Ten years and eighteen films since the first Iron Man became a genuine blockbuster, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a lengthy, stop filled journey to this moment, a two-part, all-star culmination of the events and characters of the studio’s first decade. There have been two Avengers movies prior, but none of them compares to Infinity War for sheer magnitude and audaciousness of vision.
It is one thing to market a film as the biggest thing since the second coming of Christ, and indeed when it comes to selling products to achieve more immediacy than pure entertainment, Marvel is second to none. It is quite another to succeed at doing so, to present a product that is befitting and maybe even superior to the hype. Marvel has just done the thing with Infinity War.
Having effectively seen off competition from DC, arch rivals at some point, Marvel’s brief with the concluding Avengers double bill obviously is to change the game and raise the entire superhero tentpole genre to a whole new level.
We have seen stuff like this attempted before,- from Avengers to Justice League– multiple superheroes from different franchises crowded into a single film to trade barbs and kick ass. Infinity War in this regard, is far from novel.
Not content with reuniting the regular Avengers (Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steve Rogers/Captain America, Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Thor, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, etc) Infinity War swells to accommodate almost every superhero to sign up under the Marvel banner. This includes the entire Guardians of the Galaxy gang, the new favorite and sometime Avenger, T’Challa/Black Panther, the eccentric Dr Strange and teenage peter Parker/Spiderman. Scott Lang/Antman who has a second film out this year, and Clint Barton/Hawkeye both sit this one out. A blink and you miss it discussion between some of the rogue Avengers offers some explanation.
Avengers: Infinity War picks up exactly where last year’s Thor: Ragnarok ended. As the spaceship ferrying the Asgardian survivors of Ragnarok makes its way to space, it is intercepted by Thanos, the Marvel villain to end all other villain, teased in previous Marvel films. Thanos, a purple CGI-ed giant creature with a corrugated jaw, played by Josh Brolin wants to administer his own scorched earth solution to the universe’s over populated madness.
By merely a snap of his fingers, Thanos is looking to create a utopia of balance where every child goes to bed with a full belly. To do this, he requires full possession of the six infinity stones, each one responsible for a particular life force. One of these stones is with the Asgardians, one embedded in Vision’s (Paul Bettany) temple. Dr Strange has the sacred responsibility of protecting the time stone and Zoe Saldana’s Gamora may know a thing or two about the whereabouts of the soul stone.
To justify the gang up of all of these superheroes, only a worthy, if not superior villain will do. Anthony and Joe Russo, who had preparation directing Captain America: Civil War (an Avengers film in everything but name) have together with the Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely writing team, come up with the most interesting villain in all of Marvel history.
Thanos isn’t just appealing because he is seemingly invincible, he is written with a beating heart and played convincingly by Mr Brolin, despite the layers of distracting CGI. With all the major superheroes struggling for screen time, Thanos easily becomes the center and piece de resistance of Infinity War.
Which isn’t to say that the good guys do not get their shine time. Thor, compensated for the trifling Ragnarok, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Scarlett Witch and Gamora- the film’s emotional core, are the MVPs.
Infinity War doesn’t quite near the close-to-home tension or realism of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy but in its own way, it is the definitive Marvel blockbuster. It opens with a bang and never lets up, not for one moment, zipping effortlessly from one set piece to the other, throwing in snappy one liners and taking advantage of the chemistry of the actors. Just when you begin to think it is all too much, Infinity War blind sides with a sobering ending that is sure to be talked about for many years to come.
It is hard to stay cynical about Infinity War. The film is set up to take your money and keep you enslaved to the Marvel industrial complex sure enough, as the frustrating ending proves. But Infinity War is also made by a team so in love with the project that they infuse it with so much due diligence and care, plus tons of respect for the fans and the audience. If every con who ever wanted your money worked this hard to earn it, there would be no regrets about giving it away.
Marvel has earned the right to take it all.