By Karen Gordon
After a decade of Marvel Studios producing movies that arguably redefined the action genre, including the excellent and culturally significant Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War does the impossible. It tops them all.
Avengers: Infinity Wars is the studio’s 19th movie. It features more than 30 characters and pulls together threads from a series of Marvel’s franchise films including Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr. Strange, Spiderman, and Black Panther to make a movie that is epic in every sense of the word.
The characters unite to take on a villain we’ve met before. Thanos (Josh Brolin) the large-chinned giant who has been cutting a murderous swath through the universe with domination on his mind. He’s searching for the six Infinity Stones, crystals that each give whoever bears them awesome powers, the ability to bend time and space, to destroy or subjugate. To have all of them is to be invincible. The Infinity Stones have shown up in a number of the movies and various members of our superheroes are either guarding them or know where they are hidden and aim to keep it that way.
Unfortunately, Thanos and his vicious gang know who has the stones and they’re coming for them, starting with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) on board a ship of very vulnerable Asgardian refugees fleeing their destroyed planet.
The Avengers and their associates are formidable, of course. Thor and Loki are gods. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr), Captain American/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), are enhanced humans, Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) gets his power from the crystal he’s protecting but it’s very quickly clear that none of them is able to take on Thanos in a head-to-head battle.
As well, some of our heroes have been weakened over the course of these films. Tony Stark is still wisecracking but has lingering PTSD and wants to settle down with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). He’s estranged, to put it mildly, from Steve Rogers, who is himself struggling with the things he’s done to do what he felt was right. He’s also lost his Vibranium shield. Bruce Banner can’t get the Hulk to show up, and Thor has lost an eye and his hammer in battle on Asgard.
But as Thanos and his thugs travel through space and around the planet searching for the stones, our heroes throw everything into the battle, and as movie goes on, more and more of the characters from the various franchises are pulled into the fight, until the whole thing comes together in a stand-off in Wakanda.
Given the myriad locations on earth and in space, everything moves at a terrific pace, and as each character or group of characters is woven into the storyline, they bring their baggage, their motivation, and their relationships from the previous movies into play.
This number of characters, locations, plots and subplots could have easily turned this film into a giant and silly mess. But the filmmakers have done their work, building a story that is true to the mythology and integrity of the movies that have been building towards Infinity War.
Kudos to the team behind this: The movie is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo who helmed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. They’ve once again collaborated on story with their screenwriting team Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
Together, they’ve brought all the threads together into something that packs a real punch.
Marvel films have always succeeded by being ultra-smart, by casting superb marquee actors and writing them rich and interesting roles. Even the villains are complex. Thanos, for example, is much more than a big killing machine with a lust for power. He’s a complicated brute who weeps at surprising times. His plan may be murderous, but he’s thinking ecologically. In his way, of course.
The studio is also unafraid to take risks and that’s especially true here.
The net result is a breath-taking movie that rewards us for bonding to these characters and these stories and that, in the end, takes us on a ride that, perhaps incredibly — given that we’re dealing with a superhero movie — also sometimes breaks our hearts.
Avengers: Infinity War Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Opens wide April 27.