Ten years ago, Iron Man was released. It was hailed by both critics and the fans as a fantastic movie but most assumed that was going to be it. Because no one had been taught to stay until the end of the credits yet, we didn’t know about The Avengers or how big it would get. Heck for a while, we completely forgot about Iron Man because The Dark Knight came out and changed everyone’s perceptions of what a superhero movie can be. But in the end, it was Iron Man that ended up being more influential as the shared universe took off. And now we are here at the end point. Avengers: Infinity War.
Thanos (Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men) is a feared titan that wants to bring balance to the universe by wiping out half of the people in it. To do this, he needs to gather all of the infinity stones and put them in his infinity gauntlet which will give him the power of the universe. However the universe’s heroes including The Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy and all the various off shoots and exiles team up to make sure that Thanos can not commit genocide.
I think we have to treat this movie in a different way to other sequels. Usually because of the time between sequels and that a new audience might be coming on board, sequels will still take the time to re-introduce their characters. But because of the sheer size of the cast and the story that needs to be told, that’s impossible this time around. Not unless you want the movie to be five hours long. I think it’s better to see this movie as a finale to a TV series. You wouldn’t expect to dive into the finale of The Sopranos and get the full experience, so why would you for a series that has been going for ten years and has had more movies than I can count? This has been clearly advertised as an end point to the series and a huge coming together with the biggest villain they have ever faced. It’s a fair criticism to say the movie will be tough to watch if you don’t know the back story of many of these characters but the movie is confident that you have seen enough of those that came before to get what’s going on.
For Marvel fans, the movie does play out at times as a greatest hits albums. With so many characters being put into this movie, you can’t expect anyone to take the lead or be the focus. The character that gets the most screen time is Thanos but we’ll get back to that soon. So don’t expect a scene where they just chill out and chat like in Age of Ultron. No, there isn’t the time for that. When characters talk they are either advancing the plot or repeating a fan-pleasing line from a previous movie. That doesn’t mean there is no character development, the relationship between Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Vision (Paul Bettany, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) is expanded, the stuff with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight) is very interesting and Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar) gets the best development she has had in the series. There’s some others I can’t touch upon for fear of spoilers as well. But most of the characters will get a few lines which you get to enjoy and then get on with beating up some minions. Which I’m totally down for.
But where this movie lives and dies is with the villain. Marvel has had trouble making their villains interesting at times though it is worth saying that has changed with the last few movies. But if they don’t make Thanos as intimidating and world ending as he needs to be, the movie fails. And considering all the jokes about him looking like Grimace before hand, that is a serious risk. Luckily, the movie pulls it off big time. Thanos is the best villain that Marvel has ever created and he will enter the pantheon of movie’s greatest villains. Firstly, he’s intimidating. From the opening scene, you can see that he is not someone to mess with and that he and even his henchman are a force to be reckoned with. And it gets better from there. He has plenty of screen time where we get to see his justification for committing genocide on half of the universe and Josh Brolin brings the sort of gravitas needed for this part. He is an incredible force and by the end you will loathe his face.
This is part of a completely new tone for Marvel. While the jokes and quips are still there, having Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr, Sherlock Holmes) and Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game) share so much screen time was a good idea, this is a much darker thing. Because of the way the movie starts which is all about establishing Thanos as this deadly villain, there is this all-encompassing dread which the movie cannot get away from. When characters talk about Thanos or when the build-up to an action scene begins, you just have this pit in your stomach. In a series where the heroes have been made out to be invincible and so many have come back from the dead, you do get the feeling that someone’s not going to make it back from this one. I think it’s because of the lack of triumphant music which has become such a thing in these movies even when a battle is won. Because even when a battle is won, you know something worse is around the corner and the characters are quite aware of that too.
I suppose we better mention some of those action scenes as well because they are awesome. Just like in the original Avengers and to some extent in Civil War, all that work establishing new characters in Phase 3 such as Dr Strange and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, 42) to see them pop up here and interact with already established favourites such as Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook) is a delight. In fact the only problems come with the characters who aren’t here. I’m disappointed that some favourites do not show up here and that there hints that some we have grown to love over the last few films may even be dead before the movie gets going. Can you tell that I’m really stepping on eggshells trying to avoid spoilers here? But if that’s your only disappointment you are doing quite well as a film.
Avengers: Infinity War is a great culmination of ten years of build up. There was a lot of pressure on this movie because they have been advertising it as the whole reason for the Marvel Cinematic Universe for existing. But some how despite the massive weight of the gigantic cast which means the credits last for about 50 minutes, this pulls it off. It makes Thanos one of the most intimidating villains in cinema history, terrifying enough to make one child in my screening cry. It has a dark tone completely justifies it by making this seem like the final battle for the universe. It is superb and a must watch for Marvel fans. But let’s face it, you’ve probably seen it already.