It all started with a tease. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) teased The Avengers when appeared at the end of Iron Man. At the end of The Avengers, Marvel teased Thanos, one of the most powerful villains to ever occupy the pages of Marvel Comics. Now, after 18 movies over a decade, it all culminates in Avengers: Infinity War, the 19th Marvel movie and the first half of an epic two-part saga directed by Joe and Anthony Russo. And it is truly a superhero epic, bigger and more crowded than any movie Marvel has attempted before. If you’re a devotee to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (like I am), Infinity War is an epic delight overflowing with memorable heroes in perilous situations. If you’re not a fan of Marvel and their movies, it’ll be an exhausting experience endured out of obligation.
Fear not, true believer, I will not be spoiling any of the many surprises in Avengers: Infinity War and will just try to encapsulate the film’s tone and scale. However, I do recommend that die-hard Marvel fans cover their ears and block their eyes because Infinity War delivers some stunning, memorable moments that will be the subject of speculation and debate until the conclusion with next year’s as-of-yet-untitled Avengers 4.
Infinity War wastes no time in introducing the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin), with the power hungry villain encountering the refugee Asgardians from the conclusion of Thor: Ragnarok. In a matter of minutes, the team behind Civil War, the Russo brothers and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, establish the deadly power of Thanos, making his presence in every subsequent scene fill with dread and ominous overtones. Thanos wants the Infinity Stones, powerful MacGuffins that have been scattered through the previous 18 movies. What each one of the Infinity Stones is capable of isn’t really important. What’s important is that Thanos wants them and is dispatching his villainous Children of Thanos across the galaxy to secure them for his golden glove of doom, the Infinity Gauntlet.
The audience knows what Thanos wants and an expansive roster of heroes scattered throughout the galaxy are ready to fight in order to stop the murderous Titan. The film weaves at a break-neck speed between these various story threads which have groups of heroes splintering and creating new groups of heroes, and the character dynamics established over all the previous movies all play into these lively, often comical interactions.
Starting in New York, you get a group of heroes that sees Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) alongside Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Dr. Strange. In the far reaches of the cosmos, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself with the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, and Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel voicing the CGI creations of that team). Back on Earth, Captain America (Chris Evans) along with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) join up with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), War Machine (Don Cheadle), the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) arrive in Wakanda, home of the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), where they plan to defend Vision (Paul Bettany) from Thanos’ impending assault, since the character is powered by an Infinity Stone.
In case you couldn’t tell from the ample list of characters mentioned above, this movie is a fucking superhero epic, a crossover event pulled from the pages of a sprawling series much like comics have done over the decades. Much to the credit of Joe and Anthony Russo, they don’t just assume that the movie is epic. They deliver epic moments and a grand scale to its action that it’s truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen before from Marvel. The movie is almost entirely comprised of large scale superhero battles that actually have a sense of weight to them because it’s clearly established that Thanos could easily wipe out any character with the flick of a wrist. There’s a level of tension and doubt rarely seen in blockbusters of this magnitude that makes every beat to the set pieces one of sometimes unbearable unease. Any time a hero shares the screen with Thanos, you lean forward in your seat because you just don’t know if they’ll survive this encounter.
The amount of secrecy that surrounded the film pays off in some big ways. Seriously, avoid any and all spoilers for this superhero extravaganza. Some moments will have you gasp in shock. Others will bring out the cheers of triumph. And others will leave you breathless as you try to ponder their longstanding ramifications. Just a short while after the screening ended, the sheer enormity of the film and everything that happened with so many characters is still racing though my brain as I try to comprehend it all. Infinity War actually might be the moment that the superhero movie bubble bursts, because it’s just so much in such a dense package that I don’t know how anyone can compete with this in the near future.
Avengers: Infinity War is the most Marvel movie that Marvel has ever Marveled. It’s overflowing with big superhero moments that are dazzling to behold but actually have real consequences for its characters. There is still something somewhat unsatisfying about Infinity War and that’s simply because it doesn’t have a conclusion; it’s an open-ended experiment in blockbuster filmmaking that will have us waiting a year for its true ending. It’s a whole lot of movie to digest and it does take a toll on its viewer with its enormous lengthy and non-stop intensity. But if you’re a Marvel fan, this is what you unwittingly signed up for ten years ago. It started with a tease but it’s ending with an unforgettable bang.