Avengers: Infinity War is a film that needs no introduction. After a record-shattering $250M domestic opening weekend – raking in $630M worldwide and sprinting to the $1B mark in a record 11 days – the only thing outselling the film will probably be the merchandise.
There have been 10 years of set-up for this historic film event. The story picks up right where Thor: Ragnarok left us. Thanos, the purple villain who has briefly made appearances in the post-credits of the preceding films, is finally coming to Earth with his tremendous army in pursuit of the MacGuffin to end all MacGuffins. Wielding the infinity gauntlet, he seeks the infinity stones to unite the powerful gems into one super weapon to finally accomplish his lifelong mission to erase life in the universe in order to balance its unchecked growth. In his own mind, he’s the good guy, and The Avenger‘s saga owes its narrative success to the long-awaited arrival of a real villain.
As far as the multiple phases Marvel Studios has been going through, this third phase has been far more about consequence and it pays off. Many problems that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has found itself dealing with come from the nature of selling an audience on multiple superhero movies where the hero is already slated for more appearances in the year.
Another massive issue is that the main antagonist of a film can’t be seen as threatening when their actions have no real consequences. This is why phase two is by far the weakest collection of movies. Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok, for example, found ways to make real gains and losses and allow for conclusive major changes in the universe perpetrated by the antagonism. This caused the movies’ decisions to actually have weight behind them.
Avengers: Infinity War is the amalgamation of the best parts that came from finally leaving the self-induced crippling of phase two, where the stakes rivaled a sitcom. In many ways, this film is another origin story. As each hero of The Avengers got their background story movie, their supervillain Thanos got a part of his in Infinity War.
The MCU’s lack of great villains feels suspiciously like they were holding onto their cards, but Infinity War finally starts to fill the board with the missing pieces that hero mythology needs. In Thanos, we finally have that experience of a true looming threat.
The stakes of the film start out high and only build up from there, which is a pleasant surprise for fans who’ve been waiting for some crunch. There’s a stoic mania channeled by Josh Brolin‘s fantastic performance. The character somehow manages to meet the ridiculously high expectations that 10 years of buildup has set and plays the foil to many heroes, not just one.
This film had a crazy number of things that it needed to do, and the brilliant Russo brothers have delivered a product of high quality. Sure, it’s not without its fair share of failings – like story-altering temper tantrums or absurd decisions that go against characterization – but a machine this gigantic will undoubtedly have kinks here and there.
If the final installment of the Avengers quadrilogy can catch lightning in a bottle all over again, these 10 long years will have a retroactive seal of cultural importance that speaks to bigger things than box office numbers and brand conquest.
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