Avengers: Infinity War feels like both a beginning and end. The story, as incomplete as it is, marks the first time that the elusive Thanos (Josh Brolin) basks in the Marvel cinematic spotlight. For approximately a decade, the Infinity Stones have played a small but important role in this universe.
In this film, Thanos’ quest to find all six stones is the key reason why the Avengers assemble.
Long before we see many of the Avengers here, audiences witness Thanos’ greed up close. He's all too willing to destroy planets and entire civilizations in order to collect the stones. Once he achieves his goal, Thanos believes he will have the power to wipe out much of the world's population.
It’s with this fact in mind that Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) enlists the support of Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) alongside Spider-Man (Tom Holland). On the other side of the world, Steve Roberts (Chris Evans) reunites with the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) to prevent Thanos from collecting the stone residing in Vision’s head. In a separate story, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) aligns with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and their fellow guardians of the galaxy to stop Thanos.
With such a sprawling cast — there are plenty of other major and minor figures here — it might be hard to keep the three separate stories straight. However, the script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely keeps the story moving along and the respective missions clear. Even at a whopping two hours and thirty-six minutes, the feature feels much shorter.
It helps that the feature is packed with sharp dialogue, sarcastic quips and fun rivalries. A rivalry between Thor and Peter Quill is a particular highlight. As the two make silly comments to each other, the guardians of the galaxy choose sides in determining who is better looking. It's the dialogue between groups like this that keeps the story light-hearted despite what's ultimately at stake.
As the third Avengers movie, this large-scale drama also marks an important turning point in the series. In small but significant ways, many of the previous Marvel movies were leading up to this, giving this action-packed film a greater significance and an air of importance. That clearly raises the emotional stakes here and the creators of the film understand that, putting many of the characters in real danger and showing that they are willing to make difficult and emotionally-right choices.
Josh Brolin also does a strong job in making his villain stand out. Thanos isn’t simply out to destroy the world. He has a certain worldview and believes his plans will actually improve the galaxy. “The hardest choices require the strongest will,” he says. He’s not the best villain in the Marvel universe (Killmonger from The Black Panther really took that role to new heights) but he stands out in the top tier of bad guys in this universe.
Although there’s much to love about Avengers: Infinity War, it likely won’t leave viewers completely satisfied. Considering its ending, it doesn’t feel like a complete standalone story (and originally, it was only meant to be part one in a two-part series). It might remind viewers of a Saturday matinee serial, which could keep viewers enthralled but oftentimes left them wanting more of a resolution. Viewers will eventually get that resolution but in the meantime, this Marvel film is definitely worth seeing.