By: Kevin Jordan
Winter is here.
Ten years people. We have been waiting ten years for Avengers: Infinity War and it is finally here. Eighteen movies and three television series later and it is finally here. Okay, so not many people watch all three TV series. I forgot Inhumans was even a thing (just eight episodes), Agent Carter got the ax after eighteen episodes, and I quit watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. partway through season four (the one with Ghost Rider) because it became downright stupid. What was I saying? Oh, right – INFINITY WAR!!
To put it bluntly, nothing will top Infinity War for me this year. Sure, there may be another movie like Get Out that comes out of nowhere to blow our socks off, except that movie already happened and it is A Quiet Place. And while A Quiet Place is a fantastic film that will not leave my top five for the year, Infinity War is a watershed moment in film. Really, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has altered the film business, but Infinity War is the gasp you release because, even though you expected what was coming, you were not expecting that.
The big question on everyone’s mind is “how is Marvel going to fit all of the characters and storylines into a two and a half hour movie?” The answer is “are you seriously questioning Marvel after ten years?” Seriously, the answer is the same way a show like Game of Thrones does it – jumping from one character (or several) to another throughout the film and bringing them all together at the end to fight Sauron. With the exception of maybe Black Panther, not one character felt short-changed on screen time and every storyline matters.
(Side note: Hawkeye and Ant-Man are conspicuously missing from this film – as many people noted from the poster – but the film does throw out an acceptable, if not very brief, explanation. Incidentally, I am now beyond fascinated to see where Ant-Man and the Wasp will take us.)
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo helmed this behemoth of a film and were tasked with the challenge of crafting what looks on paper like an impossible movie. Again, we are talking about eighteen movies worth of characters, plots, and subplots featuring a cast best described as all the actors. We are talking about not pulling a Batman v Superman because Disney invested $300-400 million to make Infinity War. We are talking about ten years of planning and execution and if you two guys screw this up we’re going to pump Christian Bale full of adrenaline, steroids, and PCP and tell him you are the light guys. We are talking about the pressure of hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth in game seven of the World Series, but, hey – remember to just have fun out there. All of to which the Russo brothers said “here, hold my beer.”
Infinity War is first and foremost an action movie and you will not leave the theater thinking there should have been more action. However, you will leave the theater exhausted, not because of all the action, but because the tension is relentless. Luckily, the writing in the film deftly inserts exposition, transitions, and the familiar banter and comedic relief of every MCU film exactly in the places where you need to take a breath and remember to blink a few times. These scenes serve to join the various parallel plots of the groups of characters (each of whose makeup you most definitely will not guess) to thread everything into one large narrative which is basically “Hi Thanos.” Then, they turn the tension dial back up to a million.
Considering the complexity of eighteen movies worth of stories, the plot of Infinity War is as simple as it gets – to stop Thanos from acquiring the six infinity stones, thus allowing him to kill half the living beings in the universe. That may sound like a cliched supervillain plot, but the motivation behind Thanos’ goal distinguishes it from most others and helps make Thanos one of the great movie villains of all time. He believes that half of all beings must die because the resources of the universe are finite and dividing by two will ensure the survival of everyone else. Bet you didn’t see a subtle climate-change message coming from a movie like this. Granted, genocide is a really, really bad solution for resource conservation, but one cannot argue at its effectiveness.
Even better is that Thanos has layers of menace mixed with a smidge of…compassion? Wait, that can’t be right. *Thinking* – flashback scene of his home world of Titan coming to a bad end. *Thinking some more* – scene where he acquires the soul stone. Huh. I’ll be damned. Nuance in a giant blockbuster. Even his speech pattern (calm and logical) and excellent dialogue (Josh Brolin owns this movie) adds sneaky depth to a character you start to empathize with by the end of the film. Exactly – *gasp.*
The biggest reason why I will inevitably pick this as the best movie of 2018 is the end is definitely not what everyone expects from this kind of movie. We all know that it is part one of the finale of this massive endeavor, so we all know it will end with a cliffhanger. But it is not the kind of cliffhanger most TV shows end a season with or the way half of all the old Batman episodes left things dangling. Most likely, you have heard the myriad rumors and guessing at who dies and who lives, but Infinity War scoffs at those rumors and guesses and throws the knuckliest of all knuckleballs, leaving the movie off in a place that feels like the wrong place, but is exactly the right place.
Regardless of how this whole story turns out, I was not exaggerating when I said this movie and the entire MCU have fundamentally altered movies. We are already seeing Warner Brothers and Universal attempting the same universe structure (to almost comically bad degrees. You heard me DC fanboys). One can point to Harry Potter or Lords of the Rings as earlier examples, but those are linear franchises. When Marvel succeeded with their so-called phase one, culminating with The Avengers, they showed that audiences were willing to invest in stand-alone films coming from different directions and characters with the promise of a giant payoff in one climactic mashup film. Phases two and three cemented that concept, almost to the point of taunting the audience with unknown characters like Doctor Strange. The strategic plan was visible to even the most jaded of moviegoers, so we trusted Marvel and were rewarded time after time (after time), none more so than with Infinity War.
There are plenty of people out there who hate Marvel and Disney for a perceived homogenization of movies, but that is utter nonsense. These people are the get-off-my-lawn people. They hate the designated hitter and bitch about how millennials are just the worst. They reminisce about the good old days of film (read: pre-CGI) and use words like whippersnapper. These are the people who have forgotten that they didn’t get excited about movies because they watched Citizen Kane, but got excited because they watched Star Wars or E.T. or The Wizard of Oz. These are people who refuse to see the audacity and ambition of a studio asking us to stick around for ten years; we promise it will be worth it. In the latter half of Infinity War, Doctor Strange tells a companion “We’re in the end game now” and, like in Game of Thrones, the years-long ride was worth it.
Rating: Ask why you aren’t paying $50 (or more) for a movie that is easily as entertaining as most sporting events and concerts.