Kevin Feige has deftly and intelligently steered the Marvel Universe from its very beginning. From the early days including Iron Man, to their latest megahit with Black Panther, Feige has been the most successful movie producer of recent times.
But it was all leading up to this: Avengers: Infinity War.
Feige has often said that he has a long term plan to roll out character after character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But this movie, for him, is a conclusion to MCU version 1.0. He brings together all the most divergent characters from the far flung reaches of the galaxy, to a moment of immense grandeur and importance.
It is truly a Herculean task. At least 25 major headlining characters populate this movie, not to mention the new big baddie in Thanos. The movie is so big, it inevitably forces major characters like Falcon and Black Widow into supporting roles, as the main story line develops.
The movie begins as Thanos is still trying to collect all six Infinity Stones; those all powerful celestial objects that have littered the MCU from the beginning. The stones are the key to absolute power in the Universe, and Thanos is well on his way to collecting them and securing his power.
After terrorizing Loki and Thor, Thanos decides that Earth is his next target. Inevitably, all of our hallowed heroes are forced to work together once again. Lets recall that Captain America is in hiding as a war criminal, while Tony Stark runs the Avengers as Iron Man. The Guardians of the Galaxy haven’t even been to Earth, and no one even knows they exist. And the very fact that magical characters like Dr. Strange must work with scientific monstrosities like Bruce Banner aka The Hulk makes the teaming up…difficult, to say the least.
The comedy in this movie is perfect, and the mixing of hear so far unassociated but lovable characters mostly works. But really, the best part of this for fan boys is…this battle matters. For all of its successes, the MCU has had some awful villains, evil personas that ultimately are cartoonish and don’t really appear to be much of a threat. But here, Thanos inflicts serious pain and suffering. He is a threat to the very existence of not only our heroes, but also of all of their home worlds. There are real risks in this movie, real threats, and real losses.
As such, Thanos was a critical character to get right…and they do get it right. Played by Josh Brolin, the huge purple monster could have become a joke. Instead, the nuances of the acting and portrayal make this a villain you fear, but almost can sympathize with. He is by far the most deep and intriguing villain we have seen in the MCU.
With the sequel to the still unnamed Infinity Wars already being filmed and processed, we will in short order have to deal with the repercussions of the decisions and choices our heroes make in trying to thwart Thanos in his goal. Some will say that this movie is actually too dark; it is, quite clearly, the darkest movie Marvel has ever created. At the same time, others will quibble that the costs our heroes bear in this installment may not be permanent.
But that is always true of a cartoon universe. Every character can be revived. Every decision can be reversed. That is the benefit and curse of living in a comic book universe.
That said, Avengers: Infinity War mostly works. It is a fun action movie that is deeper and more thoughtful than most MCU movies that have preceded it. It certainly has drawbacks, with its large scale and innumerable heroic characters being the most glaring. But all in all, very few fans of the Marvel movies will come out of this movie with anything other than joy.
Now, the most important question: where does it rank in the MCU movie list??
Honestly, Thanos himself makes this one of the top movies in the MCU. He is the best villain we have seen by far: ruthless, virtually invincible, and causes real damage. The movie does a brilliant job of melding all the various characters, with real moments of emotion and comedy. I think this may rank among my top five movies in the MCU…and may even be #1. But let’s hold off until I give it some time and space as well as repeat viewings, to declare it the greatest Marvel movie ever.