I didn’t understand a word that doofus said, so I’m probably wrong, but, I mean, you don’t know

5. Tony and Doctor Strange “Facial Hair High-Five” a.k.a. “kiss”
Okay I’m “wrong” in the sense that they didn’t actually kiss, but I’m right in the sense that they actually came really, really close

6. Lando shows up
I found this blockbuster both as thought-provoking and as infuriatingly Lando-less at The Last Jedi

7. Hela lives! #goddessofdeath #Avengers4
If I’m being real, this theory was based on Hela replacing the role of Death from Infinity Gauntlet in Infinity War, but if I’m being petty… juries still out suckers!

8. Surely someone makes fun of the name Proxima Midnight
Seemed like a dead-ringer and than no one in Thanos’ Black Order, or the Black Order itself, ever got name checked, aside from Ebony Maw getting the illustrious “half-name-drop”

9. That GD soul stone is in Wakanda whether they know it or not!
Swing and a miss!

10. By the time the movie starts Thanos has already murdered Glen Close and John C. Riley
“Blah, blah, blah Xandar, blah, blah, blah last week.” -Thor. Boom.

11. Tony quips. Cut to: Thanos making “Jim” face
Tempted as I am to try and claim “Jim” face just means a purple face, I can admit when I’m wrong

12. The real Hawkeye was the friends we made along the way
Prove me wrong.

13. Bucky is very unhappy with Cap’s beard and he’s not to keen on his facial hair either
Inconclusive

14. Bucky gets to work on a jealousy beard and starts growing out his facial hair too
Slightly less inconclusive, but he’s got stubble and he certainly had a moment with that racoon!

15. Tony and Pepper already divorced
Even though they didn’t say it’s their first wedding, I’ll own up to this one

16. Red Skull has something to do with something somehow
Alright come on, this one was pretty freaking impressive

17. Vision just gets totally #*%@ed over by the whole mind stone thing
I mean, obviously, but still

18. Groot experimenting with recreation drug use, or the implication of as much
Video game addiction is a thing! But I guess it’s not a drug…

19. The Guardians’ various space-gibberish languages revealed at last!
I’m just saying I did genuinely think this would be a thing

20. Rocket bullies the shit out of Thor
Who’da thunk?

21. Scarlett Witch? She’s just kind of there
Wouldn’t ya know it, the ol’ Witch arguably had more to do than ever before. Spooky!

22. No one invites Ant-Man to the war and when he confronts everyone about it they’re all like “oh you weren’t there? We thought you were just tiny” but they didn’t, they knew
I mean… half right.

23. Justin Hammer saves the day, again
Apparently we’ll have to wait until Avengers 4 to find out… all I’m saying is, Rockwell’s got that Best Supporting Actor Heat

24. Peter Parker still a virgin
Prove me wrong, I dare you

25. Some crafty backpedaling regarding the ol’ Aether
Not a word! Just go with it I guess?

26. Joke or jokes made at the expense of Bruce Banner’s penis
Seemed reasonable at the time

27. Nobody notices Black Widow changed her hair
Boom!

28. No explanation of Thanos’ hat provided
So what? He get’s the space stone and all the sudden he doesn’t need a hat anymore? So it’s, what? A space hat? Huh? Huh?

29. Banner Hulks out in the Hulkbuster armor and is like “Hulk bust!” or some shit
Nope!

30. We find out who bought Avengers tower and it’s just sort of whoever
Nada!

31. Anthony Mackie kills it
Briefly, but I’ll take it!

32. Someone calls Rhodie “Iron Pants,” then remembers he’s disabled, and feels like a dick
But somebody probably thought it

33. Gamora stabs someone or something to death
Thanks, reality stone. More like “BS” stone, amiright? #aether

34. Nebula and Bucky “Metal Arm High-Five”
I don’t think anyone ever high-fived in this whole god-forsaken movie

35. The Outriders are way creepier on film than in LEGO
Look, those LEGOs aren’t creep at all, so, right by default

36. Someone makes fun of Thanos’ chin right to his face
Huzzah!

37. Peter Quill’s Zune has transformed him into an insufferable hipster
Mark my words, they’re holding on to this for Guardians Vol. 3

38. Nobody says anything about the Agents of SHIELD TV show and nobody cares
I said predictions, not impressive predictions

39. Nobody says anything about any of the Netflix Marvel shows and some people care for a second but then they GTFOver it
Not an immortal weapon in sight!

40. Groot in Infinity War is a third Groot and the Baby Groot from Guardians Vol. 2 died off screen and if nothing in the movie explicitly contradicts this than I’m right
Called it!

41. Wong and Thanos go way back
I’m just thinking about prequel sitcom spin-offs here

42. An Avenger gets the gauntlet, but, like, in a bad way?
Not yet anyway…

43. Dinosaurs, surely somehow dinosaurs. Or at least a shark or dragon
Sorry, you did what with the time stone? Anything but bring dinosaurs back alive? Oh, oh okay, sure. Sure, real realistic. Oh brother

44. When Thanos finally gets out of his space chair he puts his hands on his knees and goes “ooooooooooph”
Definitely offscreen though

45. Loki not happy about Cap or Bucky’s beards and he’s not to keen on their facial hair either I’m here all week
Yeah, yeah… rule of threes though!

46. All the white Avengers constantly embarrass Rhodie and Falcon in Wakanda
I mean… didn’t they though? Just in a not funny way?

47. Thor is missing an eye and I’m pretty sure Rocket and Groot stole an eye from the Ravagers and I’m just saying this specific prediction is actually cool and good!
I mean, c’mon! Pretty, pretty, pretty impressive. Maybe not a Ravager, maybe. But c’mon. This should count for all 50

48. Nick Fury finds a way to creep out of a dark corridor even though everyone’s on, like, $&@#ing Pluto
Nope, he just creeps out of the dark and into our hearts and souls in this one

49. Someone acknowledges Mantis
Mantis actually had, like, stuff to do in this movie!

50. Thanos is at least 38
Inconclusive, but you sure as shit ain’t going to convince me he’s 37

 

Come back next year for, I don’t know, like 100 predictions for Avengers 4? Maybe some Ant-Man & the Wasps predictions in July? This is so much easier than baking hot takes.

Advertisements

The Mauve Knight, or, Avengers: Infinity War

There aren’t any specific spoilers for Infinity War below, but if I hadn’t seen the film I wouldn’t read it. You can check out some of my pre-viewing predictions for the movie, which I’ll be returning to on Monday to grade for correctness in a separate post, here.

infinitywar

CHIN ATTACK

Watching the 18 preceeding Marvel films before going into Avengers: Infinity War gave me an appreciation for the myriad character narratives that wind throughout the franchise, with huge developments often happening for characters in movies that don’t even bare their name. For instance, some of the most compelling moments in Iron Man’s development throughout the MCU have been in the likes of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Black Panther has a huge moment of clarity in Civil War. Black Widow has an arc all her own despite never having an eponymous film. You never know how consequential any given Marvel film will be for any given Marvel character, and so going into Infinity War I was very curious what it would contribute to some of these individual characters’ narratives, what this chapter would mean in the book of Iron Man, or Black Panther, or Captain America.

I was pretty surprised when the answer was, sort of, kind of, not a lot. That’s not a barometer for the quality of the film, mind you, and it isn’t to say that consequential things don’t happen, but there aren’t a dearth of defining character beats for our heroes. There are simply so many that no one Avenger has a particularly verbose arc. I thought there’d be more Cap. More T’Challa. More Tony. And despite loving the film, I found myself wondering who exactly it was about.

But that’s actually pretty obvious.

Avengers: Infinity War could have just as easily, and more aptly, been dubbed Thanos: Infinity War, because Josh Brolin’s Mad Titan is the protagonist of the film.

In The Last Jedi (don’t worry I promise I don’t have another hot take) Supreme Leader Snoke makes a comment to Kylo Ren bemoaning the existence of hope. Not hope in the Jedi, or hope in the Resistance. Just straight up hope. It’s an exchange that drives me bananas because it rings so flat and so dull, because it is such an utterly villainous sentiment, as if Snoke is going out of his way to be a villain. It’s a sentiment that makes it seem like Snoke is not only a villain to our heroes, but a villain to himself, as if he is primed and ready to unironically grab the mic and announced “well my name’s rappin’ Snoke and I’m here to say it’s fun to rap in an evil way.”

Thanos, inversely, is no such arch-villain. In fact he’s not entirely dissimilar to Tony Stark. Both operate under the assumption that they have been, as Loki would say, “burdened with glorious purpose.” They have lofty, conceptual ideas of morality and salvation and equally lofty, conceptual notions for achieving those ends. There are certainly parallels of egomaniacal do-goodery between Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet and Stark’s Ultron program.

Part of what makes Thanos’ pursuit so compelling, what makes him a perverse, distorted protagonist (not hero, mind you), is that it doesn’t seem like he even necessarily wants to be doing what he’s doing. He’s possessed by the notion that controlled destruction is the only way to save life from utter annihilation and that he, like a great cosmic martyr, will foot the bill of that heinous but necessary sin on his own soul for the good of life itself. He seeks to save life from itself at his own expense.

There is no time then, to plumb the depths of the likes of Tony and Steve and T’Challa once more, because if Thanos is the protagonist of Infinity War, the antagonist is the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. Every one of the heroes in this movie has run deep in some previous film and thus, at least so far as the long term Marvel audience is concerned, they do not need to here. Here, in Thanos’ story, their purpose is to be short-sighted, to lack the will and purpose to make the sort of sacrifices the film’s true protagonist is prepared to demand of himself, to lack scope beyond themselves in space and time. They’re henchmen, the lot of them. Obstacles. And to see them relegated to as much before Thanos is frightening and distressing, all the more so because Thanos is our twisted protagonist.

How do you bring together twenty-something protagonists from six or so separate film series? You flip the script and dare them all to stop one protagonist from acquiring the dopest MacGuffin ever. If this were the last film in Marvel’s phase three I’d be unhappy, but as the penultimate chapter before much of the MCU’s inaugural class purportedly graduates, Infinity War upends the MCU in exciting ways with a villain whose six-year build up does not disappoint.

Road to Infinity War – Captain America: Civil War, or, When Keeping it Rational Goes Wrong

Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.

civilwar2

KISS FIGHT.

With its 13th film the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially arrives at the point in which audiences can reasonably assume that the denizens of the MCU would be like “hey these super-folks are great I guess but they sure do knock stuff over a lot with alarming regularity and I guess maybe we should do something about that.” Captain America: Civil War delves into that sentiment without ever lapsing into navel-gazing, becoming the Empire Strikes Back of the Marvel Universe that Age of Ultron fell short of and, perhaps most notably, dividing the Avengers along philosophical lines that as of this writing have yet to be resolved.

That there is no clear answer to the problem of collateral damage in the MCU is a testament to the franchise’s characters, who bring perfectly rational ideologies into a world too vast and sprawling to rationalize. Tony and Cap’s conflict in Civil War is such an ideological standstill because, after a dozen previous films, it arises so organically, so reasonably. Tony is being Tony and we love Tony. Cap is being Cap and we love Cap. The only thing that’s changed is circumstance.

Since 2008 Tony’s heroism has always been bombastic and proactive. He’s never thought small and this isn’t the first time he’s forecasted a problem and sought out an inventive solution like a man possessed. He’s always been about the big picture and he’s always had the ego to believe, for better or worse, that he can and should change the world.

Inversely, Cap is a hero who has always been grounded in the here and now, defined by a call of duty to intervene in any situation in which he senses injustice. What is broken right now? What can be fixed right now? Cap’s concerns are the injustices he can see and hear, not those that others imagine and prognosticate.

These ideologies don’t necessarily have to conflict with one another, but Civil War’s Sokovia Accords all but ensure they do. The Accords present such a compelling source of conflict because they play to the thematic backbones of both heroes.

Tony’s character arc has always been a humbling. He was a hot shot who was taken down a notch and forced to reevaluate his entire life, and now, even as a hero, his ambitiousness often sees him flying too close to the sun, all too often reaping dire consequences for the world around him, as in Age of Ultron. If you’re Tony Stark and you have even an inkling of self-awareness, come Civil War you might realize you’ve got a track record of biting off more than you can chew to the detriment of humanity. Tony’s acquiescence to the Accords is a step in the right direction for the character, an admission of guilt, a surrendering of the ego to the idea that maybe Tony Stark doesn’t always know what’s best for the world.

But for Cap, agreeing to the Sokovia Accords would mean abandoning responsibility, signing up for an excuse to take the easy way out rather than doing what is right and standing up to injustice whenever and however he can. Even as a scrawny Brooklyn kid Cap has always been about doing everything in his power to stop bullies. If something bad is happening and Steve Rogers gets wind of it, he will always take it as his personal responsibility to intervene, whether it means stopping the Red Skull from world annihilation or confronting a heckler in a movie theater. For Cap, surrendering his agency to act against injustice is irresponsible, lazy even.

These ideologies ensure that Cap and Tony come into conflict, which is unfortunate because in other circumstances, having both a head in the clouds and boots on the ground could be an asset. The reasons Cap and Tony come to blows are the same reasons the Avengers need both of them. Hopefully circumstances will arise that shed light on that, for the sake of both our heroes. Like, I don’t know, maybe a purple-chinned glove-monster from space or some shit.

For more on Captain America: Civil War, specifically why the youth of today should be held responsible for coming up with hot takes on this shit rather than me:

May 20, 2016: Captain America: Civil War, or, What’s Your Policy on Late Work?

Road to Infinity War – Avengers: Age of Ultron, or, The Selfless Marvel

Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.

ageofultron

Whoa! Look at all the stuff!

After the first Avengers film and the conclusion of phase one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe the concept of the shared movie universe seemed like a proven, cut-and-dry formula: small, enjoyable-enough “solo” movies with charming characters that slowly pave the way for a climactic collision of costumes rewarding audiences for biding their time through Avengers hanging out by themselves and not avenging. For better and worse that all kind of falls apart with Age of Ultron and Marvel’s second phase.

Like Iron Man 2 before it, Age of Ultron serves as a sort of sign post for a point of no return, an alarm for when certain storytelling strategies have been worn out. In this case, Age of Ultron represents the last time Marvel could get by on quips and costumes alone. There’s certainly joy to be had from Joss Whedon’s sassy one-liners and the reunion of our heroes is undoubtedly action-packed, but this isn’t a direct sequel to The Avengers, this is a film that has to contend with the more organic humor of Guardians of the Galaxy and the more physical action of The Winter Soldier and ultimately comes up short on both accounts.

As it turned out, those enjoyable-enough solo movies could be astonishing, and those climactic collisions of costumes could be utterly unrewarding.

Age of Ultron feels like a response to Avengers and not much else. Where the first Avengers film built directly off of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America, nothing about Age of Ultron feels like a natural progression from Marvel’s second phase of films, be it narratively or stylistically. There are the compelling seeds of a story here, James Spader’s Ultron is quirky and menacing in his own strange way and the events of this film present compelling and integral moments in the grand story arc of Tony Stark, but whatever Whedon’s initial vision for his follow-up to Avengers was, it gets muddied in translation by what feel like corporate mandates.

This is the least self-contained film in the Marvel Universe due in large part to its seeming lack of concern with itself. Age of Ultron introduces a slew of new characters, goes legitimately all over the world and sets up threads for three or four future MCU installments, but it doesn’t allot much of its running time to just be itself. It’s a very selfless movie that way, and it suffers for it, coming off like a film without an identity of its own.

Because so much of this movie is so expository, most of the characters wind up being short changed, leading to an Avengers outing that feels like less than the sum of its parts. At times Age of Ultron feels like a party that’s being thrown in order to disguise doing chores. The party being an Avengers movie. The chores being tedious and, in retrospect, entirely unnecessary setup for the MCU’s future. There are some great sequences in this movie and some genuinely funny moments, but it certainly hit the brakes on the exciting momentum the MCU had been building since The Winter Soldier.

And now for a look back at the morning after I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron, a point in which I am both not yet prepared to admit my disappointment with this movie and compelled by a sense of duty to write something about this movie:

May 1, 2015: Avengers: Age of Ultron, or, Marvel’s Big Comic Book Movie

Road to Infinity War – Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or, The Mack Attack Begins

Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.

wintersoldier

Avengers Assemble? March 26? This isn’t American at all!!!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, for my money, is the second truly great Marvel film. It takes the character-over-costume mentality its heavyweight predecessor The Avengers exceled at and runs with it, offering an entry in the MCU that is as compelling in its own right as it is to the mythos of the franchise as a whole. It’s also the first instance of a now tried-and-true Marvel method of steeping its films in the language of another sub-genre to spectacular effect. The Winter Soldier was a new high watermark for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it didn’t even need Robert Downey Jr.

The Avengers succeeded not only by competently bringing together previously disparate superheroes, but by doing so while still emphasizing them as compelling characters rather than just flashy costumes to be smashed together like so many action figures. The Winter Soldier continues in that same vein, fleshing out returning characters and endearing audiences to new ones with the utmost tact.

Here Nick Fury is finally more than an authoritative figurehead. Here Black Widow is given the nuance and respect the character deserves, with nary a creepy cinematic impulse in sight. Here we are introduced to a truly unsung MVP of the MCU, the Mack Attack himself: Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson. Here we get Robert Redford in a superhero movie. Here we get a villain that is straight up menacing. Here we see Chris Evans’ Captain America become the beating heart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This film boasts great performances all around and despite entirely changing up its supporting cast, once again the Captain America franchise managed to have the best supporting troupe of any Marvel movie up to that point. But, without taking anything away from those performances, so much of the achievement in characterization in The Winter Soldier can be attributed to the dialogue in Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely’s script. Joss Whedon’s quip-heavy Avengers films are endearing and clever but aren’t above prioritizing witticisms for the sake of witticisms. While there is humor in The Winter Soldier, quips even, they never feel like they’re running the show, as if they’re being steered into.

The more dramatic dialogue in the movie is no different. When Samuel L. Jackson monologues away in an elevator it never feels written or recited, it feels like something Nick Fury would say. When Steve Rogers airs his concerns with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s schemes I believe they’re Captain America’s concerns, not a screenwriter’s thinly-veiled soapbox.

And on top of these excellent performances and that adept writing, The Winter Soldier boasts some truly first-rate action. Cap’s opening assault on a cargo ship plays like a confident statement of purpose, a declaration that the action to come will have a sense of true physicality and gravity. You feel the punches and the falls and the hurried steps. The film’s spectacular climax isn’t two CGI models flying around a MacGuffin, its two dudes beating the shit out of each other on a kick-ass set.

The Avengers proved the concept of a shared cinematic universe could pay off. That it could work. The Winter Soldier proved that it could thrive, that it could continue onward and upward without relying on the delayed gratification of passable solo outings between The Avengers’ triennial reunions. The Winter Soldier is the first film that proved the Marvel Cinematic Universe was sustainable and could have merit on a film by film basis, and while it still wasn’t the movie that made mine Marvel, revisiting it four years later it absolutely blew me away.

For my thoughts on The Winter Soldier upon it’s arrival in 2014:

April 14, 2014: Patriotism vs. Heroism, or, I Read Way to Much Into Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Perhaps more interesting, however, is this golden oldie from four days later in which I ponder the age old question… IS THE WINTER SOLDIER RACIST!?!?!?!

April 18, 2014: Food For Thought, or, Race in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Road to Infinity War – The Avengers, or, Keep it Simple Stupid

Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.

theavengers

Oh boy, what a neat poster that they didn’t use for the cover of the Blu-Ray + DVD combo pack. It’s fine. Whatever.

“You’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”

Such was the promise lobbed at audiences in 2008 at the end of the end of Iron Man (remember when we used to be able to leave the theater when the movie ended?). Nick Fury’s words proved all the wiser in retrospect. So much of Marvel’s formative first phase was concerned with individuals stepping into circumstances far beyond anything they previously could have imagined. There’s an ignorance to those first steps, be they arrogant or altruistic, which is shared amongst the likes of Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers. Their reach exceeds their grasp and there are consequences that come with that disparity. In Thor, we learned the same was true of SHIELD and the shadowy government and military institutions prominent throughout these first five films. They entered into an arena they were woefully unequipped for. Shoot, by the time The Avengers wraps up, we learn the same was true even of Loki, who strikes a bargain with severe cost and consequence that, even if only momentarily, he has to second guess.

In The Avengers, what separates the heroes from the villains from the bureaucrats is how each individual dealt with the consequences of that excessive reach. Loki doubled down on his actions. The World Security Council wished them away with a nuke. The Avengers, though? The Avengers took responsibility. The team only finally came into their own when they shirked authority altogether and took matters into their own hands. And without a soul to tell them “with great power must also come great responsibility” even!

Thematically, The Avengers is a fantastic climax to the first phase of the MCU. Cinematically, six years on it’s still a landmark in blockbuster history. I really don’t feel like I can gush enough about how far Joss Whedon’s script knocks it out of the park. He took what could have been a stunt, a gimmick, a train wreck, and made a film of extreme competence and proficiency.

Perhaps the smartest move Whedon made was keeping things simple. The force of antagonism is clear, unburdened by philosophical or emotional justifications, and the rationale for every Avenger’s presence in the film is sound and straightforward. This is a script that requires no narrative gymnastics on the part of the viewer. It’s all there in the script. Rather than weave a convoluted, interconnected web of motivations to bring the team together, or plumb the depths of villainy in the search of the next Joker, Whedon dealt out hands quick and efficiently, giving him ample time instead to bounce these characters off one another to compelling effect.

Save the comic books from whence these characters came, there was no precedent for what Whedon pulled off with The Avengers. I’ve got my issues here and there with the film, but nothing that can take away from how deftly Whedon executed a cinematic first. He needed to bring these characters together and to make their fellowship worth the wait and he went about doing it elegantly, emphasizing quality over intricacy.

Four years later, Joss Whedon who delivered on Nick Fury’s ominous promise in spectacular fashion.

Road to Infinity War – Captain America: The First Avenger, or, Chad Kroeger featuring Josey Scott

Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.

firstavenger

Someone’s been taking their Weight Gain 4000.

I did not care for this movie when it came out in theaters. I can still remember sitting there, tired and perturbed, feeling slighted by the fact that all of the cool action stuff from the trailers seemed crammed into one montage. And the musical number? What the hell?

It’s fitting then that much as Steve Rogers is set up from the get go to be a sort of equal and opposite of Tony Stark, Captain America: The First Avenger has aged spectacularly in direct opposition to Iron Man, which certainly shows its age at this point.

Prior to Captain America the heroes of the Marvel universe were the arrogant and powerful made humble. Even Bruce Banner finds himself in the position he’s in because of his scientific overconfidence in the pursuit of recreating the super soldier formula we’re finally introduced to here. But where Stark, Banner and Thor are all powerful men in one respect or another, who are humbled and forced to reexamine their power, Steve Rogers is humble, gets power, and remains humble. And I’ll be damned if Chris Evans’ performance isn’t pitch perfect immediately. Over the course of Winter Soldier and Civil War I really fell in love with Evans’ performance, but looking back at his first outing he’s always brought a fidelity of character to Steve Rogers such that there can be no doubting that the scrawny dweeb getting beat up in an alley and the super boy scout doing curls with a helicopter are one and the same.

It’s fascinating to look back at The First Avenger, plot Cap’s course throughout the MCU and consider that while he and Stark have both changed how they interact with the world around them, they are largely, fundamentally the same people they were in the beginning. Going into Infinity War Tony Stark’s ego is still writ large across the MCU, only now it takes the form of a guilty conscience with a savior complex, and Steve Rogers is still a pillar of morality and righteousness, but the stage on which he acts has grown exponentially and the definitions of morality and righteousness have only grown murkier with scale. In retrospect, even from Phase 1 of the MCU, Civil War feels absolutely unavoidable.

It’s also fascinating to look back at The First Avenger. Period. This movie looks absolutely amazing. It’s almost like it was directed by a legendary concept artist responsible for the likes of Boba Fett and the AT-AT. This alternate WWII is stunning. Hydra’s soldiers and technology are pulpy and sinister without looking goofy or distressingly anachronistic, and the art-deco tinged Stark Expo feels ripped from 1940s visions of the future.

The action also holds up way better than I remembered and it’s clear that even before the Russos got involved with the characters the powers-that-be at Marvel had some ideas about the vocabulary of Cap’s movements and how his super-strength is communicated visually and aurally.

And Bucky. And Peggy Carter. And Hugo Weaving’s the Red Skull. And Tommy Lee Jones. And Stanley Tucci. Time and time again Captain America films have exceptional supporting casts and The First Avenger was no exception.

When I saw Civil War for the first time I felt like Chris Evans had grown into an embodiment of cinematic superheroism gleamed perhaps only once before in Christopher Reeves’ Superman. Rewatching First Avenger I realize he’s always embodied that sort of heroism. There’s a sincerity and a sense of purpose to Evans’ Captain America that perhaps as a younger man I could scoff at and write off as corny. But having aged out of some small portion of my youthful cynicism and having watched all the external and internal battles Cap has had to fight to maintain that purpose and sincerity, I couldn’t help but watch First Avenger with a fondness and excitement and awe that utterly surprised me.

Thor left audiences with a question of sorts: what can the likes of Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk do against a vast cosmos of potential antagonism? The First Avengers is a sly, knowing answer.