By now, millions have flocked to opening-weekend screenings of "Avengers: Infinity War," leaving them debating the movie's twists, turns and ending, including what it all might mean for the fourth "Avengers" movie due next year -- and really the entire Marvel cinematic universe.
CNN's Frank Pallotta and Brian Lowry decided to do the same -- taking off their media-reporter hats and donning their fan threads -- to rehash the movie's merits (mostly), shortcomings (less so, but a few) and what comes next.
The exchange that follows is filled with spoilers, so if you haven't braved the lines yet and still intend to see the movie once the crowds thin, to paraphrase another Disney-owned franchise, this is not the article you're looking for.
Frank Pallotta: Okay, Marvel movie nerds assemble!
More than anything, "Avengers: Infinity War" is a study in choreography. I'm still pretty baffled by just how well they pulled this off. Yes, it's all branding. But the film isn't hollow. The action is character driven, I care about everyone in this movie and -- at more than two and a half hours -- it doesn't feel fat. I mean it's breezy for a film where there's at least two heroes mentioned that are based on insects. It's a great Iron Man movie, it's a great Thor movie and it's a really great "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie. Nobody's left out.
Plus, as a bald man who also likes flashy jewelry, I related to Thanos.
Brian Lowry: I mostly agree. I think the Russo brothers, who directed the film, did an extraordinary job of juggling all those characters and putting them together in entertaining ways, a la Starlord being jealous of Thor. They also oscillated, pretty impressively, between the light and the dark -- from a funny moment with Spider-Man to Thanos skewering Iron Man. My only real quibble is with the ending -- why they didn't just go ahead and title it "Infinity War, Part I," as was originally intended.
Pallotta: Oh man, that ending. Did it ruin the rest of the film for you? I mean, I usually feel cheated by cliffhangers that are so obviously going to be undone, but I didn't here. It felt organic and I was actually shocked! However, I literally loudly said, "YEAH RIGHT" in the theater when Black Panther got dusted.
Lowry: That was my main problem. Not the lack of closure, necessarily -- I knew there's another movie next year -- but the fact that they killed off so many key characters you know it's all going to be undone. It undermined some of the sense of loss for me that I felt earlier in the movie.
Pallotta: It wasn't so much that they "killed" half the cast. It was *who* they chose to kill.
Black Panther, Spider-Man, most of the Guardians, etc. That's the future of the franchise and most of those characters have announced sequels. Plus, uh Black Panther is one of the biggest characters in the world and was a part of a cultural phenomenon that made a gazillion dollars. So yeah, no. It would've been bolder if it was switched. Like, if Iron Man, Cap, Thor, Black Widow and the original heroes ate it. I would've left thinking that they'd probably undo it all but I wouldn't have been 100% sure.
Lowry: Agreed. This is an age-old problem, but when you can just go back and "fix" things, it undermines the 2 1/2 hours you invested. If Superman can just fly backwards and turn back the clock, why bother going through the rigmarole of fighting bad guys? Still, there's no penalty for this. And let's face it, a year from now, the lines for "Part 2" -- or whatever they choose to call it -- are going to be huge.
Pallotta: Well, I mean Superman did fly backwards, turning back the clock, though.
Lowry: I know. And it damn near ruined the movie for me. To their credit, they did have Doctor Strange tip off that there was only one way to beat Thanos, so presumably this is it. But whatever that involves, it had better be good, or I'm going to be grousing about that 40 years from now too.
Pallotta: Well, you'll be kind of happy since you'll be a record-setting 120 years old.
Lowry: At least I knew the ending to that joke was coming.
Pallotta: I am nothing if not completely predictable. Who was the best character in the film? There's so many to choose from.
Lowry: I thought in a way it was really a showcase for Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. But there were a lot of visually arresting moments. The most jarring for me -- and effective, in setting the tone -- was seeing Thanos beat the stuffing out of the Hulk right off the bat.
Pallotta: Yeah, poor Hulk! He had a rough go in this movie.
For me, it's Starlord. I really enjoyed Chris Pratt's performance in the film and felt like it's his best in any film since the original "Guardians." He has some great lines ("Which master do I serve? What am I supposed to say? JESUS?"). And he's a fully formed character, which is surprising since Starlord is basically just Han Solo with a Sony Walkman. The chemistry between him and Zoe Saldana's Gamora had a lot of heart.
How about the post-credit scene? I must say sitting through the end credits, which for Marvel movies is usually a fun time, was like sitting front row at a funeral. But, hey, it sets up Captain Marvel who apparently still uses a beeper.
Lowry: I actually didn't think it was worth the sit. And frankly that whole people-disappearing sequence made me think I was watching "The Leftovers."
Pallotta: Me too! I mean this film did have Carrie Coon voice one of Thanos' goons, so maybe this whole decade-long Disney franchise was just a set up to remind everyone about how good "The Leftovers" was?
Okay, looking ahead, what do you think the title of next year's "Avengers 4" is going to be?
Lowry: Don't think "Avengers: Come and See Who Really Dies" would fit on a billboard, but that would work.
Pallotta: I'm going with "Avengers: Here We Go Again" in hopes the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe includes multiple ABBA musical numbers.