I feel so lucky to have gotten to grow up with some of the greatest film franchises of all time. I definitely am counting the MCU in that. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been in the making ever since I was young and I’ve grown up watching this story unfold. And it all culminated to this exact moment: sitting down for “Avengers: Infinity War” at the theater.
Warning: spoilers ahead! Don’t say we didn’t warn you…
I’m gonna level with y’all. I was misty-eyed as I was going to my seat. I was remembering, in particular, when I went to the midnight premiere of “The Avengers” in 2012. My best friend and I had skipped school to do the all-day Marvel marathon at the local movie theater – young and taking part in a cinematic event. I’d always loved movies but that was the first time I’d really given myself over to the experience like that. That’s what the MCU has been for me. Geeking out. Never missing any opening weekend. Seeing the latest Marvel flick at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, so that I could see the costumes on display, up close and personal. Seeing a Marvel film on a Friday night and having my ass back in the theater Saturday afternoon. Even traveling across state lines because “Age of Ultron” warranted a trip to the IMAX. Getting to this point has been a journey and it’s an experience that many of us are sharing. That’s the real movie magic, people.
“Avengers: Infinity War” marks the 19th (holy crap!) installment of the MCU. The film is the climax of all the events that have transpired since “Iron Man” and brings together all of The Avengers and their scattered allies to face their greatest threat yet, Thanos, a genocidal titan with the power to destroy the universe.
The list of the film’s stars reads like Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” so let’s get to it: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans (Chris Pine was left out of this year’s cinema Chris Convention), Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleston, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillan, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie (pauses for breath), Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Dave Bautista, Benicio Del Toro, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Stan Lee in his traditional cameo. Featuring the voice talents of Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, and Josh Brolin as Thanos.
Admittedly, I was way too hyped for this movie to be capable of thinking of it critically going in. But one concern that I did have was, “How in the hell are they gonna squish that many people into one movie?” Every Marvel hero and their associated films has a larger than life personality and a style and vibe all their own. It’s what makes them so great. How are you going to take the more serious Captain America and make that work with the colorful tomfoolery of “Guardians of the Galaxy”? By god, they pulled it off.
I was instantly reminded of the thrill of the first “Avengers” film, which I had honestly thought was one of those sensations that could not be repeated – that something so epic was lightning in a bottle and, even with all this buildup, it just wouldn’t be the same. “Infinity War” exceeded my expectations and I think it’s going to single-handedly bring the Hollywood epic back! The film was well-balanced and did an excellent job giving each of the characters plenty of screen time and allowing them to find each other in interesting ways.
Something else that I really appreciated was that “Infinity War” did not make an attempt to establish any clear leaders. We’re not looking at Captain America and all his Super Friends. These are all strong characters that are coming together for a shared purpose. It worked, man, it really worked. The film was very intentional in the use of musical scoring to signal our transitions between different characters and the light shifts in tone were seamless. Every character got to keep the vibe of their respective films, all while gelling together into this bigger, more awesome, thing. I could make a lame comparison to how the film works very much like Thanos’s gauntlet and its Infinity Stones. Powerful forces being collected together for a surge of awesome. But that would be low-hanging fruit and I’m better than that.
Moving into light spoiler territory here, so beware.
THIS MOVIE WENT THERE! MY GOD DID THEY GO THERE! I’m an avid reader of Marvel comics and no greenhorn when it comes to cinematic storytelling; I knew that there was gonna be some death. After all, with a cast this big and a franchise this long-running and, frankly, actors getting old, we had to do something to cut the cast down to size.
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect a Marvel movie to go all George R.R. Martin on us and start killing beloved characters and fresh characters with reckless abandon. Never did I expect for a fan favorite that has been around for ages to be put on ice in the first scene. And they say that DC is the dark one…
I could write a thesis for you on all the things I loved about this movie, but we’re gonna keep things streamlined to the highlights. Thanos will go down in history as one of the great villains in cinema. This character was incredibly well done and Josh Brolin gave a dynamic performance. Thanos has been this looming threat in the background of the MCU. We all know he’s coming but we don’t see much of him, only getting the occasional reveal. What we do know of Thanos is that he’s the baddest of the bad and not to be messed with. He’s painted as an abusive monster and a genocidal maniac. I was not ready for him to be so…sweet.
It was deeply compelling. It is so clear that Thanos has this twisted view of his role in the universe and that the vision growing from what is ultimately a good hearted intention is broken and mangled by his inability to see beyond logistics. He’s the embodiment of the phrase “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” We see the brutality and the violence balanced with softer moments and a kind of quiet strength. Masterful.
There is one scene in particular that I think illustrates it perfectly (BLATANT SPOILER AHEAD).
When Thanos first takes the young Gamora, he is gentle and speaks to her kindly. He wants to help her. He presents her with a pretty play thing. A weapon. He teaches her an analogy on balance and balance found in something both lovely and dangerous…as his troops carry out a massacre behind him and the unknowing Gamora.
It gave me chills.
Some general praise for “Avengers: Infinity War” is that the action was flawless and the effects beautiful. Marvel is still rolling with that great sense of humor (though, a little more adult…we had some extra saucy PG-13 moments in there).
But what made this a unique film going experience and is, perhaps, the greatest moment of “Avengers: Infinity War” was the ending.
The film closes on a shot of Thanos looking out over his domain. The credits roll and the music is disturbingly quiet. We’re used to Marvel credits with their sweeping and triumphant scores and often fun visuals. None. Simple black screen and flashing text. The music mumbles along as the names pass the screen. Like good Marvel fans, we’re waiting for the post-credits scenes. The credits end and the final scene comes…and ends on a hopeful note. Not triumphant – that’s very important here – but hopeful.
I made the excellent decision to join an enthusiastic crowd at my neighborhood Alamo Drafthouse. There was laughter and applause and knowing murmurs throughout the film. In the final scenes, the theater was dead silent. As the credits began, you could hear a pin drop. No one was moving. No one added anything to the silence. Leaving that theater was like filing out in a funeral processional. The heaviness of the ending had turned us all into cinematic pallbearers. THAT was enough to convince me to give “Avengers: Infinity War” the very highest recommendation. Get out and see it!
At the time of this review’s release, “Avengers: Infinity War” has enjoyed the largest opening weekend in cinema history! Did you see the film? What was your favorite part? Let us know in the comments below!
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. She currently serves as the Lead Film Contributor for Shuffle Online; other notable bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.