Marvel president Kevin Feige has spent the past decade reinventing the blockbuster movie franchise by essentially taking what has made comic books successful and translating it to the big screen.
The formula breaks down like this: first, you let individual heroes have their own adventures under the creative control of a talented artist (filmmaker) with a distinct voice.
Next, you create some superhero teams (like the Avengers) or guest spots where other heroes drop by for a visit in another hero’s individual story (like “Captain America: Civil War”).
Then, comes the big daddy of them all, the crossover event. This is where some colossal occurrence draws in pretty much every single character in said comic book universe and all kinds of crazy stuff happens, including some characters getting killed off.
Behold your cinematic crossover event, “Avengers: Infinity War.” The roughly 9,000 characters you’ve met over the past 17 Marvel movies are here crammed into a single film and somehow— incredibly— it works.
The reason everyone winds up not stepping on each other’s capes is that the movie’s focus is not on our heroes, but the villain Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin), who we’ve met before, but never have we seen him unleashed like this. “Infinity War” is Thanos’ movie.
Thanos is a massive, powerful purple alien and what he wants is simple; to eliminate half of all living things in the universe to achieve what he calls “balance.” In order to do this, he needs to collect six infinity stones, most of which we have seen as MacGuffins in other Marvel movies. If these stones are brought together, they will give Thanos godlike power and the ability to carry out his genocidal plan with a snap of his fingers.
Our heroes desperately try to stop him.
The fun of “Infinity War” is seeing different characters we know and love get unlikely grouped together. It’s almost impossible not to enjoy watching Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) face off in a battle of egos. Or seeing Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel) set off together on an important mission.
Deftly directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo (Marvel veterans who helmed the last two Captain America movies), the battle scenes in “Infinity War” are all impressive and, even at a sprawling two hours and 30 minutes, the movie bounces along without a bunch of filler.
The finale is pretty gutsy by superhero movie standards and may prove to be divisive, but I suspect things will be tidied up by next year’s untitled sequel.
At any rate, “Avengers: Infinity War” is a thrilling, nearly overwhelming cinematic experience that serves as a satisfying culmination of all that’s come before it. And just like that, we’ve all become comic book nerds.
“Avengers: Infinity War” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language, and some crude references.