AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.
On paper, it shouldn’t have worked. Combining dozens of characters from a decade’s worth of films, picking up on plot threads and character beats going back years and years, and bringing them all together in a new story that spans not just multiple continents, but multiple worlds, and still managing to be a compelling, state-of-the-art action movie? That’s a tall order.
Somehow, the Russo brothers did it, with the help of the seemingly unstoppable Marvel Studios think tank. It’s kind of a little cinematic miracle, really. But perhaps the biggest surprise in INFINITY WARS is the thing I was most skeptical of going in: Thanos. This is Thanos’ movie, no two ways about it. He’s the star. And if that character didn’t work, this whole operation would land with a thud. Thanks to the army of CG artists who created such a realistic non-human character onscreen, and the performance of Josh Brolin, Thanos feels as real as any other character in the film. And it’s not just the realization of the physical character that works so well, but his motivations and emotions. You feel for him in places, which I certainly never expected. What could have been just another cookiecutter CGI Big Bad like Steppenwolf or Ares is instead the most compelling digital character since Gollum.
And despite its massive scope and ambition, what’s equally remarkable about the film is its restraint: some much-desired reunions are denied us for now, like that of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers (although we’d better see Tony giving Steve the shield back in the next movie), and some characters held back for future spotlights, like Ant-Man, Hawkeye and even the Hulk, although thankfully his alter ego Bruce Banner is front and center from beginning to end.
I could go on forever about everything I loved in this movie, the teamups I never expected to see, the joy in seeing certain characters finally reunited, the way some scenes seem pulled directly from Jim Starlin’s original Thanos stories – there’s so much to praise, I don’t even know where to start. Better to just go see it again, which I plan to, and soon.
The film cuts between its various narrative threads effortlessly, introducing more and more characters to the party until finally bringing them together in two massive clashes in the third act, ending with a shocker that left the audience at my screening literally silent and slackjawed in surprise. And all of a sudden I was 9 years old again, staring at the screen at the end of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, bitterly realizing I would have to wait three years to find out what happens next.
Luckily, for us it’s only a year.