Nobody knew at the time, but 2008’s Iron Man would be the first film of a 10 year run for Marvel Studios. Not only were their stories about Norse Gods, a talking raccoon, and super soldiers critically acclaimed…they were box office gold – Marvel Studios has four films listed in the top 20 grossing films of all time.
From the first frame of Robert Downey J. riding through the desert in a humvee, it’s all been leading to Avengers: Infinity War. 10 years and 18 films (and over a dozen post credit scenes) worth of characters come together for a final showdown.
This showdown has the Avengers facing off against Thanos (Josh Brolin) and The Black Order – a group of ruthless aliens that are loyal to Thanos. Thanos and his crew are in search of six cosmic gems known as infinity stones. The stones represent the six different characteristic of existence – the soul stone, time stone, reality stone, power stone, space stone, and mind stone. If Thanos gets all six stones he’ll be the most powerful being in the universe. Thanos isn’t just a madman with a glove, he believes the universe is overpopulated and plans to use the stones to rid the universe of a few trillion people.
When the film opens, Thanos has already flexed his muscles and taking control of the Asgardian ship we saw at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. Hulk ends up on earth and warns Doctor Strange (Benedict Cummberbatch) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) of the coming threat. With two infinity stones on earth – the time stone with Doctor Strange and the mind stone in Vision (Paul Bettany) – the Avengers scramble to protect the stones and stop Thanos before its too late.
Kudos to the Russo brothers for balancing so many characters and stories as well as they do. Infinity War is well balanced with comedy and high stakes with consequences more severe than previous Marvel films. There’s a discipline to making big blockbusters entertaining and thought provoking. The Russos have figured out that matrix and have executed it to perfection.
Since there are so many characters, the Russo’s wisely split the Avengers up in to different groups. There’s a group headed to Titan to head off Thanos, a group making Thor’s new weapon, and a group in Wakanda protecting Vision. Each group has a side missions with the same goal in mind, protect the stones and stop Thanos.
Having these different stories told at once leads the tone of the film shifting as the story bounces between groups. It’s like watching different short films that take place in the same world and they’re sewn together to tell one big story. At times it’s a heartfelt story, then it bounces to a big fight scene, and then back to a wise cracking Tony Stark. But it works. It works really well and helps balance the weight of the darker things that happen.
There’s non-stop action from beginning to end – it’s called Infinity War for a reason. The battle in Wakanda, shown in the trailer, has a lot happening. The fight on Titan isn’t shown a lot in the trailers and is one of the best action sequences in Marvel Studios history. All of these characters come together and use their gifts to help win the fight. It’s like watching a live action cartoon.
All of this is happening on top of Thanos’ quest that explains where he came from and his motivations for wanting the stones. Much like Killmonger in Black Panther, Thanos’ methods are evil but his motivations aren’t. The film does a great job of explaining why the motivations make sense to him.
The movie plays a lot more like Thanos’ journey more than an Avengers adventure. Surprisingly, Thanos is given some of the more emotional moments. Even though he’s a gigantic purple CGI character, Brolin is able to express various emotions that help convey the method to Thanos’ madness. Brolin does his best laying down the foundation for a great villain by giving audiences someone to care about.
There is a lot going on and it’s a lot to squeeze into one movie yet it works. It has the humor fans love. It’s a stylish action film with big set pieces and eye popping action sequences. It’s everything fans want from their heroes while introducing one of the best comic book villains of all time. It gives the same feeling of watching a comic book onscreen the way 2012’s The Avengers did.
Infinity War is only part one, yet it also feels like a contained story. The cliffhanger ending is enough to leave fans begging for more. The story is exciting, even when the heroes are in despair. The story is also touching in ways you won’t expect. Infinity War sets the bar for how to tell these stories and what comic book movies can be in the future.