As I walked into my screening today of Avengers: Infinity War, it finally dawned on me that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has now existed for ten years. Sometimes, I find that hard to believe. But despite this, Infinity War tees up numerous exciting prospects coming down the pipeline, and makes a decade-old franchise feel fresh in just about every way.
Infinity War finds the characters of the MCU banding together to stop the mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin), who has been pulling the strings of the MCU since at least the original Avengers, from collecting the six Infinity Stones, the MCU’s key MacGuffins since Captain America: The First Avenger. In other words, as any fan knows, Infinity War is what the franchise has been building towards practically since day one. And while parts of it don’t work, there is far more here to like than dislike.
First off, let me just say, for anybody who has ever questioned Marvel’s seeming fear to kill off characters, myself included, know that they are not screwing around with the apocalyptic epic they’ve constructed here.
Marvel has also truly found the answer to its villain problem in the last year. From Ego (Kurt Russell) to Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) to Hela (Cate Blanchett) to Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), each of the franchise’s last four primary antagonists have been better than the one that came before them. While Killmonger may have set an unusually high standard, Thanos continues that trend, proverbially telling Killmonger to sit his ass down. Whereas Killmonger’s lethality came from his righteous anger, Thanos’ comes from his cold calculations and his willingness to do whatever he deems logically necessary.
“The universe is finite. Its resources are finite. If left unchecked, it will collapse,” he says at one point. Thanos sees himself not as the destroyer of worlds he’s billed as, but as the ultimate guardian of the universe, protecting it from its worst enemy – itself.
Josh Brolin isn’t the only actor in the movie putting in one of the best performances of his career. Robert Downey, Jr., Tom Holland, and Chris Hemsworth are all strong players in the ensemble as well. This is chiefly telling for Downey, Jr. and Hemsworth, who may be nearing the end of their tenure in the franchise. If next year’s Untitled Avengers movie keeps their showcases going and turns out to be, as many suspect, their final films, they’ll go out on insanely well-written high notes.
Holland, meanwhile, is a brilliant young actor who will break your heart in this movie. Without spoiling anything, there’s one scene where he actually managed to make me tear up. I don’t think a comic book movie has ever accomplished that feat. I don’t tear up easily when it comes to cinema, especially not MCU films, far better known for their bright colors and sunshine-y tones.
Speaking of tone, Infinity War is surprisingly dark. And I say surprisingly because the trailers sell a really dark film, but so did the Age of Ultron trailers, and we all know how that ended up.
Like all films, Infinity War is not without its faults. Two glaring examples occur near the beginning and three-quarter mark, respectively, of the film. Firstly, when Banner (Mark Ruffalo) shows up in the Sanctum Sanctorum and tells Tony that he needs to call Cap (Chris Evans), Tony talks about how they aren’t on speaking terms. Except they are, aren’t they? To me, by having Tony buy Cap and his team some time to escape their imprisonment on The Raft, the ending of Civil War certainly implies – at least – that most, if not all, is forgiven between the two. While I understand that Cap and his friends are technically war criminals at this point in time and, thus, the two can’t be buddy-buddy publically, Tony should have no problem at all with calling him now that the universe is literally on the line.
Secondly, Thanos’ increasing threat entering the film’s third act hinges entirely on a totally unearned character reversal from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Again, without spoiling anything, Strange does something that he swore he never would for seemingly no reason other than the script needed him to do it. It feels cheap and weakens an otherwise great sequence.
There’s one last thing that I want to talk about: the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision’s (Paul Bettany) love story. Seeing allusions to it in the trailers, I didn’t think I would buy into it, no matter how comics accurate it was. I’m happy to report, though, that it does work. Which is fantastic because one game-changing, tragic twist would fall flat if that story didn’t land with the audience in the right way.
My friend texted me saying he’s prepared for Infinity War, and you may think you are, too. I can honestly say, you have no idea what Marvel Studios has in store for you, and that’s a great thing.
5/6 Infinity Stones – this is a rating, not a spoiler.
The Infinity War begins this Friday in theaters everywhere.