Staring at the Avengers: Infinity War poster, static on the cinema screen, whilst I waited for the Australian premiere of Marvel’s nineteenth super-hero movie to start, I found myself wondering how all those characters (and more) where going to be shoehorned into a coherent plot.
Much has been said about how this movie, set-up over ten years of movie-making, would bring all the elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe together to fight the ultimate in big bads, the mad Titan, Thanos.
Avengers: Infinity War finally reveals the rather open secret of the Infinity Stones. From Captain America: The First Avenger, through Thor and its sequel, The Dark World and even the first Guardians of the Galaxy, these strange items full of cosmic power have been turning up across the MCU.
Now Thanos, seeks to utilize the stones in the Infinity Gauntlet, a glove forged from the heat of a sun by a blacksmith who looks straight out of a Jack Kirby drawing, and with a face that should be very familiar to genre fans.
Thanos is not, however, your usual villain. Like all the best written bad guys, Thanos believes that he is doing the right thing. That he alone is saving the universe. His M.O. is to visit planets and kill half the population. An ultimate act of sustainability that he believes would have saved his own planet from devastation. With the infinity Stones in his possession, he would be able to carry out a culling of intelligent life on a universe-wide scale solving the resource problems of countless worlds.
The powerful Children of Thanos are sent to Earth to seek out the Infinity Stones held by Dr. Strange and The Vison. The battle lines are draw. Iron Man, Spider-man and Dr. Strange defend the Time Stone within Strange’s Eye of Agamotto. Meanwhile, what remains of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, The Avengers, post-Civil War, enlist Wakandan technology to destroy the Mind Stone in The Vision’s head without killing the android. Along the way Rocket, Groot and Thor head to Earth with the rest of the Guardians joining team Iron Man.
There’s a lot going on in this movie. The film actually feels like the cinematic equivalent of one of Marvel’s summer comic-book crossovers. It starts with an issue of Infinity War setting the scene directly after the events of Thor Ragnarok. It then continues with an issue of Dr Strange, featuring Iron Man and Spider-man, switching over to an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, then the Avengers, then another issue of Infinity War to further Thanos’s arc.
Just like in the comicbooks, the movie continues to cut across the different teams. The climax consolidates into two fronts, one epic Lord of the Rings-style battle in Black Panther’s kingdom of Wakanda and the other a more intimate confrontation on Thanos’s home-world of Titan. It’s a comparatively dark film.
The humour is still there, though, with some great banter between some of the characters. Notably, Dr. Strange referring to another character as douche-bag and Thor meeting the Guardians (who Drax describes as a cross between a pirate and an angel, a real man, as opposed to a Peter Quill being just a dude).
It’s a credit to the cast and they way that they collaborate, without the usual Hollywood egos getting in the way of the creative process. The result is a balanced movie that never feel overburdened by the almost ridiculously huge number of Marvel characters in the movie.
There are notable absences in Ant-man and Hawkeye, who we will most probably see in the follow-up next year.
There is no doubt that Avengers: Infinity War is the end-game for this first decade of the MCU. There are casualties. The movie concludes with a shocking finale that could change the series forever but is likely to be remedied fairly simply with the next movie.
The movie does rather stymie the present-day MCU timeline. Whilst we know that the upcoming Captain Marvel movie is set in the 1980s, I’m uncertain of how July’s Ant-Man and the Wasp fits into the continuity, unless it to is pre-Infinity War.
You could argue that there’s too much going on and compared to the usual bubble-gum fair that may be so. But, I really don’t think anyone is going to have trouble following the story at all. This is everything that you should expect from a cinematic interpretation of the comic-book team ups that are the hall-mark of the almost 60-year-old Marvel Universe.