Avengers: Infinity War is the superhero epic to end all superhero epics (for now)

**SPOILER-ISH REVIEW**

I’m finding it difficult to describe Avengers: Infinity War in a way its title and astronomically-sized cast already don’t do themselves. It’s a massive, epic, relentless, comic book smash fest that brings together too many heroes to count without repeating yourself at least twice. The glorious things about all that is, yes, it’s as entertaining as it sounds. In fact, it’s near impossible for a movie of this size in this genre to not plaster a permanent grin on your face from start to finish. If that’s all you want and hope for from this movie, please, go buy 15 tickets now and prepare to be amazed.

For those who have been following the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the last ten years, Infinity War acts as the first part of the culmination of this franchise. All the Avengers, from the witty Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) to the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) are now put to the ultimate test as the big baddie Thanos (done via motion capture by Josh Brolin) finally comes for the Infinity Stones, which will allow him to harness the power of the universe. What makes it all worth the wait is not only that each scene is littered with soon-to-be iconic comic book movie moments, but that at the center of all of it is magnanimous, imposing and engaging Thanos. If you ever worried if a big purple alien could be captivating, then let this put such worries to rest. Thanos is here, and he delivers.

Infinity War wastes no time bringing him to the big screen. Nor should it; we’ve been waiting years to see him crush skulls and make big speeches about the nature of existence (but mostly to crush skulls). Brolin gives a riveting performance as the Mad Titan, giving his opening line a serious sense of dramatic weight and danger, all done as he drags a beaten Thor at his side like a tote bag. This movie doesn’t work without him seeming so dangerous, which can’t happen if he looks like a CGI goat (*cough* Justice League *cough*) , and luckily, the millions sunk into his digital rendering were well worth it. There’s so much detail in his appearance, including the shaved hairs on his head and the nuance in his facial expressions, the latter of which ensure that none of Brolin’s work goes unseen. As a result, everything else in the movie is able to suck audiences into the chaos, knowing their big baddie stands as a true threat and not, as I said, a CGI goat (*cough* Justice League *cough*). Sorry, that cough doesn’t seem to want to go away.

This is a good thing too because this movie is mostly chaos and destruction. Thanos arrives in the opening scene, and from then on our heroes are playing defense as they plot their next movie and fight his gang of alien thugs. In separate teams around the world (and in the cosmos), the characters come together to fight big battle, muse about what it means to sacrifice for the fate of the universe, banter, and all that hero stuff. There’s the likes of Iron Man teaming with Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and several Guardians to eventually fight Thanos on his home planet Titan; there’s Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and more meant to guard Vision (Paul Bettany), the keeper of the Mind Stone, in Wakanda and; Thor, Rocket Raccoon and Groot off to find a big weapon to stop Thanos somewhere in space.

If this seems like a lot to keep track of, it is. This means a lot of jumping between worlds, and also fitting in time to give Thanos, the movie’s true main character, the time to show off some emotional depth. This means the characters don’t exactly get time to grow or do much other than respond to the action. For anyone who loves the character work done in movies like Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther that may be a letdown. However, out of their pairings comes constant humor, and some rather engaging inter-character moments, like the clashing egos of Stark and Strange, or the quirkiness of Thor and Rocket. These setups can steal the show and prove to be funnier than most comedies, making the movie just as entertaining even when stuff isn’t exploding. The only ones who don’t always get the best treatment are those on the Captain America side, as their entire plan is to prep for one big battle.

Left to right: Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Drax (Dave Bautista), Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff).

But, I don’t feel this movie was ever about rich character development outside of Thanos. The movie works just as well as a means of pitting the heroes against the threat of something so big all they go do is react. These characters have had years to develop, and this movie is all about cashing in on everything that’s been put in, not about adding to the pile. Never before has a galactic force been so immediate and destructive, and I liked seeing the Avengers on the back heel, having no idea what to expect, and thus failing time and again. That, and it’s hard to think about wanting something so complex when one of the most epic, jaw-dropping blockbusters of all time is playing right in your face.

The action in this movie is unreal, with characters of varying abilities fighting insane foes, resulting in nerdgasm after nerdgasm. How can you not love it when Iron Man, Spider-Man, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), and Doctor Strange are fighting Thanos in a battle mixing both world-shattering and realm-bending madness? And the battle of Wakanda? Very rarely have I heard crowds cheer so loud for characters landing on the battlefield to Alan Silvestri’s thunderous score, with characters like Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Widow squaring off side by side in epic female badassery. Maybe it’s all too much to handle sometimes, but I for one have never had this much fun at the movies, and that’s in large part thanks to directors Joe and Anthony Russo for keeping everything so brisk and well-structured, to the point where the action may be relentless, but each set piece feels unique, the individual stakes so high.

And, indeed, the stakes are high, and the movie’s epic conclusion packs too much of a wallop to think about with my heart-shattering. Like I said before, I like seeing this side of the team, one that finds the characters as the underdogs. In the end is when that sense of powerlessness hits its hardest. The team loses, and they lose a lot. Anyone complaining the characters don’t go through changes in this movie will likely have to hold their tongues come the fourth Avengers next year, because recovering from this heartbreaking conclusion will take its toll on them. Hell, I’ll probably need therapy.

There will be some who hate Infinity War. They will find the lack of some key character development disappointing the constant carnage exhausting. They will tout it as a $300 million cliffhanger with nothing to offer but spectacle. But never before have I seen a crowd engage with a movie this way, let alone in three times seperate times I went to see it. They cheered, laughed, cried and let out heaping gasps in the movies final moments. An argument can be made for whatever gripes you have, but it can’t be said this movie didn’t do its job of delivering the most epic, emotional superhero extravaganza the world has yet to see. How it achieved this was by taking the characters we know and love and putting them in the most exciting, dreadful scenario imaginable, resulting in equal parts excitement and heartbreak. It’s a roller coaster of a movie, and as it taps into the kid in me, I always get off screaming, “Again! Again!”

 

GRADE: A

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