It’s always darkest before the dawn…
While it took until movie number 19 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for us to get to this point, with Avengers: Infinity War we reach the tipping point where it goes from over the top comic book action to actual emotional situations with real human stakes that these characters are forced to deal with inside of the big picture.
It’s been years as the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle. The world hasn’t always agreed with their methods but they’ve been necessary ones, all in preparation for a new danger that has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos (Josh Brolin). A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment, and in one way or another Thanos has been at the root of every evil that they have ever had to face. Now with Thanos here in the flesh, his end game is soon at hand and the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.
Quite simply Anthony and Joe Russo have laid their claim to their unequivocal mastery of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Avengers: Infinity War does something an overloaded blockbuster movie rarely does as we get balance between the characters, real world emotional stakes for the characters that take them to some pretty dark places. It’s a rare experience for an action blockbuster, as it’s emotionally raw and will end up being pretty darn divisive all at the same time.
With a run time at 149 minutes, yes Avengers: Infinity War is colossally long but it there’s no way around the fact that it absolutely had to be as sprawling and epic as it actually was. It’s a got a real flow and the interaction between all the characters feels natural and never at all awkward or forced. There’s a lot to tell and we get to it in fairly shocking fashion as the film picks up almost immediately after the events of Thor: Ragnarok and little time is wasted in letting us know that things are truly getting serious jumping straight into the crux of this massive narrative that is unfolding in front of our eyes. Sure the comic quips and obvious on screen chemistry moments are still there as the film never lacks in fun moments of banter between all of these characters, we’ve never gotten moments of gravitas like we have before in this film. The effects are top notch as always and the action sequences are handled much more effectively than they were in this past February’s Black Panther because it all feels so much more emotionally relevant as everything on screen actually means something. The Russo brothers weave this tapestry together with all these different characters in such an effortless fashion that it is genuinely hard to determine which of our heroes actually gets the most screen time in this installment.
And if that wasn’t enough, we really get to see these super heroes break from an emotional standpoint and stare down a situation where it actually feels like that they might not come out on top. The script from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely makes these characters have to endure some impossible choices. It’s the first installment that wasn’t afraid to be visual dark and serious because the universe is quite literally riding on the shoulders of these incredible beings, but there’s a limit to what they can achieve no matter how many of them team up or rally behind Captain America or Iron Man.
Chris Hemsworth really gets to carry the ball here a little more than you’d expect transitioning from Thor: Ragnarok where he got to be a little cockier to this time out when we see the God of Thunder literally down to his last options in order to save the day and do the right thing. Robert Downey Jr. lets Tony finally face his inner demons of trying to find balance between the man who does what’s right for himself or the man who needs to step up and save the day, even when he’s not entirely sure if he can. So many of these iconic characters are faced with poignant moments throughout this film that it’s actually a little hard to count and from 2008 onward all these larger than life characters are pushed to their personal breaking points. This film marries the epic spectacle of the comic book universes with the real world emotions that human’s go through every day, just for these guys the stakes get amplified beyond belief. Everyone involved really does make this work, because while we’ve always enjoyed and gotten a kick out of their various adventures, this is the first time we actually feel for our heroes and it packs one hell of a punch.
Picture and sound on the 4K Blu-Ray are obviously first rate allowing this movie to pop on the small screen just as well as it did on the big screen and the special features include four behind the scenes featurettes, a gag reel, deleted scenes and a feature length audio commentary track with Joe and Anthony Russo, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely.
When all is said and done, not only will Avengers: Infinity War be the most argued about and divisive film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it may actually end up being the best and easily the bravest. It refreshingly doesn’t pander to its audience and allows for something nuanced and fascinating that will leave us salivating for the next installment. It’s the marriage of the spectacle and the emotional…that we simply can’t wait to see again and again.