Avengers: Infinity War is the most ambitious movie ever made. Not just as a comic book movie, but in general. To make a movie with an ensemble cast as large as this, as well as pay off a constantly developing story 10 years in the making is no easy feat. And that’s where the Russos shine. They’ve really made something special with Infinity War.
We start off with a bang, instantly engraving in us the sheer threat that Thanos presents. After 6 years of teasing, Thanos has finally arrived. And his ascension brings a certain sense of urgency to the rest of the movie. Stopping him is the ultimate goal. Nothing is of more importance than that.
Now unless you’ve been living under a rock, Avengers: Infinity War plays as the culmination of 18 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). That means that it features just about every superhero that has ever appeared up until now. And that, while as great as it sounds, is understandably a big concern. How do you even manage 24-or so characters, and introduce new ones, and pay off a massive story all under 150 minutes? Credit to the screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The dynamic duo, who have written Captain America: The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier before this, (mostly) manage it all. Almost every character is treated with importance & gravitas. Everyone has a part to play, and all of them play it beautifully.
So let’s break it down. Starting with the Guardians of the Galaxy, all of them feel very much at home here. Some had concerns as to whether the Russos would be able to handle these characters who’ve been, up till this point, under the care of James Gunn. Suffice it to say that they’ve done a perfect job here. The Guardians are still the lovable bunch of idiots that we fell in love with in their solo movies.
Similarly, most of the Avengers feel like the same characters they were at the end of their last movies, with some of them have evolved from previous events of course. Thor arguably is one of the more important characters here, and it’s a bit jarring to see him changed from what we saw in Ragnarok. He’s kind of back to his old self, carrying the best parts from Ragnarok and the best from his pre-Ragnarok phase. Some might argue that he is changed for the worse, but I beg to differ.
We see the film break up a lot of characters into interesting groups. And that is effective in the best way possible. It was always impossible to give ample screen time to all these people at the same time, and the only feasible way to tell such a massive story is to break up all the 25-or-so characters into smaller groups in order to keep the momentum going.
For the most part, Markus and McFeely succeed in achieving the impossible. They manage to handle these characters with extreme care and respect, even though there are some problems in doing so. Some characters evidently get side-lined here. To my surprise, Captain America isn’t nearly as important as the trailers made him out to be. Even Black Panther, Marvel’s golden goose right now, gets quite side-lined. The rest of the remaining Avengers, while they get their moments, ultimately kinda fall flat. We do get to see the limelight on Vision and Wanda (Scarlet Witch) for once. Their history in the comics is something deemed a little too weird to be adapted to live action, but it works. It actually forms the emotional crux that holds all these people together on Earth.
We also get powerful characters like Doctor Strange finally showing us why he’s one not to be trifled with. The Russos have made a very competent film, and Strange certainly plays a very important part here. After Thanos, Gamora and Thor, it can be argued that Strange is next in line of importance in this film. His intellect and interactions prove pivotal in the quest to defeat Thanos. Plus, it’s really hard to complain when you see both him and Tony Stark in the same frame.
Now, coming to the man who started it all. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man is the unsung hero of this movie, even if the film refuses to admit it. His new armor is the strongest it’s ever been, and it needs to be that way in order to defeat Thanos. Stark has been preparing for this moment for years, and getting the shiniest new suit is only the beginning. Just like the Extremis armor in the comics, this new suit comes out of his new arc reactor, is made up of nano-tech. This means that it’s mostly regenerative, and can form new weapons and modifications on will. It gives him an edge in a fight where the villain is more powerful than the Hulk, & that’s without the infinity stones.
Thanos is, without a doubt, the most nefariously complex villain Marvel has ever put on screen. Menacing when needed, and surprisingly human when the story demands it, Josh Brolin puts together a terrifying performance. Infinity War is through and through Thanos’ movie. If there is one main protagonist amidst all the chaos, it’s him. After over six years of teasing, Marvel has finally lifted the curtain to present to us a well-thought-out villain. Thanos intends to seek all the Infinity stones, which once collected, will grant him the power to destroy half the universe. Half, to be exact because he believes it’s the only way to achieve universal peace.
Contrary to the other films, Thanos does get more than one moment to shine. We get an elaborate backstory involving him and Gamora, his adopted daughter, and the result is a surprisingly emotional payoff. I won’t spoil it here (obviously), but prepare to get your heartstrings tugged at. The dynamic between them alone propels Thanos above your standard CBM villain.
Coming to the ‘War’, there’s plenty of that here. The Russos explained their approach as being inspired by 90’s heist films, with a certain emotional weight attached to each time a stone is collected. And that shows. Thanos uses every stone he has at various points in the film, and it’s a marvel (pun intended) watching such grand cosmic powers being put to use on screen. Each stone is wholly unique from the others, and they are used quite well. Even if you didn’t watch the previous entries in the franchise, you’ll be able to distinguish between each subset of powers that the stones present.
Marvel has been marketing Infinity War as the culmination of 10 years’ worth of storytelling. They’ve said multiple times that this is the end as we know it. And from a certain point of view, it is. It certainly is the riskiest movie they’ve ever made, and not just in terms of scope and ambition. What they do with the story here is the most Disney would ever allow. Things certainly look grim for our heroes, and while there are some well-timed jokes peppered throughout this extravaganza, ultimately Marvel has made a dark film.
Make no mistake. This is part of a bigger story. We just don’t know it yet. While the marketing team at Marvel will tell you differently, Infinity War is certainly part 1 of a larger narrative. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be its own movie. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes to mind. It’s not blatantly cut down in the middle of the story. There is a resolution to this story, just a different one than what you might expect. This is Thanos’ movie, and the story more than justifies it.
Coming out of Avengers: Infinity War, I can’t wait to go back and watch it a second time to notice all the little things. I have a fleeting sense that this is gonna be a movie which will be heavily discussed by its fans. Not just because of the epic battles, but because of how it resolves. Suffice it to say that we are far from done with these characters. As mentioned in the title of the review, it feels like the Empire Strikes Back of the series. If you’ve seen that movie you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, well do yourself a favor. We’ll see how it all turns out in the true culmination of the story next year in the as of yet untitled Avengers 4. Till then though, Thanos demands your silence.