“Avengers: Infinity War” is an experience unlike anything fans have seen in Marvel Studios’ 10-year superhero reign.
It would be easy to think that’s because of this historic gathering of not only the best, but also all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in one place. And make no mistake, that is a huge part of what makes this film special.
There’s the sight of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) getting into a war of words with the rare intellectual and sarcastic equal that is Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) — it’s a smart move to get these two together so quickly in the film. There’s the comedy of seeing one of the MCU’s cockiest characters, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), watch his fellow Guardians of the Galaxy gawk at the muscular Asgardian godliness of Thor (Chris Hemsworth). There’s Captain America (Chris Evans) leading a team of rebels on the run and having to reach out to the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) for help (Wakanda forever!) and reunite with his sidekick best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).
Then there’s the joy of realizing Marvel Studios was able to get Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in the ultimate Avengers film, and with a Tony Stark-designed Iron-Spider suit to boot (yes the suit does very cool things — no I won’t tell you).
But the insane amount of superheroing going on in “Infinity War,” despite the geekful fanboy joy it creates, is not what makes this movie.
What does is the villain those heroes are up against: Thanos.
Josh Brolin’s CGI performance as the ultimate Marvel villain is a debut that more than makes up for previous complaints of weak MCU bad guys.
Thanos’s dominating presence is established from the beginning of “Infinity War.” He not only shows his might, but he also makes clear to viewers that they haven’t ever seen an MCU villain like this. That’s even before he’s assembled the Infinity Gauntlet.
This isn’t the typical MCU villain who you know won’t win. This is the MCU villain who can’t lose. He’s like Erik Killmonger but at Warrior Falls with Infinity Stones. And watching Thanos swat the Avengers around like flies no matter what they throw at him might be a visual shock to fans used to Marvel Studios’ heroes always coming out on top. Rarely anything good happens to the heroes of “Infinity War.” You half expect Thanos to scream, “Is this your superhero team?”
The true shock value of “Infinity War” is the stakes. This is a two-part movie (with part 2 coming out May next year), so to think this film would end on a happy note wouldn’t be wise. With the Mad Titan at their disposal and one more film to tell their tale, Anthony and Joe Russo, the directors, establish that no one is safe in this movie. The heroes feel that, too — really bad things are happening and they’re helpless to stop it.
The Russos take advantage of the fact that MCU fans are already familiar with the heroes and use that as a chance for viewers to get to know Thanos. It’s quite the deep dive inside the mind of a madman. While it is impossible to humanize someone hellbent on destroying half of everything that exists, “Infinity War” manages to show there is more inside Thanos’s heart than destruction. Thanos packs a heck of a punch in “Infinity War” — he pretty much punches everyone. It’s the emotion behind those punches that will surprise you.
As for the gathering of the Infinity Stones, the Infinity Gauntlet, even without all six stones in place, is a sight for sore fanboy eyes and, as advertised, is the most formidable weapon seen in an MCU film. We’ve been waiting all these years for the MCU movies to lead to this point, and the Gauntlet doesn’t disappoint. Just as enjoyable is watching Thanos’s followers, the Black Order, wreak havoc in his name in pursuit of the Infinity Stones and bumping heads frequently with the Avengers.
There are plenty of surprises throughout “Infinity War.” You’d be wise to stay offline for spoilers so you can enjoy them yourself. And, of course, there’s a post-credit scene. This was the perfect — and perhaps the only — movie that Marvel Studios could have released to follow a blockbuster like “Black Panther.” Perhaps most impressive is that after you get through an ending that will definitely be a surprise, you see that the Russos have put themselves in a position to top what they’ve just accomplished.
Part 2 can’t get here soon enough.