After ten years, eighteen movies, and dozens upon dozens of hours, heroes, and villains, “Avengers: Infinity War” is the culmination of Marvel Studios’ cinematic promise to entertain.
With so much crammed into an enormous package, it’s a feat that the film even holds up against the weight of the expectations it’s been building up to for so long.
Six years after the events of “The Avengers,” the Mad Titan, Thanos (Josh Brolin) takes it upon himself to find the Infinity Stones, six gems of unparalleled strength that, when put together, grant its wielder near-omniscient power.
With the fate of the universe at stake, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Guardians of the Galaxy and countless other figures bridging the Marvel Cinematic Universe come together to protect the Infinity Stones from Thanos’ reach.
In large part due to its villain, the imposing narrative of “Infinity War” begins dark and maintains that dark tone throughout. It’s an appreciated and appropriate reprieve from the usually cheeky Marvel formula that’s hampered the potential of other darker Marvel films, notably “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
Synthesized through Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch’s (Elizabeth Olsen) romance, the film has its upbeat moments, but it’s largely tragic, disastrous and calamitous.
In order to really appreciate “Infinity War,” a viewer must be familiar with the eighteen different films preceding it. Juggling well over thirty characters in a span of 150 minutes is an impossible task, but the film does it as best as it can by chunking them into several groups across the Earth and beyond. Many characters don’t get their due as a result, while others shine brighter than they did in their standalone films.
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is perhaps the most striking character of the bunch as he’s forced to make impossible choices to uphold his karmic duty to protect the universe. His egotistic bravado is also great to watch as the wizard butts heads with Iron Man and Star Lord (Chris Pratt), the two other biggest egos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The addition of some really creative special effects for his magical abilities doesn’t hurt either.
“Infinity War” is really Thanos’ film, though. Writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus—who also penned the excellent “Captain America: Civil War” and several other Marvel films of note—have made some wise changes to the character’s mythology. Rather than keeping Thanos’ goofy desire to court Death (you read that right) from the comics, McFeely and Markus have given the Mad Titan a spiritual purpose to rebalance the universe.
Though I wasn’t sold on his relationship with his stepdaughter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), it does help to humanize the giant purple man. Brolin gives a somber edge to Thanos’ genocidal pilgrimage to godhood through a subdued performance full of knowing melancholy that really works. The best villains always do the right things through the wrong means, and Thanos easily ranks on the highest end of the MCU’s mostly weak collection of villains.
Unfortunately, too many other characters are relegated to inconsequential cameos. Where “The Avengers” captured each character’s personality and gave them the payoffs to boot, “Infinity War” at least triples the number of heroes in its roster and diminishes their value exponentially. There’s very little substance to many previously complex fan favorites like Captain America and Black Panther, they’re simply just present. It’s ultimately a fault of ambition, not execution, and the inevitable deaths that arrive do hold their emotional weight.
Calling “Infinity War” a film is a stretch, it’s more of an event piece. There’s little emotional resonance or narrative/character-driven payoff, but what’s there does its job. A feat of pure spectacle, Marvel Studios’ hubris is at full display in “Infinity War” and the resulting film is the best possible outcome that could have come from a crossover of this magnitude.
Hector Valverde is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He primarily writes movie reviews. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @hpvalverde.