After 10 years, 18 movies, 14 billion dollars in net earnings, and a dizzying array of explosions, the widest assembly of superheroes yet has finally arrived in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War. In what observers are labeling the most ambitious movie crossover event of all time, a decade of powers and punches, as well as studio finesse on the part of trailblazers including Kevin Feige, has culminated in the first of a two-part earth-shattering blockbuster event. The film has already scored the largest global opening of all time, but how does the latest comic bombshell stack up?
Infinity War is busy and bombastic, hurried and chaotic, but still climaxes as an overwhelming cinematic accomplishment. Yes – this is bloated, commercialized entertainment in its rawest form, but the level of business acumen and planning that had to go in to successfully deliver such a rich, long-running interconnected franchise with almost no major hiccups (save for nullifying Ed Norton’s Hulk), and bring it to a head in one massive crossover experience is simply extraordinary. Even if the film was a bust, it would be historic. Thankfully, that’s not the case.
Going into Infinity War, it may help to have a refresher. It’s been years since we’ve seen some of these characters, and their whereabouts have been scattered across the galaxy. The fates of some parties have only been divulged in some of the countless post-credits scenes, so trust me, it pays to take some time catching up, even with two of the films having been released within the last few months. No recap is offered, and things get started fast, with plenty of esoteric in-jokes to speak of, but it all just highlights the rewards that faithfully following this franchise has to offer.
Things commence where Thor: Ragnarok left off: the raid on Asgard’s escape vessel by the galactic warlord Thanos. A decade of underwhelming villains comes to a definitive close with the proper introduction of the Marvel universe’s greatest villain of all time by a substantial margin. Josh Brolin instantly crosses the CGI barrier here to rattle viewers with what is a powerful performance, and it’s in this early of a stage (spoiler alert) that Feige and the Russo brothers prove they’re not playing around: one of the franchise’s most pivotal characters meets their end.
After harvesting the Space Infinity Stone from the Tesseract, the despot uses his newest prize to adorn his ultimate weapon – the Infinity Gauntlet – a solid glove capable of wielding the mystical stones, and once all six jewels are procured, allowing its wearer the awesome power of creating and destroying the universe. Thanos aims to restore “balance” to the cosmos by erasing half of its living inhabitants. The Avengers, understandably, oppose this plan, and Marvel heroes across the universe forego old rivalries and come together to halt the oncoming threat.
In comparison to previous Avengers entries, Infinity War comprises a staggering and far-reaching scope. To keep things streamlined, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely wisely concentrate the heroes into clusters taking up their own plot threads. As members from across the MCU spectrum consolidate and interact, characters play off each other in offbeat and unique pairings that were unthinkable until now. Thor goes on a joy ride with Rocket Raccoon, T’Challa unites with Steve Rogers, and egos collide as Tony Stark spars words with Dr. Strange.
As Feige and company mix the pot, a great host of effects is inevitably incurred. Integrating such a large number of films from so many directors and writers is inescapably problematic: stylistic sensibilities clash, thematic intentions are ignored, and personality pairings ring dull. However, the Russo brothers have taken sensible direction from Joss Whedon, and having been armed with practical experience helming Civil War, have exhibited a tremendous effort, and submit as strong a feat here as one could reasonably expect from a project of such expansive magnitude.
The film is also embellished by the fact that it occupies the most menacing antagonist in the franchise’s history. Marvel villains 2018 were already off to an excellent start with Black Panther’s sympathetic Killmonger, and Infinity War’s Thanos surpasses him with Brolin’s stalwart and imposing motion capture work. Despite donning the devil role in this film, Thanos boasts a tender backstory. As he pursues his dastardly plans, he must cross paths with his previously established daughters Gamora and Nebula, and his resolve will be tested through sacrifice.
Not to get into spoilers here, but Infinity War packs a startling shocker of an ending, and isn’t afraid to cap things on a bleak note. While there is certainly a strong chance of things being undone in future chapters, Infinity War pulls no punches when nixing characters who have had a long record with the franchise, not to mention rabid fan bases. There are plenty of unpredictable turns and surprises as well, including a fun ironic role by the beloved Peter Dinklage. In addition to a plethora of Easter eggs, Infinity War has a lot to explore, including a fair share of weak spots.
The third Avengers is not immune to the genre trapping of convoluted writing, and there are numerous occasions when saviors swoop in at the last second. This is standard for action films, but the tactic is more conspicuous in repetition. Much of the humor also tends to be hit-or-miss, but in all honesty, the Russo brothers have achieved an impressive triumph here. This colossal spectacle is too massive and unwieldy to earn very high of expectations, even coming from Marvel. As the studio continues to up their game, Phase 4 can feel free to bless us at any time.