Avengers: Infinity War — plot map

April 22, 2019

I’ve been analyzing Infinity War. Not in depth, not in detail. Mostly, I’ve been looking at how it successfully manages this huge cast of characters, basically folding several ensembles together and having it all run smooth. (At least I thought it ran smooth.)

Here’s what I’ve got:

As you can see, this is bare bones and not too pretty. I’m not so much interested in plot details as I am in how the characters get from point A to point B, until every single one of them ends up in one of two places, Titan or Wakanda.

The answer is, the characters almost all move in clusters. Captain America never appears by himself, Iron Man never appears by himself. The characters who do move independently — Thor, Gamora, Bruce/Hulk, Thanos — are the glue that holds everything else together. They’re the linking components.

I’m setting the end of Act 1 as when Bruce calls Steve/Cap, and the end of Act 2 when Gamora dies and Thanos acquires the Soul Stone.  If you want to arrange it so that this movie is only two acts, and the third act is the whole of Endgame (I’ll know more about that after Thursday), then the end of Act 1 is Gamora’s death, and the end of Act 2 is the Snap.

The film has two major settings:  Space and Earth.

Act 1 Space:  All about scattering Thor and Hulk to their various next steps. Thor stays in space, Hulk gets to Earth.

Act 1 Earth:  All about getting Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Dr. Strange into the cluster that leaves Earth.

Act 2 Space: The Guardians of the Galaxy meet Thor. They split up:  Thor, Rocket and Groot head to Nidaveller, the rest to Knowhere. After Nidaveller, Team Thor heads to Earth. Team Quill splits again: Thanos takes Gamora, Team Quill heads to Titan. (Nebula is a wild card here and I kind of love her. She’s super important I think — Gamora basically hands over the Soul Stone to save her life. But she also isn’t part of any group — yet. She heads to Titan to join Quill & Co.)  Team Iron Man arrives at Titan.

Act 2 Earth: Begins with Vision and Wanda, which is appropriate since the whole climactic moment of the movie begins with them as well. They’re joined by Cap, Black Widow, and Falcon, who move as a unit through the entire film. Next up they’re joined by Bruce and Rhodey. As a group, they head to Wakanda, where the climactic confrontation takes place. There, they’re joined by Black Panther and the entire Wakanda contingent, and Bucky Barnes.  (They’re like this amoeba of Avengers, gathering up characters as they travel through the film until they’re one big giant team.)

Act 3:  So, at the start of Act 3, everybody has arrived (or is about to arrive) either at Titan or Wakanda.  Team Iron Man and Team Quill + Nebula are all in one place. Team Thor joins Team Cap at Wakanda. The stage is set for the final battles. Thanos clears out the good guys on Titan, then heads to Earth.

It’s weirdly simple when you break it all down. SNAP, as they say.

In a sense, all the Avengers movies are about bringing disparate characters together. Moving them around in these clusters guarantees the interaction and character moments that so defines the MCU. These aren’t movies about lone wolves.

Taking Infinity War and Endgame as one sequence, we’re at the start of Act 3. Our heroes have been moving as teams through the whole series, until now, when they’ve been completely destroyed in ways that are nigh incomprehensible. I think in Endgame we’re going to see them building new teams as best they can, and incorporating the big new player on the stage. It may be that, in the bigger picture, the end of Act 2 is the Snap. But the start of Act 3 is going to be the arrival of Captain Marvel. And she will change everything.


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