It’s difficult to write a review when a film leaves you speechless…
Joe and Anthony Russo took on what many deemed to be an impossible task: Assembling characters from ALL of the MCU films to date into a single cohesive film where they battle a purple supervillain who had so far only been seen lazily glowering from a rock space-throne. Their previous Marvel Collaboration, “Captain America: Civil War” left a lot to be desired. It had some great moments, but as a whole was underwhelming. The “War” was more of a family squabble, the action was fun but immemorable, and the character arcs felt contrived at times. But somehow, not only did they overcome all of this, they also addressed negative elements of the “Marvel Formula”, and have crafted a Superhero Masterpiece.
It should go without saying that this is a SPOILER FREE review.
At times it can be difficult to understand the MCU timeline if you aren’t hyper-aware of clues that are often hidden in the background of various films. “Infinity War” is the first time all of the characters are existing in the same timeline. To put things in perspective, the movie begins about four years after “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2“, within a year after “Spiderman: Homecoming” and “Black Panther“, and within an hour of the ending of “Thor: Ragnarok“. Thanos(Josh Brolin) has already made good on his “I’ll do it myself”, and at some point between the movies acquired one of the stones, instantly making him one of the most powerful villains MCU villains. This is the first chip against Marvel’s Villain Problem, an axiom that derides the two types of antagonist found in each Marvel film. One is a two dimensional “nobody” that is easily dismissed (i.e “Thor 2”) the other is a perfectly matched evil reflection of the hero ( “Ironman”, “Ironman 2”, “Black Panther”) In addition to simply making Thanos a greater threat, the old adage that “Every villain is the hero of their own story” is used to maximum effect. This often regurgitated quote can be applied in a variety of ways, but the most compelling is when the evil-that-must-be-stopped truly see what they are doing to be for the greater good. From their twisted perspective, they believe they are taking the moral high-ground, and they are often saddened when others don’t share the same morality. Exactly how this applies to Thanos, the genocidal slayer of worlds, and how it weaves in and out of the narrative is one of the movies treats.
What of the myriad of superheroes collectively battling this monstrosity? While it is mathematically impossible to provide each with the screentime they deserve, every second a character is on screen counts. With nearly a decade of backstory and world-building, we now get to experience the very best of each character. Even more enjoyable, we get to see characters meeting and interacting with other favorites for the first time ever, reminiscent of Spidey’s and Antman’s contributions to “Civil War”. Some of these sequences border on fan service, but they are done right and service the story first. Who hasn’t wondered what it would be like to try and fit the egos of both Tony Stark(Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Strange(Benedict Cumberbatch) into the same room? Considering they both share common goals and the same zip code, it makes sense they’d bump into each other the next time something threatened the Big Apple. Other character’s screen time is better counted in seconds than minutes, but even so, their contribution to the story is palpable. That said, there are a couple of surprising absences, but even those are addressed and fit the logic of the narative.
The prior paragraphs focus on the characters, but what is truly at the heart of this movie is the writing. None of these character moments, the interactions, the stakes, would matter without a great script. There’s a very strong theme that binds this story together, and it’s an unexpected one. Love and Sacrifice. Those two elements snake their way through all of our lives, but very few of us have had to deal with the full extent of their power. When Sacrificing the one you love is an act of love itself, what is the right choice to make? What choice would you make? Would the one you love make the same choice? What about your friends?
Like both Star Trek II and Empire Strikes back, “Avengers: Infinity War” is one of the greatest chapters in any cinematic saga. And like those two films, it forces you to consider which holds more truth, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” or The fate of the universe comes second to those you cherish?