(Psst, it's me, Ryan.) As tempting as it is, and boy am I guilty of doing it as well, would you mind at least skimming the review before jumping all the way to the final score? I've always started off by writing a review, reading it, and then generating a score based on the supporting argument that I've provided—rather than preemptively giving it a score and then catering to that specific number. "But Ryan, why do you make the score so giant and easily accessible to see?" I don't know, aesthetics? Anywho, here is my full, non-spoiler review, and if you'd like to continue reading after the final score, I've got some theories on where the next film will go (with spoilers, obviously).
“There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people. To see if we could become something more. So when they needed us, we could fight the battles that they never could."
The year was 2008 when audiences first heard murmurings of creating a peculiar on-screen team.
It wouldn't be until 2012 when they'd get to see them fight side-by-side—fist, hammer and shield together. Somewhere out in the deepest crevices of space, a ragtag group of oddballs patrols the galaxy circa 2014. 2015 was the team's second go-around at getting the band back together, and cracks in the armor began to show all too obviously. In 2016, fists clashed with opposing fists in heartbreaking fashion, as longtime friends became adversaries. A broken man then travels deep into the mountains to piece together his life and the remnants of his career. A year later, a familiar neighborhood friend would web his way back into our hearts, a god would be stripped of his most formidable weapon, and we'd travel to the most foreign of lands that had been hiding in plain sight all along.
The culmination of these last ten year's worth of stories has brought us to this moment, Infinity War—the crown jewel of Marvel's Cinematic Universe. During the infant stages of the cosmos, an explosion amassed six distinct stones that each represented a specific facet of the universe: space, reality, time, power, mind, and soul. While wielding just one of these stones grants immense control over its respective quality, no being has ever gathered together more than one, let alone all. Enter Thanos, the Mad Titan, a being that desires a re-balancing of the universe by way of genocide. In order to do so, Thanos sets out on a pilgrimage across the galaxy to gather each stone in hopes of imposing his vile sense of mercy.
Throughout that entire synopsis, you might've wondered, why is this then called Avengers: Infinity War, and not something like Thanos: Conquest? Unlike previous Marvel films, Infinity War is more of a villain tale more than it is a gathering of all-star super heroes. Thanos is the protagonist of his own story, and the Avengers merely obstacles. That said, the film isn't devoid of the spectacular superhero clashes that we've come to expect, it just isn't the focus. In 2016's Civil War, the airport sequence, as monumental as it was, served as a climax to a greater story. A familiar tune is rung here, but this time in high frequency. As Thanos marches his way towards the next stone, each group of Avengers mounts their very best defenses against the Mad Titan's onslaught. Points of respite are few and far between, and the film rarely lets up on the feeling of impending dread.
If there's any room for the film to be divisive, it's in these moments. Rather than using the opening third purely for exposition (like many of Marvel's previous films have done), it immediately goes into full throttle. Given that there's so much to unpack with the amount of intersecting story arcs, there's an expectation in place that if you desired exposition and development, you'd have watched the previous 18 films. Watching Infinity War in hopes that it's a standalone film that holds your hand and explains each detail along the way is a wholly unrealistic expectation. Where negativity will undoubtedly spew from is docking the film based on the same guidelines that every other film adheres to. But Infinity War is inherently not like other films. It is not your standard superhero affair, and even less so a sequel to the last Avengers. If anything, it's the mid-season finale to a set of episodes disguised as movies. Similarly to how someone wouldn't blindly judge the season finale of a show without having watched the preceding episodes, Infinity War will be judged as such.
Once that mindset is accepted—and I don't imagine it will be terribly hard to, given that most will have watched at least a handful of previous Marvel films—Infinity War blossoms into a spectacle that, so far, has yet to be matched. It blends the familiar personas and their comedic quips with other pairings that feel both refreshing and comfortable. As expected, bits of laughter and affection are carefully placed throughout to dilute an otherwise grim storyline. Graphically and audibly, we're presented with a mesh of the nostalgia that ends with a twist on what we've come to know and love.
Where things take a turn is that, for once, Marvel (quickly) establishes a sense of worry and anxiety. We tread carefully through the film, unsure of which of our favorites will walk away unscathed, and around each corner we're met with a new surprise. Many of these surprises are delightful, but some invoke terror and will leave you awestruck. Josh Brolin's performance as Thanos is unlike any villain that Marvel has unleashed, and cannot be so easily described in words. This is a Marvel film directed by those who come off as obvious fans of the preceding work. Each set piece and team pairing feels like an homage to what makes comic books so exciting, and each climactic event takes into account the audience's previous sense of comfort, and with it, exposes that vulnerability.
Clocking in at a little over two and half hours, Infinity War is a long ride on paper, but I never once found myself wondering how much longer to go. A project as audacious as this shouldn't seem feasible, and I still find myself wondering how they managed to make each scene intertwine so fluidly and in rapid fire succession. Infinity War, at times, can feel like an assault on the senses, but not without merit. It certainly is flawed, but given that it's, again, more of a mid-season finale, it checks every correct box and will no doubt have you wanting the next episode. For the time being, Marvel has a new king, and with that, their greatest villain yet.
1-2: Horrendous, wouldn’t recommend watching even if free of charge.
3-4: Potentially has some good ideas, but overall still lackluster.
5-6: Average, a decently good time; go see it if it's free.
7-8: A solid recommendation, and well-rounded film; potentially warrants a purchase after home release.
9: No glaring flaws; deserves to be watched multiple times.
10: Masterful, must-see; filmmaking at its finest.
Hey! Are you here for some theory crafting and potential spoilers for the next Avengers? If so, keep reading. If not, RUN AWAY NOW.
I'm not going to go into every single detail, but I've got some ideas (that've been curated from the internet) about where the story goes next. For one, remember Doctor Strange saying something along the lines of "we're in the endgame now"? That's no doubt a nod at how the film ultimately unfolds, as opposed to the film fooling you with the endgame being them taking off the gauntlet on Titan. Clever.
Let's talk Soul stone for a second! While we still generally don't quite know what its true power is, we do know that in order to wield it, you must make a sacrifice. Doctor Strange forking over the Time stone in order to save Tony seems like a clue that Tony will no doubt be a necessity in winning the final battle. And what better way to win than to use the gauntlet against Thanos. However, you can't wield the gauntlet without also making a sacrifice. Sorry Cap, but this appears to be the end of the line. Out of all of the remaining Avengers, it's up to the original gang from 2012 to restore balance to the galaxy. I would not at all be surprised if Cap's sacrifice is for the Soul stone. The first Avenger has never backed down from making the ultimate sacrifice, and I don't think Avengers 4 will be any different.
Next up, Clint and the Ant. They're interesting for two reasons, one, Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place in the past, so the events of Infinity War have yet to run their course. In the first Ant-Man movie, we learn about the idea of going sub-atomic, reducing one's size down to a molecular level. I absolutely expect Marvel to flesh out the story of Hank Pym's missing wife, who was apparently lost after entering this realm, and perhaps give more insight on exactly how things/people exist or behave inside of that realm. Two, have you peeped any of the set pictures of Avengers 4? There are quite a few photos floating around that shows members of the original Avengers in all of their 2012 glory. Time shenanigans? Time shenanigans. We can easily spot some interesting looking devices on their hands which I'm assuming are time-travel related. Maybe they go back and warn the Avengers about the coming conflict? Maybe initially even lose to Loki to bring Thanos to Earth sooner? Who knows.
Lastly, the other Captain. By that I mean, Captain Marvel, the person that Nick Fury pages in the post-credits sequence of Infinity War. Her introductory movie directly precedes Avengers 4 and also takes place in the past (and features familiar faces like Agent Coulson and Nick Fury). It was made pretty obvious that the Avengers (sans Stormbreaker Thor) were no match for Thanos, so they'll need backup. Kevin Feige has repeatedly stated that Captain Marvel will be the strongest hero that they've introduced so far, and if we pair that with some time traveling antics, we may just have enough to revive our fallen heroes.
I know I said lastly, but this one is more of an extra. With the departure of Loki, the likelihood of another Thor movie seems slim at best. I think that Thor's pairing with the Guardians was deliberate, and given that he can also communicate with Groot gives me hope that he'll be the newest addition to the team. Or maybe he'll be the second newest, right after Adam Warlock. Oh, you haven't heard of Adam? ;)
Anywho, that's all I've got (for now) on theory crafting the Avengers! If you have any questions, or want to discuss further, feel free to tweet me!