In case you missed it over the last ten years, there’s been this little thing called the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It all started with Iron Man (Favreau, 2008) but, after The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (Whedon, 2012), Marvel Studios really started ramping up their long-term planning and goals. Throughout most of their movies, their plots have either heavily featured or included, in some capacity, one of the six Infinity Stones, building the cosmic and multiversal scope of their franchise, or building towards the looming threat posed by Thanos (Josh Brolin).
Infinity War picks up pretty much immediately after the end (and after credit scene) of Thor: Ragnarok (Waititi, 2017) in a confrontation that does not end too well for the few remaining survivors of Asgard. Thanos and his Black Order lay siege to the rescue craft to claim the Tesseract, which contains the Space Stone. Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) attempts to stop him, only to get resoundingly smashed up, so Heimdall (Idris Elba) shoots him away while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is powerless to stop Thanos’ actions. Hulk, reverting back to Bruce Banner, crash lands into the Sanctum Sanctorum and immediately sets about warning Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbath) and Wong (Benedict Wong) about the coming threat: Thanos knows that two Infinity Stones are on Earth and he will inevitably arrive to take them. Strange recruits Tony Stark (Robert Downey Junior) and, with banner, tries to impress on him the seriousness of this threat and how it dwarfs his issues with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).
As if to emphasise that, Thanos’ heralds – Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary) and Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) – drop in on New York, springing Peter Parker (Tom Holland) into action, and attempt to take the Time Stone from Strange. Massively outmatched, Maw takes Strange and Strange, Spider-Man, and Iron Man pursue them into space. Meanwhile, Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) are attacked by Thanos’ other minions, Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon) and Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw), saved by Captain America and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and taken to Wakanda so that T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and his people can attempt to separate Vision from his Mind Stone.
At the same time, Thor literally bumps into the Guardians of the Galaxy and convinces Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) to accompany him to Nidavellir to forge a new hammer capable of killing Thanos while Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) attempt to intercept Thanos at Knowhere and stop him claiming the Reality Stone.
That’s about where I’ll stop for spoilers for now; suffice it to say that, with all of the MCU’s heroes scattered across the universe, the stakes have never been higher as Thanos edges ever closer to claiming all of the Stones and becoming a living God. Right off the bat, Infinity War is all about spectacle, big stakes, and amazing effects. The entire MCU has been building up to this confrontation, establishing the world and its characters all along the way, so we jump immediately into it with no wasted time. if you’re not familiar with these characters then, maybe, you’ll struggle to get what’s going on but, honestly, by now you should know what you’re getting into.
The Russo Brothers once again do a really good effort of not just juggling multiple characters and jumping from location to location, but also with making every character sound legitimate. When we spend time with Thor and the Guardians, the writing edges more towards that fast-paced, witty, comedic dialogue; when on Earth, with Cap, it’s the intense, inspiration dialogue we’ve come to expect from the more grounded aspects of the MCU.
The effects are, thankfully, absolutely top-notch from start to finish. The real showcase is, obviously, Thanos; for an all-CGI character, he really emotes extremely well and has a real weight and physicality to his presence. Thanos is, also, perhaps the MCU’s most layered, interesting, and nuanced villain in a very long time; perhaps ever and, definitely, since Loki (Tom Hiddleston). He has believable motivations and enjoys a large amount of screen time; literally, he is practically the main character of this film and it benefits from it. Not only that, he is also vulnerable, both physically and emotionally, and his power is massively impressive and only increases throughout, giving the narrative the sense that the heroes have already lost and are desperately clutching at straws to prevent things from getting worse or reaching their foregone conclusion.
Ultimately, Avengers: Infinity War is everything a fan of superheroes, comic books, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe could hope for. There’s something for everyone and, for those whose favourites were missing or not showcased much, there’s future sequels and movies coming very soon to address this. No matter what happens next in the MCU, I guarantee that nothing will ever again be the same.
Recommended: Without a doubt; this is more than a movie, it is a cultural event.
Best moment: So many to choose from: the battle against Thanos on Titan, Thor’s forging of Strombreaker, the all-out war between the Earth heroes and Thanos’ forces…
Worst moment: Hulk and, surprisingly, Captain America got a bit shafted here, as did the Earth-bound stories. Something had to give, considering the multitude of characters and concurrent narratives, and I expect some characters to do more in the next one, though, but I was surprised to see that. On the flip side, the villain took centre stage and didn’t randomly vanish for half the movie.
…about “The Snap”
Spider-Man’s new Iron Spider suit (complete with retractable legs) is fantastic to look at and Thor’s new weapon (Stormbreaker) is a bad-ass addition to his repertoire; Iron Man also has a new suit, composed of nanotechnology. On the flip side, after Hulk’s initial fight with Thanos, he never returns to the fight despite what the trailers how. Instead, Banner is unable to coax the Hulk out for unknown reason (I assume because of the beating he took) and is forced to don the Hulkbuster armour to do his part. To be fair, we did get a lot of Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok but I feel we were denied seeing Hulk converse with other characters as he did in that movie; presumably, this plot threat will be resolved in the next Avengers movie.
As for that movie…well, there’s going to be a lot to sort out, that’s for sure. As I mentioned above, a lot of this movie is more about patching holes than solving the primary issue; Thanos has already destroyed Xandar and claimed the Power Stone when the film opens, meaning he already technically has God-like powers. He kills all of the Asgardians, including Loki, with little effort so his power is already unopposed and grows significantly with each Stone he acquires, and he goes to any lengths to get them. after abducting Gamora and forcing her to reveal, and take him, to the locating of the Soul Stone, Thanos is presented (by the fucking Red Skull (Ross Marquand), finally resolving his fate after all this time!) with the choice: sacrifice Gamora and claim the Stone or be denied ultimate power. Ultimately, he throws her to her death; such is his commitment to bringing balance to overpopulation by wiping out half of the universe.
Last, in a penultimate battle of the remains of Titan, he faces Mantis, Iron Man, Star-Lord, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange as they enact a plan to take the Gauntlet from him. This fails and, when Stark is wounded, Strange gives up the Time Stone to spare his life. I’m not entirely sure what his motivation was (again, I assume that this will be resolved in the next film) but it basically means that Thanos is able to effortlessly turn back time and reconstruct Vision (after Scarlet Witch is forced to kill him),, rip out his Mind Stone, and kill him all over again.
Thor, whose new hammer powers him back up to full-blown Asgardian (interesting, considering I thought half the point of Thor: Ragnarok was to establish that Thor doesn’t need a hammer/weapon to be the God of Thunder), then attempts to kill Thanos but opts for the chest and not the head so Thanos snaps his fingers and, just like that, half of the universe disintegrates into nothingness…including Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Black Panther, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch, Groot, Star-Lord, Mantis, Drax, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man in absolutely heart-breaking scenes. Thanos then retreats to a quiet little hut to recover and bask in the glory of his victory. After the credits, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) also disintegrate, but not before Fury signals a distress call to Captain Marvel (Brie Larson).
Considering the subject matter and the source material, it was absolutely the right call to allow Thanos to obtain ultimate power buts it really was quite the gut punch to see some of our most beloved heroes fall to ash before our eyes. Stark’s reaction was heartbreaking and the realisation on Cap’s face that they have lost was weighty and real; anticipation for the follow-up movie is at an all time high to see how the remaining heroes (by no coincidence the original Avengers line-up) scrape together their resources and try to avenge their comrades or reverse these events.