by Steve McGowan
The Infinity War is upon us! After 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, almost every single movie character that Marvel Studios has made films about since 2008 are thrown onto the screen all at once in the biggest Avengers movie since… Captain America: Civil War. Sure that wasn’t an “Avengers movie”, but it also totally was. That film proved the Russo brothers could handle a massive cast of comic book characters, and sure enough they were up to the task of bringing together the cast of Avengers: Infinity War.
Needless to say, it is an incredibly ambitious project. Getting all these actors together in one star-studded movie cast for a huge world-changing adventure across multiple properties is no mean feat. It had the potential to be a large, messy stinker of a film like Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, the Russo Brothers are savvy filmmakers and storytellers, and they succeed in giving us the most high-stakes Marvel movie ever, with a few compromises.
This review is as spoiler-free as humanly possible, but you’re reading this wondering if you should see the film, wonder no more! For it is truly spectacular, visually and story-wise. Stop reading, and go see it without knowing anything more than that. Some minor plot points are discussed after this, so be warned.
The film continues right after the events at the end of Thor: Ragnarok, where the giant spaceship attacking Thor and his Asgardian refugees turn out to be none other than (surprise, surprise) Thanos himself. Thanos is on a mad quest to gather all the infinity stones for himself to power his Infinity Gauntlet, with which he wants to use to his own nefarious ends. As we saw in Thor: Ragnarok, Loki has the Tesseract (the space stone). Thanos demonstrates just how powerful he is early on, as we seethe result of that conflict being Thor floating out into space.
As for the other infinity stones, Thanos had already collected the power stone from Xandar, leaving it in ruins (which wasn’t shown, we are just told, and we see Thanos already having the power stone). The time stone is with Doctor Strange (the Eye of Agamotto), and the mind stone is embedded inside Vision’s head. The reality stone (the aether from Thor: The Dark World) is with the Collector, and the location of the soul stone is a mystery, even to Thanos. Thanos sends his henchmen (“The Black Order”) out on a quest to hunt for the stones on Earth, while he sets off to get the rest. On Earth they run into some of the Avengers, and in space Thanos runs into the Asgardians as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy (Thor and the Guardians meet up quite early in the film, as revealed in the trailers, so it’s not technically a spoiler). One of the fun things to watch in a mash-up like this is how the characters interact with each other; Doctor Strange bantering with Tony Stark is hilarious, as is Thor with the Guardians. To keep the story managable with this huge cast, the characters find themselves in separate small groups for most of the movie, as various heroes try to stop Thanos and his goons. The different threads finally meet up in the end for a spectacular (and surprising) finale in Black Panther’s home of Wakanda, and yes, we do get a moment where Rocket wants Bucky’s arm.
Marvel has traditionally had a problem with villains in previous films; they are usually weak and one-dimensional. In a film with so many characters and not enough screen time, a weak villain would make the whole film fall apart and it’d be an empty spectacle like the world’s most expensive action figure battle play session. Thankfully, this is not the case. Thanos is a fairly compelling villain. He’s a monster, yet in his mind he’s doing the right thing. He is cruel, yet he is trying to serve what he believes is a greater good. He believes he truly loves his daughter Gamora, despite abducting her from her homeworld, abusing her, and murdering her people. The scenes of Thanos and Gamora are the most emotionally wrenching in the film, and that grounds the action and adventure and flashy effects into a story worth telling.
If you’re going in to this film expecting Marvel’s formula of maintaining the status quo by the end of the episode, this movie isn’t it. It leaves you genuinely surprised at the twists that it throws at you. There will be a ton of discussion about it amongst fandom for a long time to come.
My main criticism of Avengers: Infinity War is that there are too many characters and not all of them get enough screen time. However “ultimate superhero mashup” was the entire point of the film, so this is to be expected. The movie assumes familiarity with all of the heroes, their personalities, and motives because there is simply not enough time to do all of them justice. I’m happy that some of my favorites such as Doctor Strange and Rocket do get their moments, but some fans may feel wanting to see more of their favorite characters. A necessary compromise to having them all in the same movie, I suppose.
Avengers: Infinity War is a giant, fun, mash-up movie which succeeds in raising the stakes in the entire Marvel universe. There are crowning moments of awesome, and heart-wrenching moments of tragedy and loss, all played to perfection by the Russo brothers. Whether or not this is truly a game-changing film does depend on how they handle the story moving forward. As it stands though, it was a bold movie, and I give it 4 out of 5 infinity stones.