Ten years and eighteen films later, Marvel and Disney is releasing their grand culmination of their efforts, bringing nearly all of their heroes together for one epic mash up the likes of which cinema has never been seen before. Avengers: Infinity War hits the ground running with an intensity that manages to put itself into the same arena as Mad Max: Fury Road. The annals of genre films which have had a super-huge build up before their opening is littered with disappointment and shame. For every Thor: Ragnarok and Iron Man (the first one), we've had to sit through an Age of Ultron and Iron Man 2. Infinity War is another spectacular installment in the team-up line of films and takes them to a new level. This one is as far beyond the first Avengers film as that one was beyond Fox's X-Men films.
The various threads which have been building along since the first Avengers film when Thanos first sent Loki to Earth to acquire the Tesseract have come full circle. Thanos is on the move to collect the full set of six infinity stones (the primal elements which were first created at the moment of the Big Bang). Earth has two of them – one in Vision's forehead and the other in Dr. Strange's amulet. Another is with the collector, and the Tesseract (last seen in Ragnarok on Asgard) is another. The various MCU groups of heroes set out to defend the stones and Thanos is just as intent to retrieve them all so he can move on his plan to kill half the living creatures in the universe.
The central character in Infinity War turns out to be Thanos far more than the respective heroes. That's not an unwise decision by directors the Russo brothers and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. With so many characters running around, spending any appreciable time with them would take far too much time, and the film already weighs in at a hefty 2:40 (before you add in the ubiquitous trailers and ads). Continuing with the learnings from Black Panther's Warmonger, the film gives the antagonist even more time to set up a backstory and motivations to make them more than just the big-bad that shows up at the end for the main fight. Josh Brolin as Thanos joins Andy Serkis as being among the actors who have best been able to emote through a massive CGI overlay.
The film overall is not as technically a superb film as Black Panther. There are flaws, and trying to bring together characters like the wise-cracking Guardians (especially Star-Lord) into the mix of a very dark and more seriously toned storyline almost becomes discordant at times. There's moments where it works, but then there are others where it feels very out of place. The movie sails along and you don't feel it's long running time, except perhaps during the times where Dr. Strange and Tony Stark both try to out-do each others Egos and general arrogance – making the joke once or twice is fine, but after the fifth it begins to drag and you want to get back to the main arc.
One thing that should be revealed is that this is not the whole story. Yes, that means Marvel lied. This had originally been slated to be the first part of a two part main story, but then that changed and the studio insisted that no, this would be a full piece. Nope. This is only the beginning. The fallout of the happenings here will be felt across all of the films to come until we get whatever they decide to call the back-half of this one.
Every time I start to wonder if they've hit peak saturation with the superhero genre (four films this year), they come out with films like Black Panther and Infinity Way and they sell me on it once again and I look forward to what happens next.
Note that there is one post-credits scene this time around, so be sure to stay to the bitter end. And bring kleenex.