In terms of cinematic releases, Avengers: Infinity Wars feels like it’s still ages away. Depending on who you ask, it will be an uphill battle—despite being a star-studded, hero-bloated titan looming, well, madly in the distance—because the last Avengers film, Age of Ultron, was not terribly well-loved (despite James Spader providing his signature, gravel-in-a-blender voice to the titular villain). Civil War also set the bar so high that even a nearly-perfectly executed Infinity Wars could end up practically limbo-ing beneath the standards set by the battle between Team Iron Man and Team Captain America.
A recently released video, titled Day One, boasts Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Pratt, and Tom Holland (the only iteration of Spider-man who was allowed to play in Marvel’s actual, non-garbage cinematic universe) and their shared excitement—staged or otherwise—on working together. Let that sink in: Iron Man, Spider-man, and Star Lord will be together, at last, to face the mad titan Thanos. If that doesn’t feel like the cinematic equivalent to Free Comic Book Day coupled with new releases of fan favorite comics, it’s hard to say what would.
However, that said, it is easy to be skeptical of this being another easy cash-grab effort by Marvel and Disney. Fans adore Star Lord. They love Tony Stark’s capacity for being that snarky, charmy billionaire that he is. Just having Spider-man in an Avengers film is enough on its own. Those things in mind, it would be an easy, lazy path for Marvel to have Star Lord and Iron Man bantering and bickering at each other while Spider-man awkwardly provides help and, on occasion, insight into what the Avengers need to do to work out their differences (especially in light of the events of Civil War complicating their dynamic with plenty of dead parents induced angst.
Really, the most important part will be how will Josh Brolin work out as Thanos. Loki has been played out to the point where he barely qualifies as more than a prop in major MCU films (and his “fate”, using the term loosely, in Thor: The Dark World played out like bad fanfiction). Ultron was a solid enough villain, but reduced to one film and quickly disposed of—failing both the character, and James Spader’s portrayal of said character, in their potential versus what was actually achieved with them. Thanos has been this shadowy figure this whole time, present behind the scenes for the most part but ultimately working to gather the Infinity Stones in what is a clear effort to court Death. Because that’s what Thanos does. Brolin’s limited screen-time as the mad titan so far has looked promising, but it’s hard to really tell just yet if he will be a memorable MCU force or just another conveniently placed obstacle for the Avengers to overcome.
What this film will really need to succeed as a solid follow-up to Civil War and redemption to Avengers: Age of Ultron is better blending of action and superhero shenanigans. The banter, humor, and substantial interactions that don’t simply involve clobbering the sense out of some poor minions or diversionary villains (i.e. every bad guy that wasn’t the actual Mandarin in Iron Man 3) must be polished and sharp. It needs to not lean heavily on the particular quirks of each character, but instead celebrate those characters in their entirety and complexity. And god help us all, it needs to not fall into whatever writing catastrophe that made Suicide Squad possible.
By Phil Gorski