I'm going to talk about this movie. All of it. Every little detail. I'm going to ruin the ending.
And I don't want to ruin the ending for you. Some movies can be enjoyed even if you know the twist. Most, in fact. And Infinity War is no different. You could go into this film knowing every beat, including the turns coming in Avenger 4 next year, and still enjoy the film.
But this is something to be experienced. It has been some time since a movie left me this raw, and I don't want to steal that from you.
So beware of spoilers ahead. In fact, I'm going to take a note from one of my favorite authors and place a huge buffer here for you.
The Epic of Gilgamesh (Wiki)
The story introduces Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Gilgamesh, two-thirds god and one-third man, is oppressing his people, who cry out to the gods for help. For the young women of Uruk this oppression takes the form of a droit du seigneur, or "lord's right", to sleep with brides on their wedding night. For the young men (the tablet is damaged at this point) it is conjectured that Gilgamesh exhausts them through games, tests of strength, or perhaps forced labour on building projects. The gods respond to the people's pleas by creating an equal to Gilgamesh who will be able to stop his oppression. This is the primitive man, Enkidu, who is covered in hair and lives in the wild with the animals. He is spotted by a trapper, whose livelihood is being ruined because Enkidu is uprooting his traps. The trapper tells the sun-god Shamashabout the man, and it is arranged for Enkidu to be seduced by Shamhat, a temple prostitute, his first step towards being tamed. After six days and seven nights of continuous lovemaking she takes Enkidu to a shepherd's camp to learn how to be civilized. Gilgamesh, meanwhile, has been having dreams about the imminent arrival of a beloved new companion.
Shamhat brings Enkidu to the shepherds' camp, where he is introduced to a human diet and becomes the night watchman. Learning from a passing stranger about Gilgamesh's treatment of new brides, Enkidu is incensed and travels to Uruk to intervene at a wedding. When Gilgamesh attempts to visit the wedding chamber, Enkidu blocks his way, and they fight. After a fierce battle, Enkidu acknowledges Gilgamesh's superior strength and they become friends. Gilgamesh proposes a journey to the Cedar Forest to slay the monstrous demi-god Humbaba in order to gain fame and renown. Despite warnings from Enkidu and the council of elders, Gilgamesh is not deterred.
The elders give Gilgamesh advice for his journey. Gilgamesh visits his mother, the goddess Ninsun, who seeks the support and protection of the sun-god Shamash for their adventure. Ninsun adopts Enkidu as her son, and Gilgamesh leaves instructions for the governance of Uruk in his absence.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu journey to the Cedar Forest. Every few days they camp on a mountain, and perform a dream ritual. Gilgamesh has five terrifying dreams about falling mountains, thunderstorms, wild bulls, and a thunderbird that breathes fire. Despite similarities between his dream figures and earlier descriptions of Humbaba, Enkidu interprets these dreams as good omens, and denies that the frightening images represent the forest guardian. As they approach the cedar mountain, they hear Humbaba bellowing, and have to encourage each other not to be afraid.
Tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh
Reverse side of the newly discovered tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It dates back to the old Babylonian period, 2003–1595 BC and is currently housed in the Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq
The heroes enter the cedar forest. Humbaba, the guardian of the Cedar Forest, insults and threatens them. He accuses Enkidu of betrayal, and vows to disembowel Gilgamesh and feed his flesh to the birds. Gilgamesh is afraid, but with some encouraging words from Enkidu the battle commences. The mountains quake with the tumult and the sky turns black. The god Shamash sends 13 winds to bind Humbaba, and he is captured. Humbaba pleads for his life, and Gilgamesh pities him. He offers Gilgamesh to be king of the forest, he will cut the trees for him, and be his slave. Enkidu, however, argues that Gilgamesh should kill Humbaba to establish his reputation forever. Humbaba curses them both and Gilgamesh dispatches him with a blow to the neck. The two heroes cut down many cedars, including a gigantic tree that Enkidu plans to fashion into a gate for the temple of Enlil. They build a raft and return home along the Euphrates with the giant tree and (possibly) the head of Humbaba.
Gilgamesh rejects the advances of the goddess Ishtar because of her mistreatment of previous lovers like Dumuzi. Ishtar asks her father Anu to send Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven, to avenge her. When Anu rejects her complaints, Ishtar threatens to raise the dead who will "outnumber the living" and "devour them". Anu becomes frightened, and gives in to her. Ishtar leads Gugalanna to Uruk, and it causes widespread devastation. It lowers the level of the Euphrates river, and dries up the marshes. It opens up huge pits that swallow 300 men. Without any divine assistance, Enkidu and Gilgamesh attack and slay it, and offer up its heart to Shamash. When Ishtar cries out, Enkidu hurls one of the hindquarters of the bull at her. The city of Uruk celebrates, but Enkidu has an ominous dream about his future failure.
In Enkidu's dream, the gods decide that one of the heroes must die because they killed Humbaba and Gugalanna. Despite the protestations of Shamash, Enkidu is marked for death. Enkidu curses the great door he has fashioned for Enlil's temple. He also curses the trapper and Shamhat for removing him from the wild. Shamash reminds Enkidu of how Shamhat fed and clothed him, and introduced him to Gilgamesh. Shamash tells him that Gilgamesh will bestow great honors upon him at his funeral, and will wander into the wild consumed with grief. Enkidu regrets his curses and blesses Shamhat. In a second dream, however, he sees himself being taken captive to the Netherworld by a terrifying Angel of Death. The underworld is a "house of dust" and darkness whose inhabitants eat clay, and are clothed in bird feathers, supervised by terrifying beings. For 12 days, Enkidu's condition worsens. Finally, after a lament that he could not meet a heroic death in battle, he dies.
Gilgamesh delivers a lamentation for Enkidu, in which he calls upon mountains, forests, fields, rivers, wild animals, and all of Uruk to mourn for his friend. Recalling their adventures together, Gilgamesh tears at his hair and clothes in grief. He commissions a funerary statue, and provides grave gifts from his treasury to ensure that Enkidu has a favourable reception in the realm of the dead. A great banquet is held where the treasures are offered to the gods of the Netherworld. Just before a break in the text there is a suggestion that a river is being dammed, indicating a burial in a river bed, as in the corresponding Sumerian poem, The Death of Gilgamesh.
Tablet nine opens with Gilgamesh roaming the wild wearing animal skins, grieving for Enkidu. Fearful of his own death, he decides to seek Utnapishtim ("the Faraway"), and learn the secret of eternal life. Among the few survivors of the Great Flood, Utnapishtim and his wife are the only humans to have been granted immortality by the gods. Gilgamesh crosses a mountain pass at night and encounters a pride of lions. Before sleeping he prays for protection to the moon god Sin. Then, waking from an encouraging dream, he kills the lions and uses their skins for clothing. After a long and perilous journey, Gilgamesh arrives at the twin peaks of Mount Mashu at the end of the earth. He comes across a tunnel, which no man has ever entered, guarded by two scorpion monsters, who appear to be a married couple. The husband tries to dissuade Gilgamesh from passing, but the wife intervenes, expresses sympathy for Gilgamesh, and (according to the poem's editor Benjamin Foster) allows his passage. He passes under the mountains along the Road of the Sun. In complete darkness he follows the road for 12 "double hours", managing to complete the trip before the Sun catches up with him. He arrives at the Garden of the gods, a paradise full of jewel-laden trees.
Gilgamesh meets alewife Siduri, who assumes that he is a murderer or thief because of his disheveled appearance. Gilgamesh tells her about the purpose of his journey. She attempts to dissuade him from his quest, but sends him to Urshanabi the ferryman, who will help him cross the sea to Utnapishtim. Gilgamesh, out of spontaneous rage, destroys the stone charms that Urshanabi keeps with him. He tells him his story, but when he asks for his help, Urshanabi informs him that he has just destroyed the objects that can help them cross the Waters of Death, which are deadly to the touch. Urshanabi instructs Gilgamesh to cut down 120 trees and fashion them into punting poles. When they reach the island where Utnapishtim lives, Gilgamesh recounts his story, asking him for his help. Utnapishtim reprimands him, declaring that fighting the common fate of humans is futile and diminishes life's joys.
George Smith, the man who transliterated and read the so-called "Babylonian Flood Story" of Tablet XI
Gilgamesh observes that Utnapishtim seems no different from himself, and asks him how he obtained his immortality. Utnapishtim explains that the gods decided to send a great flood. To save Utnapishtim the god Ea told him to build a boat. He gave him precise dimensions, and it was sealed with pitch and bitumen. His entire family went aboard together with his craftsmen and "all the animals of the field". A violent storm then arose which caused the terrified gods to retreat to the heavens. Ishtar lamented the wholesale destruction of humanity, and the other gods wept beside her. The storm lasted six days and nights, after which "all the human beings turned to clay". Utnapishtim weeps when he sees the destruction. His boat lodges on a mountain, and he releases a dove, a swallow, and a raven. When the raven fails to return, he opens the ark and frees its inhabitants. Utnapishtim offers a sacrifice to the gods, who smell the sweet savor and gather around. Ishtar vows that just as she will never forget the brilliant necklace that hangs around her neck, she will always remember this time. When Enlil arrives, angry that there are survivors, she condemns him for instigating the flood. Ea also castigates him for sending a disproportionate punishment. Enlil blesses Utnapishtim and his wife, and rewards them with eternal life. This account matches the flood story that concludes the Epic of Atra-Hasis (see also Gilgamesh flood myth).
The main point seems to be that when Enlil granted eternal life it was a unique gift. As if to demonstrate this point, Utnapishtim challenges Gilgamesh to stay awake for six days and seven nights. Gilgamesh falls asleep, and Utnapishtim instructs his wife to bake a loaf of bread on each of the days he is asleep, so that he cannot deny his failure to keep awake. Gilgamesh, who is seeking to overcome death, cannot even conquer sleep. After instructing Urshanabi the ferryman to wash Gilgamesh, and clothe him in royal robes, they depart for Uruk.
As they are leaving, Utnapishtim's wife asks her husband to offer a parting gift. Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that at the bottom of the sea there lives a boxthorn-like plant that will make him young again. Gilgamesh, by binding stones to his feet so he can walk on the bottom, manages to obtain the plant. Gilgamesh proposes to investigate if the plant has the hypothesized rejuvenation ability by testing it on an old man once he returns to Uruk.
There is a plant that looks like a box-thorn, it has prickles like a dogrose, and will prick one who plucks it. But if you can possess this plant, you'll be again as you were in your youthThis plant, Ur-shanabi, is the "Plant of Heartbeat", with it a man can regain his vigour. To Uruk-the-sheepfold I will take it, to an ancient I will feed some and put the plant to the test!:98
Unfortunately, when Gilgamesh stops to bathe, it is stolen by a serpent, who sheds its skin as it departs. Gilgamesh weeps at the futility of his efforts, because he has now lost all chance of immortality. He returns to Uruk, where the sight of its massive walls prompts him to praise this enduring work to Urshanabi.
This tablet is mainly an Akkadian translation of an earlier Sumerian poem, Gilgamesh and the Netherworld (also known as "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld" and variants), although it has been suggested that it is derived from an unknown version of that story.:42 The contents of this last tablet are inconsistent with previous ones: Enkidu is still alive, despite having died earlier in the epic. Because of this, its lack of integration with the other tablets, and the fact that it is almost a copy of an earlier version, it has been referred to as an 'inorganic appendage' to the epic. Alternatively, it has been suggested that "its purpose, though crudely handled, is to explain to Gilgamesh (and the reader) the various fates of the dead in the Afterlife" and in "an awkward attempt to bring closure", it both connects the Gilgamesh of the epic with the Gilgamesh who is the King of the Netherworld, and is "a dramatic capstone whereby the twelve-tablet epic ends on one and the same theme, that of "seeing" (= understanding, discovery, etc.), with which it began."
Gilgamesh complains to Enkidu that various of his possessions (the tablet is unclear exactly what — different translations include a drum and a ball) have fallen into the underworld. Enkidu offers to bring them back. Delighted, Gilgamesh tells Enkidu what he must and must not do in the underworld if he is to return. Enkidu does everything which he was told not to do. The underworld keeps him. Gilgamesh prays to the gods to give him back his friend. Enlil and Suen don't reply, but Ea and Shamash decide to help. Shamash makes a crack in the earth, and Enkidu's ghost jumps out of it. The tablet ends with Gilgamesh questioning Enkidu about what he has seen in the underworld.
Cool. We good? All refreshed? Also, isn't the Epic of Gilgamesh FUCKING NUTS?
Now, let's talk Avengers.
Spoilers. Did you miss the warning up above? Well I'm spoiling shit, so stop.
So Thanos got his bejeweled gauntlet, snapped his fingers, and.......holy shit.
Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning.
I really enjoyed the hell out of A:IW. It was an incredible achievement in film-making. Whether you like the current surge of comic-book movies or not, you have to admit that Marvel has pulled off the impossible with over a decade of quality movies. But they did something even grander this past weekend (aside from the historic box office take): They surprised me.
The first Avengers was a spectacle, something the world had never really seen before. Sure, there had been team-ups before. Godzilla had fought King Kong, the Globetrotters had helped the Scooby Gang, and Buffy had gone to LA to wreck Angel's calm a dozen times. But this was a team-up of the grandest scale, combining the somewhat grounded Iron Man universe with the downright zany Guardians universe.
This was epic on a scale we'd never imagined.
You should appreciate this film for the character management, if nothing else. Marvel put on a Master Class of pacing, voice, and the steady coalescence of story lines. By the end of the film, things were colliding so fast it was hard to keep track, and yet it all still made sense.
And then that snap.
I mean...holy shit.
Now, some of you out there are shouting at your screens, "Adam, we already knew this would happen. We've read the comics."
Well, assume for a moment that most of the audience has not read the six comic sagas that this movie was based upon. Fewer still know the turn that Adam Warlock pulls later on (which, given the way the next few films are set up, won't be the way they work out this conundrum). This movie took comic neophytes and kicked them solidly in the gut.
And then ended.
I recently read a phenomenal take by Chuck Wendig on why this film had such a powerful impact. It basically comes down to basic storytelling. You should read his take (and everything else he writes), but it boils down to this: The movie had no denouement.
Now, there have been numerous "hot takes" about this film already. One especially dim reporter agonized that characters did not get full origin stories in this movie, and that we were expected to already know who they were and what their motivations would be.
Yeah. Duh. Dude, this is the 19th fucking movie in this franchise. It's not the best one to leap into as your first.
Anyway, the denouement. This egregiously French word translates to "unknotting," referring to the twists and turns of storytelling up to that point. If you were writing the Thanos story from beginning to end, you'd start with Avengers, worm your way through Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok, and bring it home with Infinity War. But that would only get you to the Climax, the moment of extreme action and confrontation. The instant when everything goes either right or wrong (stories don't have to end with the heroes winning).
But then, for the sake of the reader's sanity, you "untie the knots." You show the glimmer of hope on the horizon.
A lot of people have compared A:IW to Empire Strikes Back, and for good reason. That was a game-changer of a climax. There were revelations in that film that impacted every single movie since. IW is no different, except that it has no denouement. In Empire, we get Luke a new hand. We see the Rebel Fleet preparing for revenge. We go off in search of Han (and the truck of cash necessary to keep Harrison Ford in the franchise).
In Saving Private Ryan, we learn that Matt Damon made it home. Had a family. Grew old. He earned the sacrifice of his fellow soldiers by living for them.
In Dark Knight Rises, Alfred sees Batman at a cafe (and is apparently totes cool with the emotional roller coaster of him faking his death).
In Infinity War, Captain America sits in the ashes of his friends, staring at a changed universe, and utters the defeated "Oh God." It SUUUUUUUUUCKS (emotionally. As a film, I am 100% on board).
And then it's over.
People walked out of this movie in a stupor. I saw people crying. I'm still processing. And the reason is simple: The movie gave us no hope for what comes next.
Now, Mr. Wendig takes this as a negative. I totally get that. It sucks that we have to wait a full year to know what comes next (or you could read the comics that came out literally 25 years ago).
But the gall it took to put this movie in theaters is inspiring. The Russo Brothers played against the norm, and I think it works beautifully. Every other comic book movie--EVER--has a happy ending. Sure, a few characters may not make it out alive, but the team is energized and ready for more.
Ultron is defeated and a new team prepares to fight. Hela dies on Asgard, but the people are saved. Hydra is destroyed and their agents exposed. Superman is "dead," but oh look there are rocks rising over his casket so clearly he's not dead yay everyone let's just put up with this DC really needs a win.
At the end of this movie, half of the universe is gone. Turned to ashes in a horrifyingly quiet sequence. It reminded me of the Angel of Death sequence from Prince of Egypt. Just the whispering winds of Death fluttering through the world, snuffing out life in an instant. It's devastating. We see characters we absolutely love vanishing before our eyes.
For me, there were two deaths in particular that ruined me. Bucky's painful "Steve" before shattering on the ground served as the appetizer to this miserable feast. In that moment, I knew this would be no "rapture." Our heroes didn't just lose. They wouldn't be spared the horror of their failure. No. They had to watch their friends dissolve.
Then came Spider-Man. Tom Holland is a phenom. I love his performance as the friendly neighborhood web-slinger. His "I don't want to go, Mr. Stark" straight up haunts me. A movie about a talking raccoon shouldn't have this much emotional, strength. And yet it does.
There are flaws, of course. No movie is without them, and ginormous studio movies like A:IW are even more susceptible. Yet I find all of them forgiven in service of this epic, incredible film. I am in awe of the talent that went into this endeavor. I am stunned by the fact that, in an age of leaks, we had no idea where this movie was going until the very end. If they pre-sold tickets to Avengers 4, I bet they would have sold out in an instant.
I want to know your thoughts. I need to talk about this movie. We all do. Like mourners at a funeral, we need to share our grief. And, like warriors after a battle, we need to prepare for what comes next.
A final thought: Josh Brolin deserves incredible kudos for delivering a sympathetic--and horryfing--villain.