Action Adventure

To ‘Infinity War’ and Beyond: The Latest ‘Avengers’ Installment is Marvel’s Boldest Blockbuster Yet

April 25, 2018Ben MK

Think of the third act of any superhero movie, and what it usually boils down to is a climactic confrontation between the hero(es) and the villain. Well, that, in essence, sums up the entirety of Avengers: Infinity War, a film that serves as the third-act climax for the first 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Picking up in the aftermath of movies like Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Captain America: Civil War, Infinity War brings together nearly all of Marvel Studios' impressive roster of superheroes to fight for their lives — and for the lives of everyone in the universe — against the Big Bad that has loomed large over the MCU since the Avengers first assembled to stop a Chitauri invasion in 2012. Now, after six agonizing years of teasing, the mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin, in all his purple and gold glory) and his "children" (read: henchmen) have finally come to collect.

What they're after, of course, is the complete set of Infinity Stones, those multicolored gems that have played the role of the McGuffin for many a Marvel film. Created in the same Big Bang that gave birth to the universe, these six precious jewels are more than just showpieces, however. Scattered across space shortly after their inception, each of the Infinity Stones allows the holder to wield one key aspect of existence: time, mind, reality, space, power and soul. And if Thanos gets his oversized hands on all six, he'll have the ability to erase half the universe from existence at literally the snap of his fingers.

And so, Infinity War's relatively straightforward plot is set into motion, setting the MCU's heroes on a collision course with destiny. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) crosses paths with the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel). Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) form an alliance. And Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) team up with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Winter Solider (Sebastian Stan) and the Dora Milaje, as everyone races to stop Thanos and his minions (Carrie Coon, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Terry Notary and Michael James Shaw) from laying waste to the galaxy.

Suffice to say, it's a daunting task bringing all these characters together under the umbrella of Infinity War's sprawling narrative, and, for once, it's no exaggeration to say that the stakes have never been higher. Right from the get-go, directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely make it abundantly clear that no one (not even fan favorites) is safe, and that sense that any of these heroes can bite the dust at any given moment carries through all the way to the film's explosive finale, which will no doubt leave audiences wondering, "Did they really just do that?"

What's just as surprising, though, is just how great a villain Thanos is. For years, moviegoers and critics alike have bemoaned the lack of depth that could be used to describe the majority of the MCU's antagonists. And even though Thanos' motivations are ostensibly the same as that of the villain in the 2016 adaptation of Dan Brown's Inferno, it's the terrifically humanistic quality of Brolin's mo-cap performance, not to mention the movie's exploration of his complex relationship with Saldana's Gamora, that really helps to set Infinity War's central villain apart from his predecessors.

Throw in a ton of spectacular action set-pieces and eye-popping visuals, more than a few quips and one-liners, and a story that takes viewers from Earth to Thanos' home planet of Titan, with a few pit stops at places like Knowhere and a couple of new planets along the way, and the word "big" doesn't even begin to cover it. Can Marvel Studios possibly top the gargantuan achievement that is Avengers: Infinity War? Who knows. But given that the film ends on one of the most insanely jaw-dropping cliffhangers ever, it'll be an arduously long 12-month wait to find out.

Avengers: Infinity War releases April 27th, 2018 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 29 min.

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