Avengers: Infinity War throws a fireworks event for Marvel at its most Marvel

By Leigh Monson
  [Spoiler warning: I won't be discussing specific plot details, as I firmly believe this is a film best served by going in blind, but for the purposes of a review I will be letting you know my thoughts in broad strokes as they pertain to some of the character work and the film's overall structure. If that's too much information for you, just come back after you've seen the movie.]
  If you are unfamiliar with the world of comic book publishing or storytelling, there is something known as an event series, a period of time when various comic book titles cross over with one another in service to an event that is supposed to fundamentally change their fictional universe. The original Avengers and Age of Ultron weren't so much event crossovers as they were adaptations of the idea of a team-up comic, with heroes coming together to beat a larger-than-usual threat, and while there were consequences to the continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, those films weren't fundamentally transformative beyond further tying Marvel's various franchises together.
   Avengers: Infinity War is different in that it feels motivated by paying off the seeds of allusion planted over ten years of films in a way that changes the status quo of the Marvel machine going forward. And your mileage will vary based entirely on how invested you already are in this world and its characters.
  If you are looking for fully fleshed out character arcs, with one notable exception you're going to find Infinity War lacking. The focus here is on watching characters who have already been established by their own franchises bounce off one another in amusing and dynamic ways. This doesn't mean that the film is devoid of personal stakes – far from it, as many continuing plot threads are paid off in big, impactful ways – but structurally this sets up a back-and-forth between action and exposition that prioritizes moments of crossover character interaction over treating any one of them as a protagonist needing to stand against the threat of Thanos.
  And it's in the villain Thanos that Infinity War finds its grounding, effectively treating his character arc as the acts the film builds itself around. Thanos is a really difficult character to translate from comics, as his motivations and characterization are so broad and operatic in scope that they aren't easy to realize in the relatively less chaotic world of the films, but Infinity War's Thanos is reinvented in a way that makes him oddly relatable. There's a logic to his actions that, while reprehensible, is built on a consistent worldview where he sees himself as a hero and savior, and Josh Brolin delivers one of the most complex character performances of his career in bringing Thanos to life.
  This grand experiment culminates in one of the most audacious finales possible for a major tentpole film, at least insomuch as this film standing on its own leaves quite a cliffhanger before the continuation comes out next year.
  This isn't the best Marvel film, as the apocalyptic stakes, action beats, and trademark Marvel witticisms add up to something very viscerally entertaining that still can't quite replace the tighter focus of Marvel's best entries. It is, however, the purest distillation of what has made the Marvel Cinematic Universe work to this point, functioning as payoff to a decade of storytelling in a way that is immensely satisfying in the moment and leaves those already invested going in clamoring for more once the credits roll. If that isn't success for an event crossover, I don't know what is.
4/5 stars

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Leigh Monson is technically a licensed attorney but somehow thinks being a film critic is a lot more fun. Leigh loves both award darlings and hilariously bad films, does not believe in superhero movie fatigue, and calls it like he sees it.