“Avengers: Infinity War” – “What is your name?” “What is your quest?” – The Bridgekeeper, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975)
In this classic comedy from the mid-70s, King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his Knights of the Round Table set out for a most arduous and seemingly impossible adventure: to find the Holy Grail in arguably the crown jewel of the Monty Python big screen collection.
For 10 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been building towards “Avengers: Infinity War”, its 19th picture in the staggeringly successful series. After experiencing directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s 2-hour and 20-minute film, there is no question in this critic’s mind that their efforts here have fashioned and presented the crown jewel of the MCU. It is both a spectacular achievement and a thrilling adventure that offers a quest for a Holy Grail of sorts, six Infinity Stones. The being behind this pursuit is a purple, eight-foot titan from the planet Titan named Thanos (Josh Brolin), and the picture utilizes his villainy in more dangerous ways than possibly all of the previous Marvel antagonists put together. (Note, fearsome use of villains has been an admitted weakness of several MCU films by fans and non-fans.)
Simply put, Thanos – who shows his menace and ferocious might within the film’s first few minutes – wishes to collect all six of the colorful and incredibly precious ingots in order to yield the power to wipe out half of the universe’s population with a snap of his fingers, and the only ones standing in his way are the Avengers as well as their new friends, the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Do you have to see all or most of the Marvel films or at least know one Guardian from a specific galaxy to enjoy this movie? No, but it would certainly help, because watching most of these films will substantially raise your investment into these comic book heroes come to life.
Now, this movie absolutely plays to its fans. Marvel fans will tightly embrace this picture, like a football fanatic gripping onto a Super Bowl ticket when about to enter a said stadium in February. This film is their Super Bowl, World Series, NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four, World Cup, and Olympics rolled into a single culmination of celluloid wonder.
The Russo Brothers constructed this picture like a treasure hunt in which Thanos and his minions – The Black Order, who are aptly named, because they sport grey skin, wear black and deliver steely violence – divide and conquer. They pursue these stones – Power, Space, Mind, Time, Reality, and Soul – in places that fans have last seen them in various films over recent years, save the Soul Stone, which has yet to appear in any Marvel movie.
Since Thanos and The Black Order split up, so do our Avengers and Guardians, as the narrative spends about 10 minutes in one locale and then shifts to another. This pattern continues through first 90 minutes or so, as each of the three storylines receives their turns as their specific journeys continuously rotate.
Some – but not much – time is spent on exposition, and this works to the experienced audience’s advantage. The snappy, poignant screenplay makes it extremely easy to be wrapped up in the onscreen action that we witness at a given moment. Some sociological professionals or therapists may call this being present. Although the film’s arc – Thanos’s pursuit to wipe out trillions of lives – certainly drives future anxiety, our favorite heroes’ presence and personalities capture our unwavering attention in those moments during our present. In nothing but good ways, we become lost in them, and in fact, after the movie ends, it becomes difficult to piece together the order of broad events that we just witnessed. Instead, we are caught in the moments.
Moments of reunion. Moments of new bonds. Moments of comradery. Moments of strategy. Moments of violence.
Moments of comedy as well, and with the fate of the universe at stake, audiences and the characters could use some levity. Although “Avengers: Infinity War” is not nearly the almost-pure comedy of “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), and all of the Guardians deliver so many well-placed lines of hilarity, one might wonder if the cast does not possess a Comedy Infinity Stone.
That is one stone that Thanos does not possess or ever wish to own, as he points to one single-minded goal of madness. As twisted as it is, through effective insight into his perspective, the big purple guy’s murderous goal has its own virtue….in his own flawed mind, of course.
Sure, the film is not without its flaws. In two specific instances, small groups of heroes just simply appear out of nowhere – with little explanation – to help their fellow brothers and sisters in cases of awfully nice convenience. One might also wonder why our Avengers don’t use the Infinity Stones – already in their possession – to their advantage more often, but these are minor quibbles.
Although there are no quibbles on dividing up screen time, as every protagonist receives their moment. The movie – surprisingly – never feels forced, and ensuring adequate room for everyone on both Earth and space is a Russo Brothers magic trick that truly has to be experienced to be believed, as well as the film as a whole. Simply put, the MCU’s crown jewel is dazzling and dizzying cinematic magic.
What is his name? Thanos.
What is his quest? To acquire six Infinity Stones and wipeout half the universe.
Pardon me while I fish for a $10 bill. I need to see this movie again.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Image credits: Walt Disney Studios; Trailer credits: Movieclips Trailers (YouTube)