Infinity War’s big bad Thanos (Josh Brolin) has a very apt moniker. Inspired by Thanatos, the Greek personification of death, this giant purple maniac more than lives up to his name, bringing slaughter and devastation to the MCU in the grandest finale you could possibly imagine. After knocking it out of the park with both Winter Soldier and Civil War, the Russo brothers have delivered a gamechanging superhero epic with the highest stakes imaginable. It’s the culmination of 10 years of this carefully shepherded shared universe, and has an almost impossible amount of hype to live up to. Somehow, it exceeds all expectations.
If the serialised superhero event movies haven’t grabbed you before, then Infinity War is decidedly not for you. It’s a finale more akin to the last episode of a Game of Thrones season than the end of a conventional cinematic trilogy, and you do need a working knowledge of at least five, but preferably more, of the previous 18 MCU films to really ‘get it’. Thanos, a villain first teased all the way back in the post-credits scene of 2012’s Avengers, is here, searching for the six Infinity Stones that will allow him to wipe out half of all life in the universe.
One of the film’s greatest achievements, and a huge testament to its writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, is that these Stones never feel like mere MacGuffins. The threat they pose is very real – Infinity War is a brutal film – and, for all its madness, you can see the internal logic to Thanos’s plan. He’s a phenomenal villain, not as sympathetic as Vulture or Killmonger, but still fully drawn and capable of melancholic moments that stop him from being a one-note maniac. He sees his mass murder as an unfortunate necessity, not something he enjoys, but also not something that he’ll let anyone stand in the way of.
And there are a lot of people trying to stand in his way. Pretty much every established MCU hero is here, from original Avengers like Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), to newcomers like Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). The Guardians of the Galaxy also put in an appearance and there’s even time for some new, non-Thanos, additions, like the Children of Thanos, led by the scowling Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon) and Peter Dinklage’s master weapons forger Eitri. Somehow, the Russos and the writing duo manage to wrangle all of this into a coherent story, crafting that rare 150-minute movie without a single ounce of fat on it.
If most films have a beginning, middle, and an end, Infinity War is all end, so consistently thrilling that it’s almost exhausting. It is awesome in both senses of the word, undeniably cool, funny, and endlessly entertaining, but also a true epic with the sort of scope that films haven’t really seen since Lord of the Rings. Its control and balance of tone is perfect, flitting between laugh out loud funny and shockingly sad without missing a beat.
As a finale should be, this is Marvel’s least predictable film to date, and no character’s arc is exactly what you think it’ll be. Everyone gets their standout moment, even if previous major players like Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are a bit sidelined this time out. Heroes’ first meetings – like Iron Man and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) or Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) – are all hilarious, and their action beats are stunning. Whether it’s a miserable defeat or a heart-soaring victory, the violence pummels into your core thanks to the Russos’ now-trademark brilliant action choreography and flawless effects work.
The star of the technical show is Thanos. This is a necessity, as he ends up as the film’s main character, so his expressiveness and weight is vital to the film’s success. Not only is he photoreal, despite being 8 feet tall and purple, but you can really see Brolin’s performance underneath the CG monster. His tics have survived the transition, bringing this Mad Titan into the realms of the real to the point where you find yourself alarmingly attached to him. His journey to retrieve the stones takes the film to plenty of stunning cosmic locations, melding the surreal with the terrifying and beautiful.
Bold, genuinely surprising storytelling with very real desperation for its heroes is not something we often associate with big-budget studio filmmaking, but with a decade of successes under its belt, the MCU can afford to take plot risks. Infinity War is darker than I ever thought it would be, and its jaw-dropping last act leaves the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4 with so much to resolve that the year long wait until it arrives is going to be, frankly, unbearable.
It would be impossible to overstate how much I adored this movie. It was everything I wanted it to be, as well as everything it needed to be to tell the final chapter of this story. Infinity War is the blockbuster that makes all other blockbusters redundant; from the elite likes of Star Wars to the punchline dregs of the DCEU, it does everything everyone else is trying to do, but bigger and better. It has real human drama, superpowered scraps, epic outer space action, and breathtaking moments that hammer home just how high the stakes are. Every new turn is at once exhilarating and terrifying all the way until an ending that will leave you breathless and reeling, the very definition of an essential big-screen experience.