PLEASE NOTE: This is a spoiler-free review!
All good things must come to an end.
Such is the pseudo-mantra for Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel’s latest offering into its cinematic universe – but a very poignant one. Infinity War is the culmination of the last decade of work for the entertainment giant; spanning 18 films and some of comic-book-dom’s most beloved characters, it was clear from the get-go that the creation and balance of this film would be no easy feat.
For the most part, the film succeeds. Is it perfect? No, of course not; the pacing is dizzyingly frenetic at times, and many of the heavy-emotion moments aren’t given enough time to land effectively, thanks to the film’s juggling of literally dozens of main characters and trying to keep all the action contained under two and a half hours. But as a long-time comic reader, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Infinity War is the single-most satisfying cinematic adaptation of comic-book characters ever created. The sheer amount of characters, action, and high-stakes consequences makes the film feel like an actual comic book – a giant-sized crossover Annual, no less! – come to life on screen.
One of the most eagerly anticipated aspects about Infinity War was the chance for MCU characters from different films to “cross over” and interact with each other, and the movie certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department. The driving force, of course, is classic Marvel villain Thanos (Josh Brolin); in the comics, he’s a “Mad Titan” hell-bent on rampant death and destruction, but here in the MCU, his motivations are a bit more streamlined. He does want to kill half the universe, though, and is on the hunt for the Infinity Stones to make his Infinity Gauntlet fully operational in the “death and destruction” department. It’s up to Earth’s Greatest Heroes – and the heroes of the cosmos as well – to stand in his way.
As a long-time fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy (I’ve been reading their comics since the ’90s, long before their films made ’em cool to the masses, ah thank you), it was great to see the team get some quality screen time here: Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), adolescent Groot (Vin Diesel), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) run across Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in space, and Star-Lord finally gets to interact with some other humans as the story progresses. But first, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) team up with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) – with a little help from the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) – to protect Strange’s Time Stone from falling into the hands of Thanos’ “children,” his team of adopted cronies.
The rest of the gang comes out to play as well. The Avengers are (mostly) back together again, as Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier turned “White Wolf” (Sebastian Stan), and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) join up with James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) to help protect Vision (Paul Bettany) and the Mind Stone from Thanos and the Black Order. The action ends up shifting to Wakanda, where we delightfully get to catch up with T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and M’Baku (Winston Duke).
I think I’ve hit just about everyone in the two previous paragraphs – with the exception of a handful of other peripheral characters that were expected to appear (and possibly even a few that weren’t). Yes, it’s a ton of characters, all vying for screen time – and it mostly works, thanks to the sometimes-hectic “once the film starts, do NOT leave the theater under any circumstances” presentation of writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and the steely resolve of co-directors Anthony & Joseph Russo to simply never let up on the mile-a-minute action ride that is Infinity War.
It’s no secret to tell you that not all the characters survive this film; this is one of the few actual (albiet vague) pieces of info that the Russo brothers have shared in advance of the movie’s release. The music played under the opening sprawl of the Marvel Studios graphic is appropriately ominous. There are casualties in the film. Heck, there are casualties in the first five minutes of the film. Prepare yourselves.
There are callbacks to the early films of MCU Phase 1. There’s a Kevin Bacon joke. I shouldn’t even have to tell you this, but there is a post-credits scene that if you leave before seeing, you maybe haven’t actually seen the whole movie, nor have you fully felt the ramifications for the next few films as Phase 3 looks to wrap things up with the upcoming trio of movies Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, and the still-untitled Avengers 4. The truly geeky and MCU-savvy viewers are going to eat this post-credits scene up – I know I did.
So: prepare yourself. Take a box of tissues with you if you’ve got a favorite character and you’re concerned for their safety. Try to open your mind like a sponge and soak it all in, because it truly is 149 minutes of nonstop action, CGI (sometimes great, sometimes really iffy), and patented Marvel humor and human moments. I wish you godspeed, faithful viewer.