Well, folks – the time has come. Ten years and eighteen films later, the Marvel Cinematic Universe reaches its crescendo with AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. And before moving on to the review proper, I have to give credit where credit is due: Kevin Feige and the people over at Marvel Studios deserve one heck of a pat on the back for how well they’ve been able to tell their stories these past ten years, and for having a clear endgame in sight – at least for this era of the franchise. The excitement has reached a fever pitch in my circle – even people who I would consider casual moviegoers – and taking it a step further, casual comic book fans – have expressed excitement for this film, something that I didn’t see on this scale with STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, and something I REALLY didn’t see at all with JUSTICE LEAGUE. Simply put, for every single moviegoer that devoted their time to enjoying the previous eighteen Marvel Studios films, you have been graciously rewarded with AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.
Set immediately after the events of THOR: RAGNAROK, Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) and his followers – Cull Obsidian (played by Terry Notary), Ebony Maw (played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Proxima Midnight (played by Carrie Coon), and Corvus Glave (played by Michael James Shaw) – invade the Asgardian ship containing Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth), Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston), Heimdall (played by Idris Elba), and the rest of the survivors of Asgard. He’s looking for the Tesseract; inside of which contains the Space Stone, one of the fabled Infinity Stones, and the source of the Tesseract’s power. Thanos is on a journey to collect all of the stones and add them to his Infinity Gauntlet – essentially making him a god – and it seems like only the Avengers are capable of stopping him, setting up the ultimate battle for the fate of the universe.
And those couple of sentences are pretty much all I can say about the film’s plot without going into spoilers.
As I’ve mentioned before in my reviews (both written and spoken), I’m not a big comic book guy. So the Infinity Gauntlet storyline that this films derives its plot from was pretty unknown to me. And I feel this will be the case for the majority of the MCU’s fan base as well – which is a good thing. Why? Because the film’s ending packs such an emotional punch that going into AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR knowing that it’s going to happen will likely take much of its sting away. The film essentially leaves us with a cliffhanger, but not before brilliantly showcasing just how high the stakes are in this conflict – and yes, the consequences are severe. I’ll never forget feeling the audience’s collective emotion during the film’s climactic sequence; just stunned silence. I was sitting in the front row of my auditorium (in the interest of full disclosure), and I could still sense the despair of the people surrounding me. These are characters that have been properly built up over the last ten years, characters that moviegoers have followed through their many ups and downs, and everything in between. Seeing any kind of harm come to them was like seeing harm come to one of our closest friends. Anthony and Joe Russo (the directors of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR) and Kevin Feige all knew this, and used this moment to give us the biggest emotional gut punch of the franchise; just be ready to take it all in.
The special effects contained in this film are on par with the previous MCU entries, and are even more dazzling as the screen you’re watching it on gets bigger. The effects are actually one of the things I’ve always admired about the MCU, considering that many other comic book films have come out in the last ten years that pale in comparison just in the category of special effects, often looking too fake or cheaply produced. Particular sequences of note are the scenes on the planets Titan and Vormir, and the battle in Wakanda (of BLACK PANTHER fame), where the effects just integrate themselves seamlessly, which allows viewers to completely lose themselves in the film’s story.
The film is also adapted very well from its source material, but one of the things I really enjoyed about the writing was the characterization of Thanos, its lead antagonist. The MCU has a great track record of producing memorable, well-written villains, and Thanos is no exception. As you will discover through the film’s plot, Thanos has a reason for wanting to collect the Infinity Stones that doesn’t devolve itself into typical comic book shenanigans, but instead actually makes him a very layered character. The things he does and goes through to try and complete his journey may seem like the actions of your average bad guy, but with Thanos, it comes off more tragic in nature; there are things that you can tell, deep down, he does not want to do, but his motivation metaphorically stomps on what his heart wants. And that makes the film’s ending (which I mentioned above) that much more satisfying, despite it being a cliffhanger. Major props have to go to Josh Brolin for bringing Thanos to life in a way that lives up to the hype while also giving us another remarkable MCU villain.
But everyone else is in full form here – Robert Downey, Jr. is the one-liner factory as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Evans embodies the courage to do what is right as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Chris Pratt brightens up the room as Peter Quill/Star Lord, Benedict Cumberbatch shines as Doctor Strange, Tom Holland continues to make a case for being the best Spider-Man ever, Mark Ruffalo is great as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, and Chris Hemsworth continues his outstanding work as Thor. But honestly, everyone from Scarlett Johansson to Chadwick Boseman to Dave Bautista to Elizabeth Olsen to Zoe Saldana to Karen Gillan, and everyone in between, brought their A-games to this one, and the chemistry is just there. You can easily tell that everyone involved in this film was having a great time interacting with each other, and it makes for a film with incredibly good vibes and a positive energy that just radiates off the screen.
My one major criticism of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR is its pacing – there really is no “rest period” between major sequences. The film is constantly bouncing from one to another, and by the midway point, I was feeling fatigued. Pacing a film of such a grand scale was no easy ask for the Russos, and I think in this case, they bit off just a little more than they could chew. In what’s seemingly an attempt to make sure that every single character got a moment in the sun, proper pacing was sacrificed as a result. As such, don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting weary before the film even has a chance to shift gears into its final approach.
All of that aside, this was probably one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had sitting in a movie theater. The Marvel Cinematic Universe embodies everything I love about movies, and to see ten years’ worth of hype paid off in such a gigantic manner is something I’ll never forget. The characters are all well-written, the special effects are spectacular, and the film’s storyline opens many doors as to the future of the MCU. But most importantly, this movie was just straight up F-U-N. I will definitely be seeing this film a second time in the theater, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.
But the definitive question on your mind must be: in the end, does it live up to the hype?
Well, in the words of WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan, “YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!”
Any more questions?
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
2018 • 149 Minutes • United States
Color • English • Marvel Studios
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Josh Brolin