“What If…?” Episode 6 Proves Why Nakia Is Crucial To Black Panther

SPOILERS FOR WHAT IF…? AHEAD!

For the past few weeks, with Marvel’s What If…? on a hot streak, I had begun to hope that the series’ worst episode was well behind us. As disappointing as it was to see Captain Carter’s potential wasted in a shallow and unimaginative recap of The First Avenger, I genuinely believe that the first episode was always to some extent going to play like the tutorial level of a video game, giving general audiences a taste of what the series had to offer before it could jump into bigger and bolder concepts. And we’ve got four straight weeks of good or great episodes to prove that What If…? isn’t afraid to go big.

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Tony Stark and Erik Killmonger | cnet.com

But it seems the show still has a couple of clunkers left in store for us too.

And the downside of What If…?‘s anthology format is that without an overarching storyline to pull viewers through these rough patches, audiences are gonna drop off and they won’t necessarily feel compelled to come back each week. Technically, the characters in What If…? are supposed to meet up and fight a big bad at some point, and there’s even talk of some appearing in live-action sooner rather than later, but we’re six episodes deep into a nine episode series, and there’s still no sign of that happening.

That puts the pressure on each new stand-alone episode to try and outdo the last, and unfortunately this week something just doesn’t click. On paper, the basic premise is intriguing enough: what if Tony Stark (voiced by Mick Wingert) never got kidnapped by the Ten Rings, never became Iron Man? That alone could be the Nexus Event of a million new realities, but throw in the seemingly random twist that it’s Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) of all people who rescues Stark, and we could have had a good old political thriller weaving across the globe between the United States and Wakanda.

But in execution, episode six is an awkward mash-up of Iron Man and Black Panther that struggles to add anything meaningful to either movie’s mythology in just thirty minutes. Tony Stark’s inclusion, at least in such a prominent role, feels especially unnecessary. He’s really only there to be Killmonger’s pawn in a game of three-dimensional political chess, but roughly half of the episode is spent fleshing out their relationship. The story actually nearly finds its footing when the action finally shifts away from his mansion to Wakanda, but because we still need to catch up with Stark’s supporting characters, the problem of split focus doesn’t get solved.

Also, I totally get wanting to capture the tone of Iron Man and Marvel’s other Phase One movies…but did the plotline need to be ripped from the Phase One movies too? I just really need Tony Stark’s genius to be utilized for something other than building an army of faceless, easily hackable robots. I’m begging Marvel to think of something else, anything else, that they can do with this character’s tech.

The scenes in Wakanda, meanwhile, suffer from a lack of thematic cohesion. The nuance of Ryan Coogler’s writing simply isn’t there to foster potential for multiple interpretations on different levels, or to provoke a very meaningful discussion, and the episode falls completely flat when tackling the complexity of its central character, Killmonger. Sure, we learn that he’s a big fan of anime, which is a cute humanizing detail I’m not entirely sure what to do with, but What If…? doesn’t actually seem to understand his motivations except on a surface-level.

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Nakia | syfy.com

And part of that is because What If…? drops the most crucial (and underappreciated) character from Black Panther – Nakia. This isn’t something acknowledged in the episode, nor is any correlation drawn between her absence and the ease with which Killmonger takes over Wakanda in this timeline, but the loss of Nakia is felt. She’s the antithesis to Killmonger – both come from a place of wanting to help the African diaspora, but while Killmonger only has a vague idea of how to achieve that, informed by his experience working with destructive imperialist institutions such as the US military and CIA, Nakia wants to use Wakanda’s resources to help the world, and she has cohesive strategies about how to do so.

That’s what makes one exchange in What If…? stand out as a particularly bizarre moment that betrays a misunderstanding of Killmonger’s purpose as a villain. In place of Nakia’s radical empathy, What If…? uses James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) as the mouthpiece for a very different moral counterpoint to Killmonger’s message. “You’ve gotta be part of the system to change the system”, he says at one point while defending his service in the US military, before Killmonger strikes him dead and responds that he’s gonna “burn it down”, referring to “the system”.

The problem with this is that Killmonger always was part of the system – even in this alternate universe, it’s made pretty clear that he’s been working with the US military and the CIA for some time. That’s where he learned how to be such an effective agent of chaos, and where he became enamored of the imperialistic ideology he tried to implement in Wakanda. Killmonger didn’t ever want to “burn down” the system – he wanted to force it to work for him because being part of that system had taught him to equate bloodshed with strength, and oppression with power.

This scene, which tries to sever Killmonger’s connections to the US military and position him as an outsider with radical opinions, feels like What If…?‘s counterpart to that episode in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier where Karli Morgenthau accidentally started making some good points, so the series stopped talking about her cause and doubled down on why her methods were too extreme and she had to be stopped.

The most interesting thing about the episode, at least to me, is the different reception that awaits Killmonger when he finally reaches Wakanda. Having killed T’Challa (voiced once again by Chadwick Boseman, in an especially touching performance), his path to the throne is seemingly wide open: but while he could easily strike down the elderly King T’Chaka (John Kani), Killmonger chooses to keep the man alive instead and manipulate his grief to obtain a spot in the King’s favor, ultimately being chosen to succeed T’Challa as the new Black Panther.

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Killmonger | engadget.com

Not everybody is fooled by his act, however. Visiting the Ancestral Plane, Killmonger is warned by the spirit of T’Challa that he will pay a terrible price for his crimes – which segues nicely into the final scene of Shuri (voiced by Ozioma Akagha) discovering that Killmonger is behind the murder of Tony Stark, and meeting with the new president of Stark Industries, Pepper Potts (voiced by Beth Hoyt) to discuss a plan. I haven’t forgotten that shot from the trailer where Pepper was fighting alongside the Dora Milaje, and although I expected to see it in this episode I now feel certain we’ll pick up this storyline again.

At the moment, I’m not sure if that idea actually excites me. This episode isn’t bad, but it brings very little to the table that wasn’t already done (and done better) in Black Panther or Iron Man. Hopefully in part two, Nakia shows up and becomes the Black Panther in this universe like she deserves.

Episode Rating: 5.9/10

“What If…?” 2nd Trailer Review!

In a franchise that has historically been very strict about what is and what is not canon (nobody knows that better than Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans), the medium of animation provides Marvel an incredible opportunity to expand upon the potential of Loki‘s Multiverse shenanigans and explore alternate universes branching off from the so-called Sacred Timeline – in an anthology series named What If…? that will remain (at least as far as we know) entirely separate from the live-action MCU. But although you might think that would narrow its appeal with hardcore fans who tend to get obsessive over the canon debate too, the broad variety of stories being explored in What If…? will likely make this a must-see event.

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What If…? | etonline.com

The format of the series is simple yet unique. One episode for each Marvel movie released thus far, but putting a twist on the version of events we know from our canon, and following the consequences of that twist down a winding rabbit-hole of endless possibilities. Until today, the marketing for What If…? had largely focused on just two or three storylines: one in which Peggy Carter took the Super-Soldier Serum during World War II instead of Steve Rogers and became Captain Carter (not Captain Britain, although the Union Jack is emblazoned on her vibranium shield); one in which a young Prince T’Challa was abducted from Earth by aliens and became a Ravager in place of Peter Quill; and one in which Bucky Barnes fights a zombie version of Captain America, in what I think might be the series’ Captain America: Civil War episode.

Everything beyond that had been just quick glimpses and unconfirmed rumors until today’s new trailer, which starts out in the back of an armored vehicle moving through the Middle East – yep, the same one where Tony Stark was ambushed in the opening of Iron Man and nearly got blown to bits by one of his own Stark Industries missiles, commencing his journey to becoming Iron Man. But this time around, something unexpected happens. Killmonger – as in Black Panther‘s Killmonger – leaps in to save Tony Stark’s life, effortlessly lifting the missile and tossing it into the sky. And from there, the trailer only gets weirder.

We see an armored Natasha Romanoff zipping through the battle-damaged streets of a city on her motorcycle, having been the only member of the Avengers to survive Ultron’s extinction-level apocalypse in Age Of Ultron. Pepper Potts, wielding some kind of high-tech gun, fights alongside Shuri and the Dora Milaje. Loki invades Earth, not with hordes of Chitauri aliens, but with Asgardian troops; while a tattooed frat boy Variant of Thor parties it up on the planet’s surface. Okoye hurls a spear at a levitating Wanda Maximoff. T’Challa and Yondu fight a muscular, cybernetically-enhanced Variant of The Collector from Guardians Of The Galaxy. Doctor Strange duels Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One. Howard the Duck is just…there, for whatever reason.

What If...?
Captain Carter | buzzfeed.com

Before Loki, I was intrigued but bewildered by the concept of What If…?, but now we know so much more about the mechanics of the Multiverse in the MCU that we can kind of get a sense of what’s going on, and perhaps even why. These are all timelines that branched but never got pruned, Nexus Events allowed to spiral further and further out of control, leading to chaotic crossovers with other alternate timelines, and what Miss Minutes described as “multiversal war”. We can see some of that going on in this trailer: Variants like Captain Carter and T’Challa as Star Lord won’t be confined to single episodes, but will also join forces across time and space – leading to a clever recreation of the iconic Avengers group shot in the first Avengers movie that also includes frat boy Thor, a Gamora Variant who’s dressed in golden armor like her adoptive father Thanos and is even wielding the Mad Titan’s sword, and a character who is possibly Killmonger, wearing the Black Panther suit.

Of course, if the Time Variance Authority isn’t around to prune these timelines and prevent a Multiverse, it raises the question of why. My guess is that at the end of Loki, the God of Mischief’s efforts to burn the TVA to the ground are successful, finally freeing the universe from authoritarian control and allowing time to do whatever the hell it wants. Whether the characters in What If…? will discover that and try to hop over into the MCU’s reality remains to be seen, but that could precipitate the Multiverse Of Madness which we know Doctor Strange will be dealing in with his hotly-anticipated sequel.

The only person who seems to have any answers is an ethereal cosmic being known as Uatu the Watcher, who will narrate the series and preside over events, hopefully cluing in audiences as to what’s really going on. Will he always remain on the sidelines, watching but never interfering with time? Will he be mentioned in the MCU at any point? Where does he even come from? As Darcy would say, “don’t know, don’t know, and…don’t know.”

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T’Challa and Yondu | nerdist.com

What I do know is that the animation on this series looks brilliant: crisp, clean, and richly detailed, allowing for the kind of spectacle sometimes unattainable in live-action except through extensive use of CGI. With the exception of Robert Downey Jr., the voice-acting is provided by the same actors who originated these roles in live-action, including Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, in what will be his final posthumous performance. And my expectations for the next wave of Marvel Disney+ shows are at an all-time high after the resounding success of Loki. I was always excited for What If…? because I’m a big fan of animation, but I’m sold on the concepts at play here too after this amazing trailer.

Trailer Rating: 8.9/10

What’s Next For The MCU? Phase 4 Predictions.

The ending of Avengers: Endgame leaves us with a bittersweet taste in our mouths. Things have changed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for better or worse, and now we have to continue on in a world that deals with Endgame‘s ramifications – a world with some new characters we don’t yet know much about, new storylines we’re not yet emotionally invested in: where do we go now, and who can we expect to see more from in the coming years?

Naturally, there are major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I encourage you to go do so – like, now.

You’re back? Good, so let’s talk about what happened, and what happens next. The original Avengers (Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Natasha Romanoff, Bruce Banner and Clint Barton) have had their stories concluded in a variety of different ways: Tony is dead, and likely to remain that way; Rogers has now gotten everything he wanted, including his dance with Peggy Carter, and his arc is finished – he’s not dead, but he’s now an old man; Thor has joined the (As)guardians of the Galaxy and seems likely to enjoy a whole bunch of new adventures; Romanoff’s broken body is lying at the foot of a cliff on the planet Vormir, where she sacrificed herself for the Soul Stone; Banner is now Professor Hulk, and his entire story seems to have ended; Barton has returned to his family.

Of these, Thor, Romanoff and Barton are probably going to continue on into the next phase of the MCU.

Thor has joined forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and will presumably be a key player in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which seems likely to focus on an unresolved plot point from Endgame: Star-Lord, the Guardians’ leader, was temporarily reunited with his girlfriend Gamora, but she disappeared at some point afterwards. We see him searching for her at the end of the movie, so it looks like that could be a critical focus of the third Guardians installment. Star-Lord, thankfully, has help from Gamora’s sister, Nebula, who has been more than redeemed by events in Endgame – and from Thor, who has relinquished all of his other duties so he can join his friend Rocket Raccoon here on an intergalactic mission. Certainly Thor’s presence on the team will be welcomed by other Guardians such as Drax and Mantis, both of whom seemed infatuated with him in Avengers: Infinity War, and by Nebula and Rocket, who have now become friends with the God of Thunder. There’s already some tension between Thor and Star-Lord, however, about who gets to be captain. Considering the overwhelming support for Thor, I think Star-Lord’s in for a surprise – I wonder if this might carry through into real life. Star-Lord actor Chris Pratt has been the unchallenged star of the Guardians franchise for two movies now, but Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is a fan-favorite and could easily overshadow the rest of the group. Hopefully, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 director James Gunn, newly reinstated to the franchise, will be able to give all the characters their proper screentime.

Meanwhile, Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, seemed to have a definitive conclusion in Endgame, sacrificing herself so that the other Avengers could win the Soul Stone and complete their construction of an Infinity Gauntlet. However, Romanoff is getting her own solo movie next year, and even though Black Widow seems to be a prequel, it doesn’t seem very Marvelous to make the very first move of the next phase be a callback to the past. I’ve speculated before that I feel Black Widow has a major connection to events in Phase 4, specifically the upcoming Eternals franchise, but that’s still just a guess. At the moment, all we know about Black Widow is that she’s dead. Her death, however, could hypothetically be reversed – Captain America returns the Soul Stone at the end of Endgame, which might be enough to undo Black Widow’s sacrifice and bring her back to life. Her movie is set to star Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh and David Harbour (with some outlets also reporting that Emma Watson might still be involved in the project), and is going to be the stepping-stone into the next phase of the MCU. Whether or not Black Widow ends up being linked to the broader Marvel universe, though, it will still be a very interesting foray into an unexplored corner of the timeline, one that involves spies, political intrigue, and (hopefully) the often-alluded-to-but-never-properly-explained incident in Budapest that both Black Widow and Hawkeye remember so differently.

Speaking of Hawkeye, Clint Barton finished out Endgame still very much alive, and very much still the family man he’s always been. At the beginning of Endgame, we saw him and his daughter practicing archery, and now that he’s back he’ll presumably continue his lessons with her. However, everything might not be as happily-ever-after as it seems for Barton, who did a lot of questionable things during the time that his family was snapped out of existence by the Titan Thanos. Aside from renewing his semi-romantic relationship with Black Widow, Barton also adopted a new identity – under the name Ronin – and began systematically killing people across the globe. We even saw him dealing with Japanese criminals in a particularly vicious scene, which saw Hiroyuki Sanada wasted in a seemingly pointless cameo as one of Ronin’s victims. But could karma catch up with Hawkeye in the future? It’s been rumored that he’s getting his own streaming show on the new Disney Plus platform, where we might also see the Hawkeye mantle pass on to Kate Bishop, a comics character who has yet to enter the MCU. Maybe some figurative ghosts from Barton’s bloodstained past come back to haunt him and his family, and he has to team up with Bishop to stop them.

Interestingly, Hawkeye wouldn’t be alone on Disney Plus: Scarlet Witch, Vision, Loki, Winter Soldier and Falcon are the Marvel characters currently confirmed to be getting their own streaming shows. Scarlet Witch and Vision will be starring in the oddly-named WandaVision, which will see actors Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles as the telepathic mutant (they’re allowed to use that word now, due to the FOX merger), and the deadpan android. Very few details are known about their show so far, except that it might take place in the 1950’s – which is confusing, to say the least, since neither Scarlet Witch nor Vision have shown any interest in time traveling previously, and Vision is actually dead at the moment. The Loki show, aptly titled Loki, could potentially explore one of Endgame‘s most intriguing moments – where Loki, in an alternate timeline, manages to escape with the Space Stone after the Battle of New York. This timeline, unlike others, might not have been affected by Captain America returning the Infinity Stones to their proper timelines at the end of the movie. This means we could see Loki on a wild, galaxy-hopping adventure through space and time in his own show: who wouldn’t be down for that?

Falcon & The Winter Soldier, on the other hand, is by far the most easy-to-understand of the three confirmed shows: at the end of Endgame, we saw Steve Rogers pass the title of Captain America to Falcon, who accepted it with the silent blessing of Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, who stood nearby. A new Captain America means (most likely) more trouble with organizations like S.H.I.E.L.D and HYDRA, which can’t ever seem to get their act together. We’ll see Falcon and Winter Soldier team up against a new threat to American freedoms and values, while also coming to terms with what it means to be Captain America. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have such fantastic chemistry, both onscreen and off-screen, that I think this show will be a big hit.

Not everything is so simple, though. On the big screen, the MCU is going to continue getting larger and more complex, with the addition of the Eternals, a divine race of superhumans who will show up in theaters in late 2020, ushering in what could be Marvel’s most ambitious goal yet: a cosmic phase. It’s long been speculated that, after Endgame, things are going to get crazier in the MCU, with the addition of more out-there concepts such as Eternals, Deviants and Celestials, or characters like Galactus and the Silver Surfer. If that is what they’re doing, The Eternals is the perfect place to start this: the members of this ensemble team are relateable enough that they might be able to sell some of these strange new ideas to audiences, especially with the help of confirmed stars Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani. The film looks to be a crowded one, with rumors of five female leads and three male leads, including Marvel’s first openly gay male lead, and a female lead of color. This project is one that I’m highly anticipating.

After The Eternals, though, the MCU doesn’t look to be diving into otherworldly and galactic storylines: instead, we’ll probably first be returning to the tranquil African nation of Wakanda, where Black Panther and his sister Shuri will face some new, as yet unknown, threat to the throne. There are very few details about this eagerly-awaited sequel to the 2018 cultural phenomenon that was Black Panther, but you can be sure that the film will go into production as soon as possible.

Another sequel that has yet to be officially confirmed is Captain Marvel 2. Air-force pilot Carol Danvers flew higher, further, faster at the box-office this year, proving that a female superhero is more than capable of carrying her own franchise. While there is no word on when such a sequel might be released, it’s probably only a matter of time. Carol got her comics-accurate haircut and sash in Avengers: Endgame and looks like she’s ready to take on her undefeated foe from her solo movie, the Kree Supreme Intelligence, or possibly even her former mentor Yon-Rogg, who was allowed to escape unharmed at the end of Captain Marvel. The alien race of Skrulls, villains in the comics, were portrayed in a more sympathetic light in the MCU, but that doesn’t mean all of them are benevolent – I’ve already questioned whether one character established in Captain Marvel might walk down a dark path in a future movie. Endgame teased the appearance of several new female superheroes, including Valkyrie as the new Queen of Asgard and Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie Lang: it’s possible that, in a nod to the A-Force storyline from Marvel comics, we could see these heroines team up under the leadership of Carol Danvers to take on some cosmic threats.

But while battle rages among the stars, the earth itself might be threatened by more mystical forces – Doctor Strange, who became one of the Avengers’ most crucial players in Infinity War, is now unprotected by the Time Stone. This could leave him and the Sanctum Sanctorum open to attack by characters such as Karl Mordo, or even Dormammu. Magic is still pretty new to the MCU, and doesn’t yet have any clearly-established rules, so it will be interesting to see what director Scott Derrickson chooses to do with it here, in Doctor Strange 2, which will presumably see the Sorceror Supreme dealing with the fallout from Endgame. Hopefully we see him team up with the Scarlet  Witch, assuming she isn’t permanently relegated to Disney Plus.

Beyond even that, Marvel is already planning for its first film headed by an Asian lead – an origin story for the martial-arts master and spy Shang-Chi, whose appearance in the MCU doesn’t seem to have been foreshadowed by anything we’ve seen so far: unless it might be that the Japanese criminals from Endgame that Ronin killed were somehow associated with Shang-Chi’s infamous father, the crime syndicate Zheng Zu (previously known by the racist moniker Fu Manchu). Marvel’s president Kevin Feige has been surprisingly willing to discuss this particularly project, but there are still no concrete details.

And that’s all in the future. Only a few months away now is the last installment in Marvel’s Phase 3 – that is, Spider-man: Far From Home, which will pit the web-slinger Peter Parker against a reality-bending villain named Mysterio. While this isn’t officially part of Phase 4, according to Kevin Feige, it will still be an entertaining and exciting epilogue to the events of Avengers: Endgame, a much needed respite after huge battles and intergalactic politics, where we can sit back and enjoy some smaller-scale conflict for the safety of Spider-man’s neighborhood.

Which Phase 4 movie are you most excited to see? Let me know in the comments. Considering the fast pace at which projects like The Eternals, Black Widow and Black Panther 2 are being rushed along, it seems likely we’ll get more details about these and other movies sooner than later.

“Avengers: Infinity Wars” Movie Review!

With Avengers: Endgame only a few days away, it makes sense to revisit the first part of the Infinity Saga – Avengers: Infinity Wars, one of the greatest movies of the past year and the beginning of the end of the current phase of the MCU. This movie is such a monolith of pop culture that it could be easy to overlook the fact that, first and foremost, it’s a film just like any other, and should be reviewed as such. So here’s my comprehensive and complete analysis of everything in Avengers: Infinity Wars that you need to remember before going into Avengers: Endgame, plus everything you need to know about Infinity Wars itself, as a film.

SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity Wars ahead. Obviously.

So, in case, you’ve forgotten everything that happened (how could you?), we’ll start out with a brief summary of events: the film picks up where the 2017 film Thor: Ragnarok left off, with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) among the last survivors of an attack on their spaceship. It is soon revealed that the attackers are led by none other than the Mad Titan Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin), who is hunting for the six incredibly powerful Infinity Stones that have been scattered across the universe. Having already been armed with the Power Stone, Thanos is able to force Loki to divulge the location of his next target, the Space Stone – which, unsurprisingly, turns out to be in Loki’s possession. During the ensuing fight, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) gets sent hurtling off into space, headed for earth, and Loki gets strangled by Thanos. The spaceship blows up (with Thor inside, still cradling his dead brother’s body), and Thanos and his minions go their separate ways, pursuing the other Stones.

This opening scene is fantastic: it sets the mood for the rest of the film (grim and tragic), and kills off two characters very quickly – Loki, and Thor’s best friend Heimdall (Idris Elba). It also sets up some important questions for Avengers: Endgame – (1) is Loki really dead? (2) What happened to two other characters, Valkyrie and Korg, who were on that spaceship before the attack? (3) Is this whole thing really Thor’s story?

These questions don’t have answers yet, but there are a number of good theories out there: (1) Loki was holding the Space Stone during the fight, so it’s possible he was able to use it to escape across the galaxy, leaving a clone of himself to die. (2) It has been confirmed that Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) escaped the attack, and that she will be returning for Avengers: Endgame – it’s still a mystery where she went, though, or what her purpose in Endgame could be. The fate of Korg (voiced by Taika Waititi) remains unknown. (3) This question has been asked a lot. Infinity Wars starts with Thor, and it ends with Thor (more on that later). The heroic Asgardian god doesn’t actually have very much to do throughout the film, but in Infinity Wars he was undeniably the only Avenger with a clear motive to stop Thanos. And it’s worth noting that Infinity Wars and Endgame are just two halves of one movie, according to the directors, Joe and Anthony Russo. If Thor was the protagonist in the first half, will that carry through into the second? I’d suspect not. While Thor is a crucial member of the team, Endgame truly belongs to Iron Man and Captain America. That’s my opinion, and you’ll see why in a minute.

But enough about Endgame! Back to Infinity Wars: so we follow the Hulk as he crashes through the earth’s atmosphere and rips a hole through the roof of the New York Sanctum, interrupting a conversation between Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) about deli food and metaphysics – the Hulk, however, has now turned back into his human self, Bruce Banner, and is babbling about Thanos. Strange and Banner decide to awkwardly interrupt an intimate moment between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). They themselves are then interrupted by Thanos’ minions landing in New York City, looking for the Time Stone, which just happens to be owned by Doctor Strange himself. This alien invasion also interrupts a certain school field-trip to MOMA, during which Peter Parker (Tom Holland) escapes out of a school-bus window and goes to help Tony Stark. Things don’t exactly turn out well, however, and Doctor Strange gets captured and sucked into a spaceship, where alien telepath Ebony Maw (voiced by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) attempts to perform surgery on him but is interrupted by Tony and Peter, who have crept aboard the spaceship. Using techniques learned from Aliens and a good amount of help from Doctor Strange’s magical cloak, the heroes manage to toss Ebony Maw out into the freezing depths of space, and hijack the ship.

And, of course, there are more hints about Endgame here too: most notably the fact that after Tony gets on the alien spaceship, he makes a call to Pepper – as the connection goes out, Pepper tells him either “I’m going to-,” or “I’m going too-“. The latter seems more likely when one takes into consideration that Gwyneth Paltrow posted a photo of herself from the Avengers: Endgame set wearing a superhero suit. Could we see Pepper suit up and fly off into space to follow Tony in Endgame, or is she going somewhere else? Or is it just a misdirection?

Now, obviously, we’ve still only discussed Thor and Tony Stark, and Infinity Wars wouldn’t be much of an Avengers film without Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye – which is exactly why Infinity Wars is not a proper Avengers film in my opinion. Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) get maybe five or six minutes of screentime each, while Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) doesn’t show up at all. Instead, we get a fast but admittedly impressive fight scene in Scotland as Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) defends her robot boyfriend Vision (Paul Bettany) from getting a certain Mind Stone ripped out of his forehead by Thanos’ minions, who interrupt them during a romantic moment – what is with all the interruptions in this movie? Nobody can finish a conversation without having magic doctors pop out of portals or aliens stab them through the chest! Thankfully, Captain America and Black Widow spend their five minutes of screentime rescuing Scarlet Witch and Vision and then ferrying them to the nation of Wakanda, where they hope the genius inventor Shuri (Letitia Wright) can separate the Mind Stone from Vision’s body by non-life threatening surgical methods.

By now, the plot is literally jumping everywhere in the universe. The Guardians of the Galaxy find Thor still alive, floating in space, and rescue him: he promptly steals their escape-pod and flies off with their captain, Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and their talking tree, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Meanwhile, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) takes the remaining Guardians on a suicide mission to stop Thanos from getting his hands on the Reality Stone…which fails…massively. Thanos’ daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) tries to kill him, and then, in desperation, calls on Star-Lord to kill her – which also fails, massively. So the Reality Stone now belongs to Thanos, and so does Gamora, Thor is lost in space with a raccoon which he thinks is a rabbit, Tony and his crew are looking for Thanos, Thanos’ minions are hunting Vision, Scarlet Witch is having a crisis because Vision keeps telling her she needs to kill him, Black Widow and Bruce Banner have literally two lines of dialogue to address their entire romantic history, and those two lines are, respectively, “Bruce” and “Nat”. And meanwhile Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is getting a new metal arm that has absolutely no consequence on anything that happens later in the story, and – oh god, not flashbacks too!

(Actually, the flashback is one of the best scenes in the movie, as Gamora reminisces about her first encounter with Thanos. Young Gamora learns to balance a knife on her fingertip while her people are systematically slaughtered by firing squad in the background – beautiful, heart-wrenching stuff, and all complimented nicely by some beautiful music).

Eventually, the plots and subplots start to come together, after a rocky first act. Gamora agrees to lead Thanos to the Soul Stone, located on a desolate planet, where (surprise, surprise) the movie has time to reveal that Red Skull is still alive, even though he has absolutely no consequence on anything that happens later in the story. Though presumably there’ll be more time to deal with the effects of this reveal in Endgame, where we might see a final showdown between the Red Skull and his arch-nemesis Captain America. Thanos learns that the Soul Stone demands a sacrifice before it can be won: specifically, that which you most love. Thankfully, Thanos came to this planet with Gamora, the only person he ever truly loved! Thankfully there’s a giant cliff nearby that is just perfect for throwing people off of! Thankfully the so-called “fiercest woman in the galaxy” chooses this moment to resort to trying to ineffectively punch Thanos’ arm as he throws her off of the aforementioned cliff!

With four of six Infinity Stones now in his grasp, Thanos promptly heads to his ancient homeworld of Titan to go deal with Tony Stark and Doctor Strange, who by now have run into the other Guardians of the Galaxy. On earth, the nation of Wakanda comes under attack from Thanos’ minions while Shuri works frantically to try and get the Mind Stone out of Vision’s head. Meanwhile, Thor is skiing around a frozen star (okay, fine, he’s lighting the forges of Nidavellir or whatever, but it looked like skiing to me). And…Peter Dinklage is an awesome actor, but this movie is already overcrowded with characters – did we really need a giant Peter Dinklage manning the forges of Nidavellir and loading us down with boring exposition? The only interesting part about this sequence is the fact that there’s an Infinity Gauntlet up there in Nidavellir, which may or may not be important in Endgame.

But finally…we get to the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Thanos arrives on Titan and uses the full power of his own Infinity Gauntlet to wreak havoc on the planet. What follows is one of the best fight-scenes in any movie, ever: nanotech weaponry, a moon pulled from its orbit, Doctor Strange transforming into a Hindu deity, the robot assassin Nebula (Karen Gillan) crashing her own spaceship straight into Thanos – and all of it is in vain, because idiot Star-Lord goes and starts punching Thanos in the face while they have the Titan sedated. Seriously, Star-Lord?

After that, the rest of the movie is just tragedy after tragedy. Doctor Strange gives Thanos the Time Stone in exchange for Thanos sparing Tony Stark’s life. There’s apparently a reason for this: Doctor Strange looked into the future and saw only one outcome in which the Avengers win the Infinity War. But to win, Tony Stark has to live, and Thanos has to get the Time Stone.

And Thanos doesn’t waste a single moment before teleporting to Wakanda and going after Vision – whose operation has not been going well. The poor robot literally gets thrown out of a window, on a surgical table, down a cliff. And then (finally) Scarlet Witch puts an end to the whole thing by blasting him in the head and destroying the Mind Stone.

Good thing Thanos didn’t literally just receive the ability to turn back time!

As if having his surgery rudely interrupted by aliens and getting killed by his own girlfriend wasn’t enough, Vision then has to endure being brought back to life and killed again – as Thanos simply reaches into his forehead and plucks out the Mind Stone.

Nobody saves the day in this movie. Not Doctor Strange, who tells Tony sadly that it was “the only way”. Not Tony himself, who is still recovering from having a very large piece of metal shoved into his chest. Not even Thor, when he finally shows up in Wakanda wielding an incredibly ugly ax. Thanos gets what he wants: a fully-powered Infinity Gauntlet that allows him to wipe out half of all life with a snap of his fingers – which he does, without hesitation. The audience is forced to watch in horror as beloved characters turn into ash and disappear: Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Spider-man, Star-Lord (serves him right), Scarlet Witch, etc, etc. Who gave Marvel the right to do this?

Even worse, who gave Marvel the right to use such sloppy CGI on the Hulkbuster suit that Bruce Banner wears during the Battle of Wakanda? And for that matter, the Battle of Wakanda is filmed in such a boring fashion that it’s a crime all in itself: boring color palette and boring choreography make that fight scene one of the most forgettable in any recent Marvel film.

I’m not trying to look for fault in the film, of course. The film is quite good, overall. But the storyline is all over the place, and certain characters (ahem, Star-Lord) did not need anywhere near as much screentime as they got, while other characters (ahem, Captain America) got little to no screentime, when they should have been stars. Hopefully, everything will be resolved in the second half of this still very incomplete movie, which is only a few days away now. Half of the Marvel universe is currently dust, the villain has won and is relaxing on some paradise planet, and the Avengers are all split up across the galaxy.

Let’s hope Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) can do something about this problem when she arrives on earth…

Movie Rating: 9.5/10