Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
by Hunter Bush
I've seen Avengers: Infinity War! I've seen it, gang and I was sworn to secrecy about it! For real. I wasn't even supposed to tell anyone that I was going or where or when! I dunno about you, but I'd never had a major entertainment monopoly give me the "this stays between us" agreement. What would happen if I told people? Maybe Hulk would come and crush my favorite DVDs into dust or Scarlet Witch would hex me so french fries would taste like drywall forever? The theoretical horrors are endless... but probably Captain America would just show up (with that beard) and tell me how disappointed he was in me. And that would hurt worst of all.
So, yeah, I've seen it and maybe by the time you read this, you'll have seen it too, but still: I'm not gonna spoil anything. So don't worry. But I'm still gonna talk about the movie a bit, so it's best if you just assume three things going in: That every character to ever grace a Marvel MCU screen shows up; that they are all onscreen with one another at some point; and finally that they all die. None of those things is quite true but it'll help if you think about it that way.
Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War is what the MCU has been building to for ten years. It will have been in theaters for five days come May 2nd, the actual ten year anniversary of the release of the first Iron Man, which properly jump-started "the MCU" as a concept by having Samuel L. Jackson appear in a post-credits stinger playing Marvel espionage-meister extraordinaire, Nick Fury. In his attempt to recruit Tony Stark (Robert Downey Junior) into something called the "Avengers Initiative", he gave the Marvel movies a sense of scope that most modern super-hero movies had then lacked. If you were a fan, and knew who the Avengers were, your ears pricked up. If you weren't, you probably had a cousin who was more than willing to explain things to you.
That was then. This is now.
Infinity War is not for casual filmgoers. It should also absolutely not be anyone's first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a movie for fans. And for once, not even just the comics fans. Though there are more than enough comic-lore deep-cuts to keep the back-issue buffs' heads spinning, the real payoffs here are for the MCU maestros. The people who have kept a running tab, movie by movie of their MCU favorites, in descending order; the cinemaniacs who would even consider attending that 31-hour MCU marathon AMC theaters is offering; the nerds who (*cough*like me*cough*) will buy a collector's cup from the movie because, I mean just look at it. Behold its glory.
It's no wonder Thanos wants a collector's cup of his own! Only, his is a gauntlet and the stones are real, AND they're the most powerful artifacts in the MCU which will give him the ability to achieve his ultimate goal: balance. You see, Thanos is a plague, a planet-killer, a destructive force traveling through the universe with his army of Chitauri alien warriors (seen in 2012's Avengers) planet-by-planet, eradicating exactly half of their inhabitants in an effort to achieve balance. He has apparently been doing just fine for years on his own steam but I guess he's feeling lazy these days because by uniting the Infinity Stones into one Gauntlet, he will be able to achieve that ultimate balance, erasing half of all life in existence, with just a snap of his fingers.
If you've been following along with the MCU movies, you'll know what and where some of the Infinity Stones are, but the long and short of it is: some of them are on Earth, so of course, the fight is coming to us. And what a fight it is! I mean this in the very best, not-at-all exhausting way: Avengers: Infinity War, doesn't let up. Essentially the whole run-time is ping-ponging from location to location, action set-piece to action set-piece. Some of the locations we've seen before, some we haven't; some are local and some are *extremely* out-there.
The set-pieces are, honestly, incredible. I'm no great lover, nor defender of CGI. I support the use of practical effects whenever possible, but trust me when I say that almost none of this movie could have been achieved to such a degree of success without CGI. You'll probably still get CGEye-fatigue (get it? Ha!) from time to time here, but all the big, potentially-overwhelming spectacles are balanced by conversation, humor and actual actors interacting with one another, and it's great. The humor here really comes through because the stakes in Infinity War are so instantly high.
I mean, it's no surprise to say that the Earth is in peril, is it? That's what The Avengers are for; threats that can't be handled by any one of them alone. But man, Infinity War jumps in with both feet; the threat and reality of death runs throughout the entire film, literally beginning to end. Characters die. Characters you care about die. Actors you love may never appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe again. Divorce yourself from knowing that there will be more Marvel movies, and in fact a sequel to this very one coming next year; forget all that and just watch the movie.
I cheered, laughed, cried, gasped and desperately ignored my bladder with a roomful of critics all doing the same. I can't imagine what this will be like in a theater packed with anxious fans!
It's not all doom and gloom, though! I mentioned the humor above, and it really works. There are the kinds of callbacks and quotable one-liners we've come to expect from the MCU aplenty. They even find time to put in a hilarious comedic non-sequitur from Drax (who is eating what I believe is the MCU space equivalent of corn nuts?) that is a genuinely great bit.
That's part of the fun of Infinity War: that Toy Story feeling of watching all these characters meet and interact in unusual configurations, out of their respective elements. They've done some of this in previous films: Ant-Man and The Falcon in Ant-Man, Hulk and a bunch of crazy aliens in Thor: Ragnarok, but this is all the marbles, the whole toy chest upended on the carpet. It is a blast, even under the shadow of impending death.
Of course, everyone can't have equal screen-time. You get a lot more Iron Man & Thor than you do Cap & Hulk for example; more Guardians than Wakandans, but every character gets their moments. Some are bigger than others, but that ends up being one of the movie's strengths. Not all character development needs to come from grand speeches. Even Thanos, who does his fair share of speechifying, doesn't over-do or over-explain things. Come the closing credits, you understand his drive, but I'm not sure we've heard the whole story.
There are big, crazy concepts scattered throughout Infinity War that I can only hope we'll explore further in the future. That's another astounding thing about it: it's maybe the most comic-book-y of the comic book movies and not just the concepts, the visuals are incredible. Watching Dr. Strange use his magicks to battle against unstoppable cosmic forces literally brought tears to my eyes. I never thought I'd see anything so flat out crazy in a movie made for ostensibly anyone. There's also a good bit of the teamwork aesthetic the Russo Bros. showed in Captain America: Civil War of allies combining their abilities in unusual and creative ways that's just undeniably fun!
Infinity War is almost too much movie, even with a companion piece film on the way, but it's undeniably an Experience with the most capital of E's. It's also the ballsiest, least safe big studio blockbuster you may ever see, though I hope not. I hope other franchises will take these kinds of risks and deliver these kinds of shocks to the status quo. So I raise my collector's cup to the thousands of people, the casts and crews and creatives who made the MCU work. Thanks for ten years and if Infinity War is indicative of what's to come, here's to ten more!