After a decade of interweaving, moneymaking, super-heroic spectacles, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is finally coming to an end.
Er... sort of.
With Avengers: Infinity War—the third of four slated Avengers movies—the folks at Marvel begin closing the loop on a sequence that kicked off with 2008’s Iron Man and spanned, so far, across an impressive 19 total films. Some fan favorites are headed for the chopping block and a slew of new characters and stories are ready to emerge. But even after seeing Infinity War, the true impact of omnipotent supervillain Thanos (Josh Brolin) is anybody’s guess.
The movie picks up shortly after Thor: Ragnarok. Thanos has attacked Thor’s ship and massacred most of the people aboard in search of the Tesseract, which houses one of the six infinity stones he needs to become an all-powerful murder machine. With a second stone in his possession, Thanos sends his cronies across the galaxy to collect the remaining stones. Enter the Avengers... and Spider-Man, Black Panther, the Guardians of the Galaxy—basically every hero we’ve met up to this point.
The fear has always been that assembling so many characters would lead to an output along the lines of X-Men: The Last Stand, where too little screen time made for almost no character development and even less of a potent story. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Infinity War. At a 2:40 runtime, there’s plenty of room, and multiple converging story arcs make for solid pacing and character payoff. After all these years of setting up pins, it’s nice to watch them finally fall, to see our heroes mingle for the first time: Spidey quipping to Doctor Strange, Star-Lord puffing out his chest at Thor, all our beloved characters coming together to kick ass just like they do in the comics.
Yet Thanos is the lynchpin here. He serves as the focal point of the interconnected storylines, and the movie digs into his background and thought process. His motivations become not only clearer, but weirdly understandable. Thus, Thanos avoids the megalomaniac cliché and serves as much more than your typical Big Bad.
As fun as Infinity War is, there are a couple major issues that distract from what could have been a total knockout. Thanos does some uncharacteristically dumb stuff that will probably be his undoing down the line. For a guy who has no qualms about slaughtering half the universe, he sure does pick the wrong people to leave alive. Sure, we need some way for our heroes to inevitably overcome. There’s just a little too much plot armor and poor decision-making.
And the nature of certain infinity stones means that pretty much anything bad that happens in this movie—like the much-publicized deaths of major characters—can be completely undone. This ruins a lot of the emotional gravity when somebody “dies.”
The MCU has always functioned a bit differently than the comic universe, where retcons and false deaths are par for the course, but it’s pretty clear based on knowledge of Marvel’s production schedule that some characters are coming back to life.
Had Marvel been more judicious with who to kill off, there’d be a little more weight and mystery behind the film’s climax. Instead, Infinity War just leaves us wondering exactly how people will return. And the characters who truly are gone for good will never really get the mourning they deserved in the moment.
Despite these faults, Avengers: Infinity War is more good old-fashioned movie fun from the Marvel crew. We’re set up decently well for the fourth and final installment. It’s just a shame we have to wait a whole year for the story to come to fruition.
Avengers: Infinity War
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Josh Brolin
Theater: Now open, area theaters