This is it. All roads on the #RoadToInfinityWar in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have led us to this point. The culmination of 10 years of storylines with great disparity at first glance are unified here like the multiple Infinity Stones at the center of this tale. It’s a lot to take in that this film is a beginning and ending for many things. I will speak of this film in the broadest ways possible, because as a fan, I went into this experience unspoiled. I respectfully hope any readers of this review will be able to do the same.
By this point, we’ve seen Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assembled, disassembled, reconfigured, and added to, but nothing can prepare them for the arrival of Thanos. Mind you, the same can be said of us as moviegoers. In respect to the other entries of the MCU, this film is structured uniquely and focused on multiple fronts simultaneously. Even though this film is one of the MCU‘s longest, there is a momentum here that carries it all along. While much of it boils down to a chase for objects acting as plot elements (it’s as if Oprah is on some interplanetary stage, yelling, “You get a MacGuffin, and you get a MacGuffin, and you…”), don’t take that as an indictment of some mishandling it all. Rather, the Russo Brothers elevate that ride with a punctuation of consistent surprises and new wrinkles to what we know. The title says Avengers, but this is just as much Guardians of the Galaxy 2.5. The zaniness we’ve grown accustomed to with the Milano’s crew was just a gateway drug, leading to all we see here.
Thanos, played here with an incredible presence by Josh Brolin, has been expertly teased for years over multiple films, and still, we’ve known nothing of the fullness of his threat to the universe. Set on a path to secure six powerful gems hidden across the universe that have the ability to manipulate everything around him, he will not rest until the power of a god is his to wield. To him, the universe is imbalanced, requiring someone to make the hard choice of setting it all right. His assault on life instantly puts him at odds with our heroes, even if his increasing power makes him a threat like they’ve never encountered before. Sure, comic-book fans know the Mad Titan, but this film offers surprises for them as well regarding his character and motivations. I would recommend to all a read of Jim Starlin‘s classic series, “The Infinity Gauntlet“. Don’t expect an adaptation of it here, but you’ll be better in tune to the similarities and differences of this and the character’s origins. Better yet, you’ll be ready for the amount of destruction, surprise, and just plain weird that fills this film.
He arrives in this film less like a typical villain and more like a force of nature, a culling of the order of things that cannot be ignored. Things happen in the first moments of this film that will shock many in attendance. That isn’t exclusive to just then either. I often heard audible gasps throughout the crowd. The beautiful thing that Kevin Feige had helped produce over the past decade is a shared experience. Attachments to the characters involved here run very deep, and it’s amazing to see the suspensions of disbelief and the boundaries that are able to be crossed in this film, all because audiences of every conceivable background have truly bought into this shared cultural experience. Special isn’t special enough of a word to describe it all. It seems every MCU film has been increasingly bolder; none are as trusting that audiences, wherever it goes, will follow as this is. Just as Thanos and crew confidently advance on their objectives, the filmmakers and cast did here as well.
While the film brings back places and characters you may have forgotten, it also takes us places we’ve never seen before in the MCU, but it does so while telling a story with surprising natural resonance to our own time and to the overall Avengers tale being told. This is, BY FAR, the strangest (and even most meditative) of all 19 films, thus far, but every action taken arrives solidly in line with this story being told. The humor feels mostly natural to each situation, even as all life is gravely threatened throughout the universe. Spectacle outweighs normal plot responsibilities, as you should know now for better enjoyment. Some characters will appear exactly when they are useful, but don’t expect full resolution here for many. It was a tall order to expect it would all work with a cast this large; I would say it does, but just know going in that this film belongs to Thanos, and all of our ordinarily lead heroes support in this story.
So, what can I share without spoiling? For your sakes, very little. Suffice it to say, you may think you know how it will all go down, but you have no idea. Overall, while it isn’t as naturally lovable as the first Avengers, this film is way more enjoyable than Age of Ultron because it balances the light and dark of it all (fitting, given the plot here). This film is a smashing success at piecing together so many things, and it is the truest realization of an event comic we’ve seen yet. You feel the feeling while watching that you get with turning the page to find incredible revelations. There are larger-than-life sights and sounds throughout. The Russos know how invested we are in everyone and everything, and those connections are leveraged throughout. It was a blast that must be experienced, not read about, but I do feel for anyone jumping into this without watching any or most of the previous films. It’s not enough to just show up or say you’ll watch Avengers 1 & 2. This is the culmination of so many things, so take the time to get ready for it by watching the preceding films.
Content-wise, the film is heavy. It’s an emotional experience, because there are huge costs attached to the violence. Several characters kiss throughout, and two share a bed in a tastefully executed scene. Language and inimitable dialogue show up as well, so be aware for your kiddos. There was a weird use of Jesus as a punchline by Star-Lord that didn’t work for me. Amazingly, the film subtly addresses the sanctity of life and the desire to play God as themes central to it all. No other film like this has gone anywhere close in my opinion. Family relationships, in their many permutations, are key here as well. Overall, it was refreshing to see the film go there.
In closing, expect more from the Avengers in a year. The experience began here will see completion next May; in the time until then, we’ll catch up with Ant-Man and The Wasp and be introduced to a new character in Captain Marvel. It’s going to feel like a long time, but with the strong story began here, I believe the wait will be made worth it.