Spoiler Warning: The following review contains significant spoilers for the film Avengers: Infinity War. Please read at your own risk!
From television programming, to Netflix and comparable offerings, to the ever-booming assembly line of blockbuster films, we are no doubt in the golden age of cinematic production.
Sifting through the good, bad and ugly, outliers emerge on the spectrum, such as unheralded instant classics like Netflix’s Stranger Things, and the Wachowski’s brainchild, The Matrix. Others live up to the hype of their novel counterparts, such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
Along the way we have had culturally poignant stories like Boyz n the Hoodand Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, iconic character portrayals, like those seen in Scarface, The Godfather, and John Wick, and imaginative sci-fi epics like Star Wars, Avatar, and Jurassic Park.
The tilting interest of today’s binge-watchers and movie-goers has shifted in the direction of Science Fiction and Fantasy. HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple are all competing for a share of the goldmine. Consumers can’t get enough mind-and-reality-warping entertainment. In the realm of theatrically released movies, the likes of Star Wars, along with Marvel and (some) DC offerings, have dominated box office numbers in a way unmatched by more mundane productions.
Enter Avengers: Infinity War. Here we have a spectacle that pulls together everything today’s movie fan wants to see. Sure, it may not have the independent movie buffs (hipsters and old people) frothing at the mouth. It has, however, grossed $1.6 billion world-wide, making it the 5th highest grossing movie of all time three weeks into its release. It is widely expected to move further up that list, surpassing Jurassic World and perhaps even Star Wars’ The Force Awakens, although Avatar’s #1 ranking at $2.7 billion worldwide seems well out of reach.
The numbers don’t tell the whole story, however. Qualitatively, Infinity War provides depth and a manifestation of imagination never before breached.
The film is propelled by unparalleled character depth. For years now, Marvel has curated some of the best acting talent and most recognizable faces in the business, meticulously crafting character arcs and personalities. Robert Downey Jr. first debuted as Iron Man in 2008 and has appeared as the character in eight different movies. Chris Evans debuted as Captain America in 2011, appearing in six movies. Chris Hemsworth, as Thor, has appeared in seven.
Other fan favorites like Dr. Strange, Black Widow, Guardians of the Galaxy (GoTG), Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Black Panther have all either received their own movies or appeared in multiple films.
Often times when a franchise attempts to assemble a conglomeration of stars into a single film, it looks something like The Expendables — faces fighting for screen time, a plot shallower than the kiddie pool, and dry, formulaic dialog.
Using the better part of a decade to map its universe on the big screen, Marvel has done something unprecedented: Each hero has been gifted the chance to develop in isolation, and in that way, assemble intricate personalities that are uniquely their own. In Infinity War, their behavioral nuances pop despite limited exposure, a benefit of actors being acutely familiar with their character.
And every character enjoys a defined and purposeful role, suited to their specific nature and background. T’Challa (Black Panther) had the previously established connection to Steve Rogers (Captain America) by giving asylum to Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier/ White Wolf/ Metal Arm Dude) after the Civil War saga. Dr. Strange worked his way in via the Time Stone, AKA “the Eye of Agamotto”, introduced in his feature film. Thor predictably serves as the bridge to the Guardians of the Galaxy, an initiative underway since the third installation of his own franchise. The attention to detail prevented any crossover from appearing contrived.
Because each hero has been so meticulously developed, the movie is able to spend considerable time breathing life into one of the most menacing and balanced villains of all time: The Mad Titan, Thanos. Josh Brolin’s Thanos easily stole the show. Everything from his ideological basis to his existential wherewithal, the self-importance, the contrast between apocalyptic savagery and mortal connection; Thanos is the kind of villain you can’t help but hate and love simultaneously. In that way, he is perfect.
The emotional spectrum of the film is truly something to behold. It takes you from gleeful to distraught, and everywhere in between. Most have a collection of favorite heroes, making the most engrossing part discerning who will live and die. Personally, I love Thor, Black Panther and Star Lord. Needless to say, I left the theatre clutching my heart.
Shows such as The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones have made their money on the carousel of character killing. Marvel tapped into this vein of beautiful chaos and boy is it a wild ride.
The mix of anger and sadness felt when Thanos breaks his own heart, tossing Gamora from the cliffs of Vormir, hung like a cloud over the theatre. The internal conflict encountered by Scarlet Witch having to destroy the Mind Stone, and her love, Vision, in the process, is gut wrenching, exemplified by its reversal at the hands (or rather, gauntlet) of Thanos. “I only feel you…” He said, moments before his brain explodes.
Alternatively, peaks of joy left me grinning like a 12-year-old. The unveiling of Stormbreaker, the Tendrils extending from Spidey’s new suit, the first interactions between Marvel’s biggest egomaniacs, Dr. Strange and Tony Stark, all left fans with a child-like giddiness. I saw the film two times in separate theatres, roughly 180 miles apart from one another and hosting discernibly different demographics. In both cases, applause, gasps, and cheers emanated aplenty.
And nothing lightens a dark movie like some well-applied humor. Marvel has become known for contrasting their character’s personality traits to the tune of thundering laughter. Watching Star Lord cope with his insecurity and mimic Thor’s voice, seeing Spider-Man exclaim the magical nature of his attacks as he whirled through Dr. Strange’s portals, and the brutal comedy of Thanos’ sputter, before uttering what will go down as one of the notorious lines in cinema history:
“You should have gone for the head…”
Damn. So good.
Forget the nerds at Rotten Tomatoes who gave this movie an 84%. The real ones know. Avengers: Infinity War has raised the bar higher than Tommy Chong on 4/20. Never has there been such a collection of acting talent, character arcs, and crossovers. Never has CGI madness looked so good. Never have fight sequences been this creative. Never has a movie so anticipated exceeded hype to this degree. It’s literally the cinematic incarnation of LeBron James. And it metaphorically slam-dunked Detective Comics (DC) into Dookie Central. Goodbye.
Impossibly engaging, directed and written impeccably, there is not a single dimension in which this movie has dipped below its fans’ sky-high expectations.
It’s the best.
And if you disagree, well, you just suck.
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