More specifically, the first fifteen minutes.
For it is within these first fifteen minutes that AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR shows us the full power of Thanos.
His size dwarfs that of Thor, his strength makes The Hulk look like a mere mortal, and his cunning? Well, his cunning exceeds that of Marvel’s favorite trickster Loki. This villain makes his presence known immediately and puts every other antagonist we have previously met to shame. After six years of buildup, we Marvel faithful finally get the villain we deserve; one who grabs us by the throat, leaving us no hope of survival.
Welcome witches and warlocks to the ascent of Thanos. As a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the beginning, I have been eagerly awaiting this moment since we first crossed paths with this mad titan in The Avengers (2012). While that particular reference was only six years ago, there is a real sense that things have been building to this point since the initial Iron Man (2008) was released ten years ago.
Ten years. Crazy, right?
That first feature was a revolution in the super hero genre that left comic book geeks and movie buffs alike excited to see where Marvel was taking things next. There was something about the way all the elements of the film clicked together perfectly where it managed to breathe fresh life into super hero movies while still feeling very much within the same wheelhouse. Just think: this was before we had all become used to post-credits scenes, before we had met franchise stalwarts like Captain America or Thor, and before they had confirmed an Avengers movie was in the works.
Personally, I have fond memories of discussing Iron Man and its forthcoming sequel at length with my best friend at the time, Neal Adams. Sadly, my friend passed away in a car accident a few months before Iron Man 2 (2010) hit the big screen, so he never got to see the full scope of the world Marvel was building. For me, this makes AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR feel personal as it reminds me of my friend while also feeling like a culmination of ten years of movie going.
The question now becomes, with all of these expectations put on this piece, does it actually live up to the hype?
In nearly every way, I would say yes.
As previously mentioned, Thanos is an absolute terror of a villain who manages to put nearly every one of the twenty plus heroes through the wringer. Nearly every one of our leads gets a moment or two to show off some of their depth which helps to further the audience’s attachment to the character. Surprisingly, they managed to let most of these scenes breathe a little bit without cutting them short with a joke, which added a real weight to the proceedings.
Do not worry, Marvel faithful, there is still plenty of humor on offer. Of all the various team ups, the interactions between Thor and The Guardians of the Galaxy team proved to be my favorite because the diversity of personalities at play provided so much fodder for comedy. They did a good job of weaving in enough humor to leave people entertained without ever subverting the sense of imminent doom the story required.
The plot itself is pretty rapid fire and epic in scope as they managed to balance so many far flung story threads. For instance, within the scope of the feature we spend time in so many different locales, both on Earth and off, with different leads both working together or separately to try to bring down Thanos. What really set this apart from the other Marvel movies is the fact that we spend a lot of time with our antagonist, seeing his journey to acquire the Infinity Stones in nearly as much detail as the protagonist’s quest to foil his plans. In many ways, Thanos ends up feeling more like a main character than the people we are hoping will save the day.
Oh, and did I mention the fight scenes? Well trust me when I say, many of the fights are absolutely brutal. I say “many” because they still have the typical war with an army of disposable CGI characters that we have come to expect from these epic action movies. The smaller skirmishes, though, are where the real weight is carried. It is during these more intimate scuffles that each shot feels like it matters and each punch feels like it could destroy a character. These are the sorts of stakes that many of the past entries in the Marvel pantheon have side stepped in favor of upholding the status quo.
All in all, this checked every box with its crazy revelations, epic fight sequences, crackling humor, fan callbacks, and monstrous villains. The grand finale alone left me very curious as to where the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be headed next as they smartly went for broke. I will admit that there was a certain point where I began to wonder, with all the shake ups that seemed to be happening, how much of what occurred is permanent?
Even with that one caveat, we are finally given just as great of an antagonist as we could all hope for now that Thanos has stepped out from the shadows.
And here I am left wondering, like Gamora said, “What did it cost?”