Ten years and 18 films have lead to this moment.
Nearly a decade to the day after the release of a Robert Downey Jr. led superhero movie, 2008’s “Iron Man,” Marvel Studios breaks the bank once again with the release of “Avengers: Infinity War,” a grandiose, visually indulgent action spectacle that will earn more money with its release than some smaller studios will in an entire calendar year.
A film of this size and scale simply shouldn’t work. There’s far too many moving parts, conflicting storylines and bits of comic book lore how to make “Infinity War” seem even remotely plausible, yet alone watchable, on the big screen.
But because of Marvel Studios’ attention to detail in slow building a franchise, the latest “Avengers” film doesn’t just work, it exceeds expectations with flying colors.
Bringing together superheroes from eight different solo films, “Avengers: Infinity War” culminates a decade long journey to the arrival of arch-villain Thanos, an alien seeking six Infinity Stones that will provide him ultimate power to change and or end the universe all together.
The superheroes themselves will likely be familiar — Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy among others all return — but the combinations the major plot lines of “Infinity War” provide make the film a fresh and compelling two-and-a-half hour joy ride.
The “Avengers” movies aren’t typically breeding grounds for strong acting, though “Infinity War” finds its strength in making the most of the talented ensemble cast in small doses spread throughout the film, highlighting each actor while simultaneously hiding their weaknesses.
For the most part, this leads to a large series of one-dimensional performances that are greater than the sum of their parts. Several notable exceptions rise above this level.
Downey reprises the role as billionaire playboy Tony Stark, the original Avenger himself Iron Man, for the eighth time and brings emotional gravitas to the film. The weight of each decision Iron Man has made over the course of these eight films feels pressed upon Downey’s shoulders and the emotionally taxed actor carries this burden beautifully through every scene of the film.
A terrific turn from Josh Brolin evens the playing field as Brolin confidently, almost seductively, transforms into Thanos. That he is able to make a stoic, purple CGI creation and successfully evoke even the smallest sense of empathy from the audience is Brolin’s biggest accomplishment.
There’s a great deal of information audiences need to know from watching other films in the series. Yet, somehow, directors Anthony and Joe Russo manage to make “Infinity War” accessible and understandable for audiences who might never have seen any of the 18 prior films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While the directors must be given credit for the movie’s dynamic and measured pace, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely wonderfully maintain a balance between all of the superheroes while working with directors of other films in the franchise to ensure continuity in tone and character development.
This allows audiences to see the lighter, more comedic side of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor as developed in last year’s “Thor: Ragnarok” and the more developed Black Panther from February’s film of the same name as opposed to the stiff, confining performances from early films in the franchise.
It’s important to know as little about the events of “Infinity War” as possible before an initial screening as the film truly deserves to be seen with fresh eyes. In the same token, not spoiling the film for others is more critical for this Marvel movie than any other in the franchise.
“Infinity War” certainly cements its status one of the best 3-5 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is considerably better then dark horse Oscar Best Picture nominee “Black Panther.” To say that “Infinity War” completely revolutionizes the franchise is a massive understatement.
The defining chapter in the next step of the world’s biggest film series, “Avengers: Infinity War” has to be seen on the big screen, most likely multiple times, in order to be truly appreciated.
For good or bad, this superhero film could easily prove to be this generation’s defining adventure, a movie younger audiences will talk about for years in the same reverence as we do now with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Empire Strikes Back.”