It all began humbly enough 10 years ago on April 14, 2008 when Iron Man premiered in Sydney, Australia. A struggling actor named Robert Downey, Jr. was cast to play a narcissistic, billionaire businessman who builds a flying suit of armor to fight bad guys after accidentally developing a conscience. It was a risk for the fledgling Marvel Studios, but it paid off with a $500+ million gross and two Academy Award nominations. Suddenly the idea of crafting a super hero project that would span 10 years had some traction. The 16 subsequent Marvel movies, some better than others, enhanced the popularity of the Avenger universe and created a collective, drooling anticipation of its two-part climax beginning with Avengers: Infinity War, which as of April 29 had grossed over $258 million domestically (www.boxofficemojo.com). The biggest question is this: Is the success of Infinity War due to merely diehard frenzy and a decade’s worth of buildup, or is it a good movie after all?
Infinity War picks up where Thor: Ragnarok left off with the mad Titan, Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) confronting an Asgardian refugee ship containing Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tim Hiddleston), and Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Thanos has long sought out six infinity stones that when combined will give him the power to kill half of all life in the universe, which in his twisted logic will restore a much-needed balance. They quickly learn that they are no match for Thanos who calmly takes the stone he seeks and leaves just as quickly with nothing but destruction in his wake without breaking a sweat.
Two of the six stones are on Earth, but the Avengers are in disarray thanks to events detailed in Captain America: Civil War. As such, there is little coordination at first when the surrogates of Thanos show up to take the stones. When Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who carries an Infinity stone, is captured, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey, Jr.) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) rush off to save him. The remaining Avengers, led by Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), travel to T’Challa/Black Panther’s (Chadwick Boseman) homeland of Wakanda to safely remove Vision’s (Paul Bettany) stone while mounting a defense against a coming onslaught of epic proportions.
Meanwhile, Thor meets up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, who have had many personal dealings with Thanos and are willing to help defeat an apparently unbeatable villain. It all leads to a tremendous climax that’s certainly worth 10 years of waiting.
Despite its grandiose size, Infinity War does not live in the same rarefied Marvel movies as Black Panther, Civil War, or Captain America: Winter Soldier. However, those movies were able to take their time with character development and breathing live into captivating stories. Infinity War contains a lot more shock and awe, and rightly so considering what is at stake within a 10-year story arc. If you look closely, though, you will see a well-crafted villain in Thanos, who is the most psychologically complex foe contained in the Marvel movie universe to this point. Brolin’s steady delivery keeps your attention as Thanos is involved in what are the most dramatic scenes of the film.
Brolin’s role is the only true revelation of the movie as the rest of the cast deliver exactly what you would expect with some having much more screen time than others. The action is thrilling to watch, no surprise there, and the special effects are fun, no surprise there either. There is one great big surprise within the story, but I will refrain from giving any spoilers for those who are waiting for the crowds to die down before seeing it, which may be a while. Overall, without a doubt, Infinity War, the first of two Avengers movies that will wrap up the first three phases of the Marvel Studios project, is a good movie to spend your hard-earned cash on.
On a letter grade scale from “A” being excellent to “F” for failing, Avengers: Infinity War receives a B.
Avengers: Infinity War is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 149 minutes.
Now showing through May 3 at a theater near you