I watched Avengers Infinity War last August and then wrote this post but totally forgot about it. There’re trailers for Endgame coming out now and it reminded me to actually finish what I started, so here we go. I actually enjoyed Infinity War, I thought it had a great story and it balanced it’s massive cast of characters really well. The ending had the sort of somber gut punch that I've only found in one other series, Berserk. I know a anime from the early 2000's doesn't seem like it would have a lot in common with the latest Marvel Comic Universe film, but just bare with me and I'll bring it home.
I'm not shy about the fact that I've moved away from comic book movies over the past few years. It's not just the fact that I was a massive comic nerd in my younger days, and the shift of nerdy interests becoming mainstream irked me to no end. My interests becoming popular doesn't make up for the thousands spent on therapy bills from the days when they weren't popular. No, it's also because I’ve just become burnt out on comic movies. Hugh Jackman was Wolverine for seventeen years! That's a long time to be invested in a character... and for a while it looked like there would be no pay off to that investment.
We first met Wolverine on the big screen in the year 2000. To put that in perspective, the Twin Towers were still standing when Hugh Jackman first popped his claws. I remember that they actually had to change the first Spider-Man movie because originally he'd caught some criminals in a web between the towers and they'd just been destroyed in real life. That's how long ago these films started appearing, they’re older than the War on Terror. It took them seventeen years, but Wolverine finally died in 2017 in one of the best Marvel films to date.
I haven't seen any Captain America films, I never saw Doctor Strange, I haven't seen any of the TV series and the only Thor movie I've seen is Thor Ragnarok. I have watched the Avengers films though, because that's where it all seems to be coming together. The first Avengers film came out in 2012, and if you want to get technical then the first film about an Avenger came out in 2008 with Iron Man. That's 10 years from Iron Man to Avengers Infinity War, which is one hell of an investment in these characters.
Avengers Infinity Wars was already great, but when Thanos snapped his fingers at the end it went into overdrive. All the characters we'd invested in over the years; Bucky, Black Panther, Groot, Scarlet Witch, Drax, Quill, Spider-Man... they all disintegrated. And their deaths were indicative of what was going on not only all across earth, but all across the universe. Half of the universe's population was disintegrated in an instant, and we experienced that through the loss of these named characters we've invested so much in.
I've only passably been paying attention to these movies for a while now. I’d go to the cinema if someone else wanted to, but otherwise I just watched them on the small screen. Even with my own half level of interest, the death of all these characters was executed in such a supreme fashion that it still left me stunned. Black Panther disintegrating as he goes to help Okoye. Rocket staggering over to Groot as he dies, again. Stark futilely asking quill to stay as he's already vanishing, and then having to watch Peter Parker, who had basically become his surrogate son by this point, fall apart in his arms. And finally, Captain America gasping "oh, god" as he realizes the greater implications of their failure to stop Thanos.
It was fantastic, and it's got me hooked for Endgame later this year. My only issue is that I know that all these characters will come back by the end of that film. Comic creators have this issue with not letting their creations stay dead; death is more of a break than a true end for comic book characters. That's my issue with all of this, this fantastically impactful end to Infinity War is going to be undercut and undone by the next movie. On its own, Infinity War is a great story about failure and its costs, but as part of a series it doesn't even matter. If all these characters are going to be brought back, why not bring back Gamora, Loki, Odin, Quicksilver, Killmonger, Wolverine, Heimdall, Peter Parkers parents... the list goes on. If you can bring back some, why not others?
So, Avengers Infinity War did it pretty damn well, but it's going to be undone later on. A series that got it right, however, is Berserk. I started watching this anime back in 2003, where the six DVD's were released in Australia a month apart. I loved the first few episodes so much that I actually watched everything I had all over again in the week leading up to the release of the next DVD. So by the time the final DVD came out, I'd seen the first four episodes six times, the second four episodes five times, the third four episodes four times... and so on.
Needless to say, that at the end of the six months, I was fairly invested in these characters. And I don't want to go into too much detail here, because this is going to get it's own blog post at some point... but in the last episode someone pulls a dick-move and pretty much everyone else is killed in a single, horrific event. I literally sat there on floor in front of the television, mouth agape, just staring as the credits began to roll. It was the craziest thing I had ever seen. If all stories are an effort to get you to feel something, then Berserk was a prime example of a successful story. It got you invested in all these main characters and side characters... then in one fell swoop they're slaughtered in the most brutal of fashions. And then it ended. The world continued, obviously, but that was the end of the series.
A key component of this is that it didn't feel contrived or forced. Marvel got this right with Infinity War too - as much as it was a horrifying ending, it was still a satisfying end to the story. It hurts but it still makes sense because it feels like the natural progression of the characters involved. In both Infinity War and Berserk, it feels like the mass slaughter at the end is the only place that it could have ended up. You can look back at the story in hindsight and realize that it was never going to end anywhere else, all the choices and all the mistakes were leading up to that single event.
I'm not even sure I want to see Endgame, simply because of the fantastic end of Infinity War that it’s going to undo. But I know that it's getting made and I know I'll probably just happen to see it eventually. In closing though, if you’re looking for a great series to sink your teeth into then check out Berserk. I’ll do a write up of it later on, at some point.