Dissecting the Biggest Moments of 'Avengers: Infinity War'

It's time to assemble to work through the fallout Thanos has wrought.
Courtesy of Marvel Studios

[This story contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War]

After years of buildup, Avengers: Infinity War has left Marvel fans cheering, emotionally drained, and ready for more. The team at Heat Vision has assembled like the Avengers (or at the very least, like Teen Groot and Rocket?) to take a closer look at the film as the dust settles, and speculate on what's next for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Aaron Couch: Two months ago, I asked you all if Black Panther was the best Marvel Studios movie ever. Here we are again. There have been few comic book movies in history where the scale matched the epic nature of a comic book. A comic has an "unlimited budget," where you can pull in any character and go anywhere, and this movie did that. Even watching huge films like Captain America: Civil War, you're aware of the changes made for budgetary reasons — the big battle takes place at an abandoned airport instead of in the middle of New York — but every choice here felt like comic creators letting their imaginations run wild and not worrying about budget or scheduling of actors or which studio has the rights to what characters (even though, the filmmakers did indeed do that, I just didn't feel it).

Ryan Parker: The scale of this movie is unlike anything I have seen. It was amazing, and I was exhausted for a mixture laughing, cheering and clenching my body throughout the whole picture. I was hooked from the very start. The teeter totter back and forth between intense/dark and lighthearted fun was a great balance. The pace was on point. I thought Josh Brolin did an amazing job as Thanos. I was totally captivated by the character. I feel like they could have made his motivation for wanting to kill so many more clear — like in the comics where he is trying to impress death — but I got it. And I was riveted. 

Graeme McMillan: I was riveted as well... for the first half, at least. But what you said about being exhausted is true: I started to feel overwhelmed by the everything that just kept happening as the movie started heading towards its conclusion. Despite the amount of jokes and breathers built into the movie, I felt like it started feeling claustrophobic the more it went on. (I say that, but I was also amazingly impatient when Gamora's flashback happened, so clearly I can't make up my mind about what I want.) That said, to your point, Aaron — I still think Black Panther is a better movie overall. This was just more of a breathless thrill-ride.

Meg Downey: There's definitely something to be said about the way this movie does manage to make such a sprawling, multifaceted epic feel zoomed in. I don't know if I ever felt claustrophobic, at least not with any real negative connotations, but I loved the fact that it very much felt like a movie about a microscopic team of superheroes instead of a movie about this giant, macroscopic cosmic catastrophe. In a strange way, they really pulled off that close-quarters feel by limiting the amount of collateral damage they featured on screen. There's the Asgardian ship, that first fight in New York, but those are really the only times we actually see civilians get put in the crosshairs. Every other big bombastic fight is completely populated by people who are consciously participating. It's a disaster movie without the implicitly skyrocketing body count — at least, until the end, which really just makes those final moments hit so much harder. I really loved that. 

Patrick Shanley: We can all agree that the central figure of this film is Thanos, right? It is impressive that this villain, whose appearance we've been anticipating for six years, not only lived up to the hype, but actually infused a significant amount of pathos into a character who has a plot so monumentally evil and destructive that it would be comedic if not handled with such care and expertise. His intelligence, his sacrifices and, of course, Brolin's performance had me captivated from moment one.

McMillan: This was, really, a Thanos movie. He was the only one with a real character arc, and I think the mix of Brolin and CGI delivered surprisingly well. Certainly better than the initial trailers made it seem. I also liked how subtle Thanos's characterization was, all told; for all his self-proclaimed nobility in his cause, his arrogance throughout the whole movie, and his blindness to anything other than his self-created cause, was what made him genuinely compelling. Despite what he told himself, he never actually sacrificed anything of real value along the way to the big finale.

Couch: But he did! His daughter, Gamora. I don't get what you mean by that last statement, Graeme. He is a terrible father and a mass murderer, but given the mystical element to the Soul Stone, he wouldn't have passed the test unless Gamora was the most valuable thing to him.  

McMillan: My point is, I don't think he values Gamora as much as he values his ego, or the power the Infinity Stones give him. He certainly didn't give up the most valuable thing to him, because that's his sense of self-worth.

Downey: I was actually shocked by how well they managed to flesh out the Gamora/Thanos relationship in this movie after the way it was danced with in the Guardians movies. Thanos as Gamora and Nebula's dad has always felt weirdly amorphous to me, this sort of shadowy Dark Past that motivates both of them but has never actually been concrete. I think what they did here, even down to that flashback that Graeme isn't sold on, really catalyzed it for me in a poignant and nuanced way. And, hey, we also totally got to see that Nebula's "jealousy" of Gamora and Thanos's favoritism is totally legit here, too. It makes going back and seeing her arcs through 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy and last year's Vol. 2 so much tighter.  

Shanley: I don't have a lot of gripes in this film, I thought it exceeded my expectations, but with any film of this scale, with so many characters, some are bound to get left out. I felt Cap had very little to do in this film, ditto T'Challa. While that's to be expected, it was a little disappointing to see these massive heroes ride the bench for such a big portion of the movie. On the flip side, with the exception of Brolin's turn as Thanos, Hemsworth and Saldana really, really stand out in this film and are given such a great range of emotions to work with. It's wonderful to see real stakes in a film about a purple guy from space gathering magic crystals.

Downey: I'm in the same camp. Cap, especially considering how wild everyone was for his new look, felt criminally underused. If I could change anything about this movie it would be to trim some focus away from Nidavellir and put it on Steve and T'Challa actually being the tacticians that we know them to be, formulating a plan of defense for Wakanda rather than just frantically winging it. I loved that we got some brief glimpses of them fighting together — both of them racing out in front of the initial charge as the spirits of their people was so, so, so good — but I needed more. 

Couch: Don't worry, Patrick and Meg. There will be much more Cap and Black Widow in the next movie, as the writers told me. I won't be surprised if there's more Hawkeye too. But T'Challa? Sadly, probably not, given the ending. But speaking of characters who did get a lot of time, this is one of the best Thor movies and one of the best Guardians of the Galaxy movies imaginable. And a darn good Iron Man and Doctor Strange movie, too.

Downey: As one of the few people who really, really did not like Guardians Vol. 2, I was absolutely over the moon with the way the whole team was handled in this movie. I felt like I had just reunited with a bunch of friends I'd lost contact with for years. It's funny, because for all I see people praising Infinity War for maintaining Gunn's voice with the team, I think the fact that they didn't completely copy it or transpose it wholesale, but instead softened the cruelty of the humor with the sort of empathy and warmth we saw in Thor: Ragnarok  is what saved them for me. 

Parker: I was super impressed how well the screenwriters nailed the Guardians. The tone for the foundation that James Gunn laid was great. Loved that we even got a new song from the mix tape ("The Rubberband Man") The only problem I had was Hulk. I just do not care for the direction that have taken the character. I want him to go back to being a feared beast who just works well enough with The Avengers, like in the first film. This new buddy cop thing they are doing with Banner and the Hulk just cheapens that character. 

Shanley: To offer a dissenting opinion: I actually liked what they did with Banner/Hulk, here. The Hulk is a boring character, there I said it. He is just an anger machine that bashes things and is never matched in terms of pure strength. In Infinity War, we see him get his ass kicked, and that should be a huge moment. We now see Hulk (not just Banner) as a real, multi-faceted character. I love seeing this behemoth scared, and that, in turn, allows Banner a chance to shine as a man who really has no powers and shouldn't even be in this scenario to begin with. But he does his part, because that's what heroes do.

Natalie Heltzel: I hadn't thought about it like that but now that you mention it, it does prove Banner's worth as a hero. My initial thoughts though, which I still stand by, are that I just got bored with the Bruce/Hulk inner struggle. It happened several times and then the movie ended without that struggle being explained or resolved.

McMillan: That's why there's a part two! But, yeah; I hope there's a good payoff to the amount of set-up Hulk's cowardice had in this episode...

Downey: I don't know if I have strong feelings one way or another about Bruce's inner conflict, but I did feel a little let down by the culmination for he and Natasha's whole ... thing. I thought it was poorly handled in Age of Ultron to begin with so I wasn't necessarily looking for a big tearful reunion or a suddenly rekindled romance (if that's what we're supposed to believe they had in the first place) but the "this is awkward" wink-and-move-on didn't feel like enough. Though, I guess as I say that, I can't really come up with a better alternative that wouldn't have added another fifteen minutes onto an already extremely long movie, so I can understand how that could have been fat that got trimmed by necessity. 

Couch: My only gripe with the movie is that they should have destroyed Vision's stone early on. Why should Wakandans have to die in this fight because the Avengers aren't willing to sacrifice Vision's life, something he himself advocated for? I suppose this is a mute point once Thanos gets the Time Stone and can go back to a point before Vision's death, but it still is questionable. Speaking of Vision, who died that is not actually coming back? I think anyone we lost before Thanos snapped his fingers (Heimdall, Loki, Gamora, Vision) is gone for good, and the "dust people" return. I've had hardcore comic book friends who absolutely loved the ending, and I'm in that camp. Seeing Thanos look out at his idyllic world harkens back to a comic book image of Thanos being banished to being a simple farmer. But other friends have said they hated this ending — that knowing the deaths will be undone ruins the drama for them. I couldn't disagree more. Getting a movie where Tony, Steve, Thor, Nebula and the rest must deal with the fallout from this is going to be something to behold.

McMillan: I mean, everyone who died is coming back, right? Maybe not Loki, Heimdall and the Asgardians (but they get reborn as matter of course in the comic book mythology, so I'd expect to see them return eventually with new, cheaper actors in the roles), but everyone else has a return already baked into the story. What I'm expecting in Avengers 4 is that the original Avengers end up sacrificing themselves so that everyone else can come back. 

Parker: That Peter Parker death scene was a punch to the gut. I totally broke there. Yeah, yeah, he will be back and blah, blah, blah. That was super emotional. That was a tough scene.  

Shanley: Ugh, Tom Holland owes me money for Kleenex. I'd be very surprised and disappointed if pre-snap deaths were undone, as that takes all the gravitas and stakes out of movie that really raised the bar on both for comic book films. Those character deaths were earned and were important, and the film actually had me believe, even for a moment, that it would be brave enough to kill Tony Stark. Now that's saying something.

Heltzel: Same — Peter Parker's death scene GUTTED me. The only other scene that got me nearly as emotional was when Peter Quill found out that Gamora died. Kudos to Chris Pratt for being able to get to that place emotionally. And I agree with Shanley that the film had me believe for a moment that half of these characters that we've grown to love over the last decade could be killed. It wasn't until afterward walking out of the theater that I processed the reality that there are several other sequels that are still on the slate, so there's no way they're gone for good. 

Downey: I think all those dust deaths were executed so well and with such laser-like emotional precision. Peter obviously stole the show, but the layers in every moment — Steve being forced to watch Bucky Barnes fall just out of reach again; Okoye's sheer panic at the future of her country, the most important thing in the world to her, as half of its people evaporates before her eyes; Wanda's total resignation to what's happening to her after she just "murdered" the person she loves — every death felt bespoke, even though they were all essentially the same moment repeated again and again. And on that token, I don't really think it matters that we're likely going to be seeing most if not all of them return in the next movie. It's not really about the consequences lasting forever, that's not important. The weight of this story is in the process of telling it, not in the permanence of the aftermath.

Couch: If you weren't already excited for Captain Marvel, that post-credits scene is surely enough to get you there. Questions I have: why didn't Nick Fury call Captain Marvel when Loki was invading New York or Ultron was about to wipe out the human race? I'm hoping that's answered in March, when Brie Larson gets her '90s-set solo film. Did Fury somehow know this specific moment was the threat only Carol Danvers could deal with? More will be revealed soon, and at least the wait for Captain Marvel is shorter than for Avengers 4.