Avengers: Infinity War is a knock-down, drag-out, rollercoaster of a blockbuster for those who have managed to stay invested in this 19-film franchise.
It’s difficult to talk about Infinity War because there’s just no good place to begin. When you’re talking about the climax of a franchise that is a decade in the making with almost twice as many films, simply recapping the plot of this film isn’t going to do much for you. I’ll start by saying that it’s a miracle that Infinity War even exists, let alone being as good as it is. It’s like being taken to your favorite ice cream shop, and instead of only picking one flavor, they give you one scoop of everything. It’s exciting while you’re deep in it, and you can’t help but leave slightly disoriented and a little sick.
(All screenshots were pulled from IMDb.)
Avengers: Infinity War is the kind of movie you can only get by slowly brainwashing your audience over the course of several years. In 2008, when Iron Man first landed, the biggest point of praise for the film was how it managed to stay so grounded and realistic while still remaining a fun superhero movie. That was the gateway drug. Thor spends the majority of his first movie on Earth, where audiences don’t quite realize they’re buying into the idea of a Norse god of thunder who travels from his golden space city on a rainbow bridge. If you do that enough times (19 to be exact), eventually you can get to Infinity War, where your dad is sitting down opening weekend to watch Spider-Man fight monsters in space while a raccoon with a gun talks to a tree. There’s nothing grounded or realistic about Infinity War; it is the most unabashedly comic-book movie ever made. It’s all bedazzled nonsense — the ultimate form of fan-service spectacle — and the best part is you’ll care about every second of it. At both of the screenings I’ve been to, people cheered, laughed, and cried throughout it’s gargantuan 149-minute run time. That alone should be a death sentence for a summer blockbuster, but it so nimbly somersaults between each of its massive groups of characters while keeping you invested and building the stakes that it’s almost over before you even know it. It would be easier to compile a list of where this movie could have gone wrong than it is to talk about what it does right, because it just nails so much of it. The fact of the matter is, if you’ve seen all or even some of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), you’re almost guaranteed to have at least a good time, if not an amazing one. That’s no small feat.
In fact, the biggest knock against this movie is that there’ll be another Avengers movie out next year. I don’t even need to talk about the ending of Infinity War to explain why that’s an issue, because even knowing the existence of next year’s Avengers movie poses a serious storytelling issue for this film. Like Back to the Future II or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Avengers: Infinity War feels like half of a larger film. You’ll still be able to enjoy 95% of the film before that realization kicks in, but don’t expect to leave with any sense of satisfaction. That issue, combined with its overstuffed nature, means that it does come out feeling like a little less than the sum of its parts. I’ve put a lot of time into thinking about how I would rank this movie against the others in the MCU, and I still don’t have an answer. Everyone gets their moment to shine, but nobody has an arc. To go back to my (shaky) analogy from earlier, it’s all the sweet of a dessert without the satisfaction of a meal. All that being said, it’s a little difficult to hold all that against Infinity War, because it’s certainly not what it set out to do.
If I could pinpoint one thing about Avengers that I liked, and feel doesn’t quite get the acknowledgement it deserves, is just how deftly this movie capitalizes on the strengths of all the movies before it. The directing, and especially the writing, is so on point for every character in this film that many of them turn out to be better here than they are in their solo films. It’s abundantly clear just how much respect and attention the writers and directors have for each of these characters and their respective source materials. As I’ve mentioned before, my biggest complaint with most of the Marvel movies is the third act. No matter how much they differentiate their films from each other in the first two acts, the third one almost always manages to devolve into shooty CGI spectacle. Avengers: Infinity War is one long third act. It’s all spectacle without any of the character development, and it works because you’ve already spent years with most of these characters. The idea that you can come into the film with a built-in affinity for all the major players is the ultimate fulfillment of this decade-long experiment. It’s a singular achievement: a movie that can rid itself of the “burden” of character development and just focus on the experience of how you feel watching it.
In every way, Infinity War is the culmination of the promise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
— Zach E.