Marvel Countdown: Our Marvel Expert Weighs In on 'Avengers: Infinity War'

Marvel Countdown: Our Marvel Expert Weighs In on 'Avengers: Infinity War'

Apr 26, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War

There’s a notion that Marvel movies have one foot planted in an accessible genre and one foot planted in superhero comic books. Spider-Man: Homecoming becomes "a high school comedy that’s also a superhero movie" or Captain America: The Winter Soldier gets described as "a spy thriller that happens to have superheroes in it."

With ten years worth of superheroes under their belt, Marvel Studios is perhaps just now releasing a movie that is not concerned with that level of accessibility. It is a superhero movie, served straight, no mixer. Avengers: Infinity War makes no concessions to the casual fan or anyone on the fence about whether these movies are for them or not.

This one is the 'season finale,' the payoff for the Marvel faithful who’ve been waiting for this Thanos plan to come together since the first hints were dropped roughly six years ago in Avengers. Loosely inspired by the 1991 comic mini-series The Infinity Gauntlet -- its sequel was actually titled Infinity War but told a story less about the Infinity Stones and more about the Marvel heroes fighting evil doppelgangers, so be careful what you get if you’re looking to read the source material -- Alien despot Thanos works to assemble a collection of six cosmic gems to wipe out half the population of the known universe with the snap of a finger. These artifacts have been conspicuously peppered throughout the previous Marvel films, like the Time Stone which Dr. Strange used in the climax of his own movie to defeat Dormammu or the Mind Stone which is visibly implanted in the forehead of the Vision.

Perhaps fearing that Thanos being romantically obsessed with a female avatar for death might read as too silly for film, the filmmakers have shifted his motivation to population control. He believes that less humanoids will make the cosmos a better place for everyone. The Avengers, even as splintered as they are post-Civil War, and the Guardians of the Galaxy strongly disagree.

Mephisto and Dr. Doom assisted Thanos in the source material, but those villains don’t make much sense to use here in this movie (anybody remember when Peter Fonda played Mephisto in Ghost Rider?), so Thanos is given a quartet of flunkies (Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glave, Ebony Maw, and Cull Obsidian, from a comic series titled simply Infinity) to assist in his quest for the stones. This also allows the sprawling cast (including Avengers-in-waiting like Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Dr. Strange) to be broken into smaller groups in the service of splintered episodes where each cluster of heroes has their own goal to achieve in the service of stopping Thanos from collecting all the stones and placing them into his powerful gauntlet.

It’s a smart approach. Each of the small groups deal with goals and stakes that are equally significant, which means there’s not a single side quest that feels 'less than.' They try to give every hero a big money moment, though some money moments are bigger than others -- Thor fans will love this -- and great pains are made to make Thanos a three-dimensional character, to the point where his previous appearances in these movies almost feel like first drafts if not outright mistakes.

Josh Brolin, through the technical wizardry of performance capture, overcomes the CG villain curse that’s plagued similar comic book movies. You always believe that Thanos is simply Thanos, a living, breathing "Mad Titan" who feels emotions deeply and cannot be wavered from the courage of his convictions. Several human actors, notably Zoe Saldana as Gamora, are tasked with acting against a co-star added in post-production, but you’d never know the difference from the raw personal investments of their own performances.

No time is spent catching you up or easing you in. It starts where Thor: Ragnarok ends and moves so quickly, it’s as if two hours and forty minutes is barely enough time to tell its tale. For millions of MCU fans, they’ll be left shell-shocked. There’s going to be a lot of popcorn on the floor this week from all the dropped jaws. The wait for the fourth installment (already filmed, and slated for next summer) is going to feel like, well, an infinity.

Anybody else might wonder what the heck all this stuff is all about, but, honestly? Marvel seems to be done courting the non-fans. There’s no dressing this one up; it’s superheroes. They punch big and feel things even bigger. Sometimes, their adventures teeter right on the edge of utter nonsense, but they’re witty and clever and cool and emotional. It feels nearly impossible that Marvel could deliver on a decade’s worth of building expectations, but they, forgive me, had the stones to do it (forgive me). Plainly put, Avengers: Infinity War is a triumph of superhero filmmaking.

(Still here? Did you want a spoiler or something? Okay, we’ll give you a small one. Why haven’t you seen Hawkeye or Ant-Man in the Infinity War media blitz? Because they aren’t in the movie. You want to know why? Buy a ticket!)

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