Ten years. Eighteen movies. Never before in the history of filmed entertainment has there been such a complex, interconnected “cinematic universe’ that carries so many stories across so many planes. Through individual franchises and multi-hero team-ups, there is no argument that Marvel Studios has created the model that many studios wish to emulate, though few, if any, will ever manage to find the type of success that Marvel has. From 2008’s Iron Man to 2018’s Black Panther, everything has been leading to this – the third Avengers film and a piece that serves to re-shape the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) by laying the groundwork that will close the books on the first decade of storytelling by firmly throwing open a door – or portal – to what may come next. Avengers: Infinity War is the biggest superhero film in history, the MCU’s nineteenth film landing in the unique spot of being a new hub from which many spokes will soon spawn. When asked to provide a “two-word review” shortly after leaving the film’s World Premiere in Los Angeles, my response was “still absorbing.”
At a hefty 2 hours and 36 minutes, there’s a lot to take in, but Infinity War delivers by providing a non-stop barrage of action that pushes the boundaries between Earth, space and the unknown. 24 hours later, I’m still trying to process all the details of a film that I desperately want to see again – a piece that manages to excite and upset, captivate and frustrate, all while eliciting a range of emotional response from its audience that runs the gamut from celebration to sadness… often trying to find balance, much like that which Thanos seeks.
For several films, we’ve witnessed a growing sense of dread in that Thanos’ quest for the Infinity Stones has been drawing nearer to our heroes. Finally, the arrival of the mysterious purple-skinned titan and his “Children of Thanos” becomes a threat that our heroes cannot ignore, and the swiftness at which they begin acquiring the jewels to fill the golden gauntlet outpaces any attempt at a coordinated defense against Thanos’ ultimate plan to bring balance to the universe in a manner that will wipe out half of all humanity in the process.
Directing from a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the Russo Brothers (Captain America: Civil War) have crafted a film that breaks the superhero mold, jumping from location to location (the only thing missing was a comic book style “Meanwhile…” box), from the familiar to the cosmic in order to serve a tale that brings together an unprecedented cast of characters. There is much to be told, and that underlying thread of balance is certainly at play in how much screen time is given to each character, each mission and each locale.
With so many factors, audiences will no doubt be looking for a specific outcome for their personal favorite characters (or those they despise), and for this viewer those highlights are many. I love Iron Man. I love Captain America. I love Thor. I love Black Panther. And I particularly love how badass Doctor Strange has become and that the Guardians of the Galaxy have entered our world in a way that can allow a God and a trash panda to have a glorious adventure together, all while Peter Parker brings a sense of youthful innocence to the veteran team. What those outcomes may or may not be is not for me to share… not now. In fact, it was Luke Skywalker in the recent Star Wars: The Last Jedi who might have already coined the best phrase for all of this: “This is not going to go the way you think.”
Avengers: Infinity War is beautiful and at times overwhelming barrage of information and visuals that combine darkness and humor in unexpected ways – to the point where I will follow the call and request that you do the same in not spoiling the fun for those who have not yet experienced Infinity War for themselves. Just remember that a true Marvel fan always stays through the credits.
Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War stars Robert Downey Jr., as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Don Cheadle as Colonel James Rhodes/War Machine, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Paul Bettany as Vision, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Benedict Wong as Wong, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Dave Bautista as Drax, featuring Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, with Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, with Benicio Del Toro as The Collector, with Josh Brolin as Thanos, and Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord. Rated PG-13