Avengers: Infinity War might not be the light-hearted, whimsical affair of its MCU predecessors. In fact, we’re dealing with a Marvel movie that is a bit more macabre for our actionable, willing heroes. That seriousness of this film permeates the screen at its fullest just after a third of the way through. The Russo brothers set out to bring the endgame scenario for the path that the MCU has been on for 10 years. This is even acknowledged in the introductory studio animations as the MARVEL STUDIOS logo morphs into ‘MARVEL STUD10S’ to draw attention to its decade-long legacy.
Marvel has really built something quite spectacular, and it’s the magnitude that so many other film studios only dream of achieving. I feel like those shouting ‘Superhero fatigue!’ have taken this phenomenal narrative construct by Marvel Studios for granted. By any stretch, the shared universe format of theatrical films is certainly not a newly pioneered concept with what Marvel Studios has created but more of a consummate execution of the idea. The groundwork for this film was surely built on blood, sweat, tears, tree branches (RIP OG Groot), vibranium, infinity stones, and wide swath of comic book lore. No other studio in the history of film has done what Marvel has done. And I say this as a disappointed DC comics fanatic. So, for that alone, Marvel Studios and Disney have much to revel over by achieving this feat.
Now the question is, how was the pay off? How does everything shake out for the characters we’ve invested our time, money, and emotions in with the event we’ve been anticipating since Thanos reared his ugly mug (literally) in that fateful after-credits scene of Avengers six years ago? I can say with a surety that fans will undoubtedly be entertained. However, I sense that there will be a contingent of disappointment among the masses. I only experienced a smidge of this.
Let’s start with small amount of disappointment that I experienced in this film and why that quickly turned around. My disappointment had everything to do with my anticipation. There are certain Marvel heroes that I have really latched on to and was ecstatic to see them in the midst of this cataclysmic clash to end all clashes in the MCU. But the roster, as you may know, is enormous. The cast is far more bloated than the previous two Avengers films and Captain America: Civil War. We’ve now thrown all the major MCU characters we’ve seen to date, with the exception of Ant-man (and some supporting characters like Valkyrie that I had hoped to see again), into a lengthy two and half hour film. If I think back on any one Marvel hero that appeared in this film, I can say to myself “they really weren’t very present or had much dialogue,” and I’d be right. Thor, and perhaps, Gamora, have the most screen time of any hero but even then, it’s hard to categorize. Screen time for this entire cast is spread fairly thin.
The revelatory fact about this film that I wish I had realized heading into it, is the fact that this film is not about any of the Marvel heroes. In fact, the Marvel heroes are the antagonists. The protagonist, the character this story is central to is Thanos and his journey to accomplish his mission. Knowing this, will most definitely change my experience viewing the film for a second time when I take my son. So, understand this now. This film is not about Iron man, Captain America, Black Panther, Drax, or Dr. Strange. This film is all about Thanos.
With that being said, retrospectively looking at the film through this lens creates an entirely new perception. This flip-flop, making the villain the central character, is absolutely daring and incredibly ingenious writing. Because the film is based on Thanos’ journey, we are treated to an inside look at the inner workings of Thanos’ mad, yet logical mind. If that sounds completely confusing using those two descriptors together, then here’s another pairing that I’ll offer you to describe the titan: murderous and compassionate. Even more confused? Great, because that’s the beauty of this film. It teaches us how those characteristics can co-exist in a character with an entirely wild approach to morality and philosophy. I’m most certainly not condoning any of Thanos actions as morally acceptable, but those blurry lines alone make for a deeply tortured but committed character that is certainly entertaining to watch on screen. Josh Brolin brings the gravitas to the role that is required for such a titan of a character (see what I did there?). Without spoiling the story, you will have to take my word and see the film for yourself to truly understand what I’m talking about here.
Avengers: Infinity War, just gave one of Marvel’s most iconic villains a major facelift with regards to his actions and motivations. The comics certainly presented Thanos as an imposing villain, but the film turned him into a multi-layered being, who at times, one could be sympathetic for. Again, let me be clear, Thanos’ actions are clearly bad. But the humanizing narrative certainly connects you with the villain in a way that is rarely seen in cinema. And for this and this alone, I can say that the film is an exquisite piece of storytelling in an already legendary pantheon of Marvel films.
While I certainly don’t have to recommend this flick to Marvel fans (as they probably already have their tickets purchased if they hadn’t seen the film already), I can recommend it to the non-superhero fans, especially those that might have felt some sort of fatigue with the genre as it presents an entirely fresh take on the series.