By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

After his introduction to movie fans six years ago in a mid-credits scene at the end of The Avengers, and after audiences got better acquainted with him in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s big “Mad Titan” has finally received his own movie.  Thanos, the most feared villain of the MCU, challenges Marvel’s heroes and attempts to accomplish his goal of mass, cosmic genocide and destruction.  Though that sounds evil, but not very dimensional, writers Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeeley and directors Anthony and Joe Russo actually succeed in making Thanos quite dimensional in his motivations and plans, and have fearlessly tackled what is one of Marvel’s most tragic stories.

The filmmakers behind Avengers: Infinity War actually accomplish much more than that with what is surely Marvel’s most epic and ambitious movie so far.  With a massive amount of Marvel characters including at least twenty-one heroes, this latest Avengers installment is definitely the most challenging film made by the successful comic book movie studio.  And even though Infinity War is not the MCU’s best movie (in my opinion), what it does accomplish is truly amazing.

Taking place immediately after the events of Thor: Ragnarok, the spaceship containing Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), and all of the surviving Asgardians gets attacked by Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his “children,” Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw), and Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary).  Thanos and his minions are on a mission to acquire all of the Infinity Gems and they happen to believe that one of them is on board.  After acquiring two of the gems, Thanos tasks his children to acquire the remaining stones which are in various places in the universe.  It is up to the Avengers, the Wakandans, and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop Thanos and his children before they cause the deaths of people all over the universe.

Though the plot sounds simple enough, one can only imagine the daunting task that Markus, McFeeley, and the Russos had in making this film.  With so many characters, settings, sequences and battles on such a tremendous scale, it says a lot that the filmmakers manage to succeed.  Because it was a major challenge to do this, the film does have its inevitable flaws, but not enough for the movie to get labeled as a failure. With as many characters and subplots that it juggles, Markus and McFeeley do a great job with the character development of their heroes and villains, especially Thanos.  With intergalactic conflict, magical weapons, powerful creatures and beasts, Marvel has created an Avengers movie strongly rooted in comic book/science fiction fantasy and most of it looks amazing.  For sure it is mostly a CGI spectacle, but realistically, given the story material, it was the practical way for the filmmakers to accomplish all that they wanted visually.

The entire cast performs well with too many people to list here.  However, I do wish to acknowledge some genuine stand-outs.  Both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany absolutely shine and share a beautiful chemistry as Wanda Maximoff and Vision, a romantic couple whose relationship has slowly, but surely developed and blossomed since Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Zoe Saldana gets to exercise some serious dramatic chops as galaxy guardian Gamora, the adopted daughter of Thanos who has a rather complicated relationship with the destructive villain.  Josh Brolin offers some exceptional voice work as the eerily calm and frighteningly powerful Thanos.  After showing more comedic skills as Bruce Banner in Thor Ragnorok, it is delightful to see Mark Ruffalo offer more of that in this film, which otherwise has a dark and foreboding tone.

And that leads me to another achievement the filmmakers manage with this movie.  As dire, dark, and grave as this movie can get, that signature MCU wit and humor remains and is handled rather well.  It still blows my mind how well this movie works, despite the high risk of failure.  It is not that I didn’t have any faith in the writers and directors, but usually, comic book movies overstuffed with heroes and villains are recipes for disaster.  The only disasters and tragedies in the movie are of the fictional variety as Thanos razes the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it.  People are definitely going to be talking about the ending for a while too.  I do get the feeling that this will be a divisive factor among movie goers, MCU fans, and comic book fans.  As for myself, I was quite pleased and impressed, and cannot wait to see what happens next.


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