10 years; 3,647 days, 10 films and more than two dozen characters have all been building to this moment. What began as an experiment with Marvel’s supposed B-tier characters has culminated into one of the largest cinematic events of the past quarter-century or longer. Avengers: Infinity War had a lot to live up to, and it not only surpassed expectations in terms of spectacle, but it is able to deliver these awe inspiring moments in what is the most ambitious, bold and risky film in the entire MCU.
There is almost too much to discuss in a review that has any desires to be of reasonable length. Thanos is on the move; he wants the infinity stones and the Avengers have to top him. The events in the film move pretty fast- this film expects you to have seen most of if not all of the previous Marvel films and to be able to identify all of the established characters. For anyone who hasn’t there is going to be some struggle to keep up as Infinity War will not hold your hand or give you a refresher course. This pays off with the new character interactions, as we don’t need to spend any time establishing or developing our heroes so we get to sit back and watch all of these characters meet for the first time.
Another perk is that we get to spend that precious development time on Thanos and establish him as a properly menacing threat. With the scope of this film being as large as it is, if Thanos doesn’t work or is not convincing, then the final result will suffer. Fortunately, Thanos is easily one of the best antagonists in the MCU, and one of the most complex thanks to his greatest strength. He is an intimidating figure with his great size and power. He begins the film already holding one of the infinity stones which already makes him one of the most formidable beings in the entire universe. He is seemingly indestructible and as his collection of stones grows, so does his raw destructive capability.
Thanos is most certainly a menacing threat, but it is his unwavering dedication to his vision which makes him a terrific character.
None of this however, is his greatest strength; his greatest asset which makes him a great antagonist is his conviction. He views the universe as being on the verge of a sort of collapse, more specifically, he views life as pushing the universe towards that collapse. Life grows and consumes, and if left unchecked, it will devour all that the universe has to offer and ultimately destroy itself and the universe along with it. It is Thanos’ view that in order to life and the universe to continue, there has to be balance. That balance can only be achieved with a sort of culling; his goal with the infinity stones is to extinguish half of the life in the universe at random so that the remaining half will be able to survive and thrive. It is certainly a twisted and absurd ideology, but Thanos believes in it completely, and his desire to see that ideology through is what makes him such a compelling and interesting threat.
A case can be made for Infinity War being a cinematic wonder. No, it does not reinvent the wheel in terms of cinematography, storytelling, computer animation, the list goes on. No one is going to mistake this film for the second coming of Citizen Kane, but the feats it is able to accomplished should not be overlooked.
As mentioned in the intro, this is a film that features over 20 characters. Those characters are split into as many as six or seven plotlines which are all crisscrossing, intersecting and ultimately converging to the most impactful moments in the entire decade of this cinematic universe. Despite this heavy work load, the film never once feels rushed, crammed into a run-time which couldn’t hold it or otherwise loose or sloppy with its pacing. Age of Ultron felt like a nearly three-hour film crammed into under 2 and a half hours; the pacing felt so fast and rushed that it was fairly clear that the film was overstuffed. Infinity War somehow manages to be just the right amount of stuff while having to juggle far more than its predecessor. The Russo brothers as well as the writers and editors deserve a ton of credit for keeping this behemoth balanced and on the proper trajectory.
The chance to see all of these heroes finally meeting up is both a very fun and very impressive feature of this film.
The scope of Infinity War is second only to the scope of the entire MCU as a whole. This film is the result not only of 18 films in 10 years, it is the result of consistency, quality and most importantly, patience. Of all of the films in the MCU, there really aren’t any duds. There are some that are weaker or more forgettable than the others, but even those are entertaining if not a little forgettable. Marvel has maintained a level of quality over their films that is truly impressive when you take the time to step back and look at the big picture.
But none of this would be the case if it weren’t for Marvel’s patience. They could have gotten caught up in their own success and rushed to a film like this three or four years ago, but they held their ground and took their time. It has been ten years since Tony Stark showed up in the post credits scene of The Incredible Hulk (remember that one?) which officially kicked off the shared universe, six years since Thanos was teased at the end of Avengers, and four years since the MCU ventured into the stars and got weird with Guardians of the Galaxy. At no point did Kevin Feige or others in charge at Marvel feel the need to rush out what could have been an inferior product. At risk of sounding like a fan-boy/shill, I am going to recommend comparing it to what DC has brought to the table in their cinematic universe, and it is not pretty.
Infinity War is quite the achievement. I don’t think that it is the best that Marvel has put out, as its break-neck speed doesn’t quite leave enough spaces for the audience to catch their breaths, and Thano’s henchmen, while neat, were under-developed and could have used some more set up probably in bits and pieces over the past few Marvel films. Heck, even Thanos himself could have used a bit more set-up; his decision to finally act and begin gather the infinity stones felt a little sudden, and could have used for a bit more teasing. But this is the most grand-scale experience that Marvel has brought to the table, and it is also by far the most ambitious, which we will elaborate more on now…
Spoiler and Speculation Section
This begins our spoiler section where we discuss what exactly makes this film the most ambitious, so if you have not seen the film then save this and come back later. Or if you haven’t but still don’t care, then I must first ask that you reassess your goals in life, and then proceed onward as we take a look at who bites the bullet.
Pretty much freaking everyone!
Ok, that is not actually true, but it is a lot of folks, and a lot that many may not expect at first. Once the dust settles, the only heroes left standing are the old guard of the MCU almost without exception. Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther, most of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch and others are all killed once Thanos does the unthinkable- he wins.
His goal for this film and others has been to father the infinity stones in order to bring balance to the universe. His version of balance involves half of the population of the universe being killed. It is so staggering and massive that there is no way it would actually happen, right? They wouldn’t actually kill of half of the characters in the MCU before Avengers 4 would they? Surely he gets four, maybe five before having to retreat and try again in the next Avengers film- that has to be it, right? Those were the questions I was asking myself in the lead-up to this film and while it was playing out, and sure enough, the madman actually won, and with a snap of his fingers, took out half the population of the universe, and half of the MCU with it.
It is a decision that takes so much guts that I cannot believe that Marvel and Disney actually went through with it. If there has been a consistent criticism of the Marvel films, and some Disney ones to a lesser extent, it has been that they often play things way too safe. Infinity War throws that tendency out the window by going with the riskiest call possible. As discussed earlier, this film is the culmination of 10 years of careful planning, patience, and stick-to-itiveness, and for the first 90% of the film, it feels like a celebration of the MCU. The first Avengers film was just that- a celebration. It was a shining moment where this radical experiment of creating a film universe to mimic those of the comic books came to fruition in a very fun and satisfying way.
Fast forward to 2018, and the MCU is primed for its biggest party yet. All roads have been leading here since 2012. This threat has been teased here or there for years, and it is finally here- Thanos is finally going to get off his purple butt and do something. All of our favorite characters are going to meet, many for the first time and they are going to open up a can of whup-ass all over some freaky aliens. We, as the film-going audience have been waiting for this moment for years, anticipating this glorious spectacle where the first wave of Avengers are sent off with a bang. They take on the baddest of bad dudes, the greatest threat the universe has ever known, they pull out all the punches, and…. they lose. Thanos wins; he kills trillions of people all across the universe, and all around our heroes they are forced to watch as those they have been fighting alongside turn into dust and fade away into nothingness.
Personally, I was in total shock when this happened. I did not think there was any way they would actually go through with it. Something was going to stop it. First Iron Man’s crew nearly stole the gauntlet from Thanos, then Scarlet Witch seemingly destroyed the final infinity stone, then Thor came out of nowhere to drive an axe into Thano’s chest. It didn’t matter; Thanos was able to get all six gems, snap his fingers and slip away victorious and we are left with a final shot of him sitting comfortably looking on at a sunset knowing he had finally achieved his goal.
The decision to actually go through with the extermination of half the cast took some real guts, and even more confidence. Fiege and others had to be very sure that this plan, and this film by the Russo brothers would pay off to make a call like this, and initial reactions seem to be that the call was a good one, and it is why this film is by far the most ambitious of the entire MCU, and frankly a bold film relative to its peers.
Aside from the shock of the bad guy actually winning, this is the first Marvel film which really lends itself to rampant speculation- which of course is done on purpose.
Thanks to Thano’s genocide, only the old guard are left to get the MCU out of this pickle along with a few newer players mostly because they can fly space ships. The important aspect of this is that Avengers 4 is going to be the last hurrah for the first wave of the MCU. Some of them will likely die, others will live and retire to diminished roles in future films, but the three pillars of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor are going to be replaced this time next year. They will of course be joined by Captain Marvel, who considering her litany of powers over the years and the fact that she is the absolute last resort for Nick Fury (who also dies, sorry) means that she is likely going to be a bad-mamma-jamma.
But there is another major factor here- what about all the folks who died? A pragmatist would say that considering there has already been sequels announced for Spider-Man and Guardians, that they are likely to come back. And, ok guy, you are technically correct, but it is more fun to look at the issue in universe.
There is one being we have seen who has powers/capabilities have the potential to rival or even surpass Thanos: Ant-man. You read that right, arguably the most forgotten hero in the entire MCU is likely going to be the most critical individual in the universe. The reason for this is his ability to venture into the quantum realm. Quantum is essentially a sci-fi blank check for writers to make up anything they want. Later this summer, Ant-man and Wasp are going to fiddle with the quantum realm some more and find a key to either defeating Thanos, bringing everyone back to life or both, and that reality is absolutely glorious. The fate of trillions of live, the heroes of the MCU, and billions of dollars in potential revenue all lie in the hands of Paul Rudd and Ant-man. With that reality of life in mind, I present to you your new god: