Review by C.J. Bunce
Ten years in the making. Eighteen movies leading up to this weekend in the gigantic new blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War. Never before have superhero fans seen so many superheroes on-screen at once: Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Spider-man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackey), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Wong (Benedict Wong), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt).
So many movies, especially superhero movies, depend greatly on the success of the villains. Spider-man: Homecoming is great in part because of Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Black Panther is great in part because of Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. And Thor: Ragnarok was great in part because of a load of solid villains: the CGI-created Surtur, Cate Blanchett’s Hela, and Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster (and even a great supporting tier of antagonists including Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and Karl Urban’s Skurge). So now, at last, Josh Brolin moves past his cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron to give us a big dose of one of comic books’ best-known villains, Thanos.
Marvel Studios promised to tie everything together, including every magical talisman holding the six Infinity Stones, of which filmgoers have encountered five so far: The blue Space Stone (seen held in the Tesseract in Captain America: The First Avenger), the yellow Mind Stone (seen in the Scepter in The Avengers), the red Reality Stone (seen held in the Aether in Thor: The Dark World), the purple Power Stone (seen in the Orb in Guardians of the Galaxy), and the green Time Stone (seen in the Eye of Agamotto in Doctor Strange).
So did directors Anthony and Joe Russo deliver as promised?
In social media, in pop culture, in comics, in everything, it’s an overused word, but one word describes Avengers: Infinity War over the past 18 Marvel films: Epic. The fate of the universe is at stake in Avengers: Infinity War, so, as the trailers foretold, you can expect some damage. But you won’t be able to predict what’s going to happen. Surprise characters you won’t expect? You bet. Does Josh Brolin’s take on Thanos make this superhero flick great? Absolutely, this will top many a fan’s best-of list. The new Children of Thanos add some gravitas to the film, too, especially Carrie Coon’s Proxima Midnight and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor’s Ebony Maw–just riveting additions to the classic superhero archenemies we’ve seen at the movies. And the events and locations are new and heavily steeped in the stuff of space fantasy–these are the strange and elaborate new worlds we can imagine George Lucas was trying for when he created the Star Wars prequels, and that no one has created so imaginatively yet–Thor: Ragnarok as the exception.
It’s the unthinkable: a character-driven story with two dozen main characters, and they all get their time in the spotlight. Thor, Doctor Strange, Rocket, Spider-man, Scarlet Witch–everyone gets to be super, everyone gets to be a hero. The details: production design, costumes, CGI, new ships, stunts, special effects–all superb. And Alan Silvestri’s emotionally-charged musical score is the backbone of the non-stop action. Often with superhero movies suspension of disbelief is difficult to get by (like Captain America: Winter Soldier’s Helicarriers). But the Russo Brothers charge ahead at such a clip (it doesn’t feel like only 2.5 hours), and weave together so many characters and concepts in an exciting way that the science doesn’t need to matter. This is a great, big, rollercoaster ride of a fantasy.
In the grand scheme of movies and visual storytelling, Avengers: Infinity War rounds out what no one has ever done. The Marvel Cinematic Universe proved that this kind of twisty, layered, multiple-movie coordination can be successful on the biggest of scales–The Avengers, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and the Guardians of the Galaxy–with financial success for the studios and great entertainment for moviegoers, whether or not they’d ever cracked open a comic book before. Credit the genius to Marvel universe coordinator Kevin Feige. Ten years of Marvel Studios also, no doubt, sent droves of new readers into comic book stores. It all does come together in a great big way with Avengers–Infinity War. Phase III of the finely-designed, grand Marvel Cinematic Universe saga ends with this ultimate team-up. But that’s how comic books work, isn’t it? Stop and restart. Now let the angst set in as we wait for the next chapter of Infinity War, but at least we don’t have long to wait for a sequel since the Russo brothers shot both films back-to-back. That next movie–the fourth Avengers-named film (still untitled), is scheduled for release May 4, 2019. The stakes in Avengers: Infinity War are great, but we think the stakes in the next film will be even greater.
It’s funny. It’s grim. It’s fun. It’s suspenseful. It’s gutwrenching. And wow–the surprises. It’s probably the film most like the pages of a comic book of any movie you’ve ever seen. And plenty to discuss once everyone has seen it.
The wait is over. The wait begins. Get ready for epic. Avengers: Infinity War is in theaters now.