19 films in and somehow, like an increasingly angry Bruce Banner, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was somehow getting stronger. After relentlessly teasing purple people beater and uber space-bastard Thanos since the post credits scene of Avengers Assemble way back in 2012, it finally rained cinematic payoff as Infinity War finally rolled over us like a cartoon steamroller comprised entirely of awesome. The results, thankfully, were fantastic with the filmmaking somehow pulling off an even more impressive scriptwriting balancing act than the super dense Captain America: Civil War – eight superhero characters? Pfft! Try over twenty of the bastards! – but more than just being an exquisitely plotted movie, jam packed with action, jokes and some truly heart rending shocks, Infinity War confirm that what the MCU faithful already knew. That Marvel now rules the fucking world.
Kicking off barely an hour after Thor: Ragnarok’s after credit sting, we meet the Mad Titan just after he and his cronies have cut a swathe through the remaining Asgardian population in his quest to accumulate the gems that will give him the power to become the Elton John of genocide. Leaving Thor and co. to die, he sets his sights on the four remaining Infinity Stones with one hanging around the neck of Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange, two related to the Gardians Of The Galaxy and the final one lodged in the bonce of the synthetic Avenger, The Vision. However, earth is hardly primed for his arrival as Earth Mightiest Heroes have split like an atom since the events of Civil War and clusters of do-gooders spontaneously form in order to fight back on three different places as half the Guardians, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and a confused Spider-Man head into space, Thor, Rocket and Groot search for a new Asgardian super-weapon and everyone else converging in Wakanda to protect Vision’s forehead. As heroes meet, bond and bicker for the first time, Thanos continues unchecked as his forces spread to earth en mass in order to storm the advanced African nation and a massive climactic battle will be fought on duel fronts. Can these divided super beings possibly get their shit together before this unstoppable foe slashes the galaxy’s population like a thrift shop slashes prices?
It has to be said that directors the Russo Brothers have nailed the problem that’s inherent in having over 40 main characters appearing in your movie, and that’s making your main character the bad guy. And make no mistake, Thanos lives up to the hype.
Intelligent, mean and built like an intergalactic brick shit house who can butch-slap the Hulk, he’s more than capably played by Josh Brolin, who between this and the Deadpool 2 must have gotten mad nectar points for all the superhero, skull caving he did that year. Looking oddly like a absurdly jacked, Ribena-coloured Bruce Willis, our antagonist can teleport anywhere in the galaxy, carries immense, destructive cosmic power and can even affect reality itself thanks to his diligent collecting of those franchise spanning Infinity Stones and he turns out to be gloriously layered creation: brutal, committed and undeniably dangerous, yet loaded with surprising amounts of empathy for his hapless victims, the Mad Titan could top even Loki and Killmonger as Marvel’s best villain yet. Utilising his bling of mass destruction, the Infinity Gauntlet, to advocate cosmic genocide in order to make resources stretch across an overpopulated galaxy makes a horrible amount of sense and while Marvel finally and definitely clears up their villain problem with style, they also adress their other reoccurring shortcoming with horrible glee. The subject of mortality in the MCU has been brought up before, multiple characters over multiple movies shrugging off the cold, clammy hands of death like someone popping a Lemsip pill to nuke a cold. Well, not this time. Straight from the off the movie starts culling it’s ranks like an executioner desperate for more overtime and as the movie goes on your stomach drops even further as you realise that the Russo’s are playing for keeps. Make no mistake, it can get pretty gruelling and parents should be prepared to answer untold, uncomfortable questions from the nippers the second the credits roll. The final five minutes of the movie may be the most emotionally devastating of any summer blockbuster made in decades and in only a few years has become one of those transcendal moments in cinema that will always be remembered as being fantastically traumatizing. Sure, things turned around mostly with the release of Endgame (not to mention WandaVision and Loki on Disney+) but it’s still impressively brutal stuff with an ending so ballsy, it serves only to prove how daring Marvel has gotten with it’s ever growing success.
The movie boasts too many memorable moments to count, with virtually all of them effortlessly stirring you up into a cheering frenzy – Spider-Man gets a slick new costume, Doctor Strange cuts loose in a one-on-one scrap with Thanos, Thor scores one of the most rousing last-minute saves since the Battle Of Pelennor Fields from Lord Of The Rings and Star Lord infuriates the world by infamously losing his temper at absolutely the worst time imaginable. It’s dizzying stuff and the character’s all mix wonderfully but the film even takes time to rectify a few issues too: Joss Whedon’s awkward Age Of Ultron romance between Banner and Black Widow is referenced and then thankfully discarded and complaints that Doctor Strange was too similar a character to Tony Stark is actually made into a plot point as the two, egotistical deuches struggle to get along thanks to being super smart assholes.
Problems? Some but only incredibly minor. If you’re new to all this (somehow) then frankly, you’re fucked. And when you have so many characters vying for your attention some have to play second fiddle, so while Iron Man, Doctor Strange, The Guardians, Spider-Man And Thor get plenty to do, others, including Captain America and Black Widow simply line up to defend from Thanos’ vicious armies. But this is less a story about individuals and more about multiple stories about multiple teams spread the length and breadth of space trying to stop their common, purple-hued foe.
If Avengers Assemble was Marvel’s superhero team and Civil War was it’s superhero community, then Infinity War has successfully graduated it into a genuine superhero universe and somehow you feel it can only get even better. This is the payoff of 10 years worth of continuity and it results in a phenomenally effecting experience, crammed full of surprises – some fun, some agonizing.
Ten years on it seems, you can still confidently make mine Marvel.