Within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there have been several game changers. The first Avengers movie felt like an impossibility before it came out, with multiple superheroes established in their own solo movies coming together for a massive cinematic event. Captain America: The Winter Soldier gave us a massive plot twist that affected the entire MCU moving forward. Well, anything taking place on Earth anyway. In Phase 3, we’ve had several game changers. Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnorok both affected things going forward, one by breaking up the Avenger squad, and the other destroying Thor’s home world and leading directly into this movie. But it’s safe to say that as much as those were all game changers, they pale in comparison to today’s subject.
Depending on which way you look at it, Avengers: Infinity War is either the third or fourth Avengers movie. It’s also the first half of a 2-part epic that will conclude in a couple of weeks. It’s the longest MCU movie to date, although that soon will change with Avengers: Endgame’s release. It features the largest ensemble superhero cast we’ve seen by a wide margin. It not only features the Avengers, but the Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther and a good chunk of his supporting cast, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Loki, and several new characters on top of that. The sheer size of this cast is so large that it would take up several paragraphs just introducing them all.
The Russo brothers were hired early on to direct the two-part Avengers movie that Marvel announced in October of 2014. At the time, they expected the back to back filming to begin in 2016. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely also signed on to write the movie, after having written all three Captain America movies in addition to Thor: The Dark World and some of the Agent Carter TV series. They’re also known to have written the three Chronicles of Narnia movies that released between 2005 and 2010. They said that parts of Infinity War were inspired by heist movies from the 90’s, with Thanos on a “smash and grab” to acquire the infinity stones, while everyone else tried to catch up with him. They also said that, while it was first announced as Infinity War part 1 and 2, they were two distinct movies with two distinct tones.
I will instead only mention some of the new cast members as well as some of the returning members. Josh Brolin voiced Thanos in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, in a fairly small role. His role in this movie is expanded to the point where you could pretty much call him the main character. His performance in the role is incredible. He gives a lot of depth to the character. The CGI on Thanos is also very good, to the point where he sometimes looks like he’s actually there. Brolin likened Thanos to “the Quasimodo of this time”, comparing how they were born deformed and considered a freak. Co-director Joe Russo referenced The Godfather for Brolin at times, which helped Brolin nail down the character. Brolin also said he preferred playing Thanos over Cable in Deadpool 2 because of how much work he put into creating and portraying the character. He also performed most of the motion capture on set.
New characters include Peter Dinklage as Eitri, the king of the Nidavellir dwarves and a master weapon smith. His role is short, but he puts a lot of passion and energy into it. This movie introduces The Black Order, Thanos’s quartet of very dangerous henchmen. They don’t get all that much personality, besides maybe Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Ebony Maw. Ebony Maw seems to be religiously devoted to Thanos. In addition to being snobby, he clearly likes what he does. Carrie Coon as Proxima Midnight, Michael James Shaw as Corvus Glaive, and Terry Notary as Cull Obsidian all do a good job with the material they’re given. Proxima Midnight is intimidating and very focused. Cull Obsidian is kind-of like the hulk if he was a straight up villain with more fighting skill. Corvus probably gets the least characterization of the four, but he seems to be a sadist. Hugo Weaving showed a lot of reluctance to reprising Red Skull from Captain America: The First Avengers, so in the character’s brief cameo as “the stonekeeper”, he’s voiced by Ross Marquand. He does a good enough job that most people wouldn’t tell the difference if they didn’t know.
It’s worth noting that Chris Evans’ initial 6-film contract ended with Infinity War, but he agreed to appear in Avengers: Endgame because “it just made sense. It’s going to wrap everything up.” Also, the only original Avenger not appearing in this movie is Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner. He will be appearing in Avengers: Endgame though. The other two superheroes not appearing in this movie, but will be appearing in Endgame, are Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). Apparently, Tessa Thompson is returning as Valkyrie, along with Frank Grillo as Crossbones and Winston Duke as M’Baku (a political rival of Black Panther’s).
Avengers: Infinity War was filmed at the same time as Black Panther, in fact the movies shared some of the same sets for the Wakanda portions of Infinity War. Having not seen much raw footage of Black Panther, the Russo brothers allowed Chadwick Boseman to improvise some of their dialogue and scenes. They were impressed with the Wakanda war chants and felt the moment was “incredibly cool.”
As you could imagine, the production for this movie is fairly complicated. It’s definitely worth looking into more yourself, but I don’t want this post to be overly long. What I will say is that the entirety of both Infinity War movies were shot on IMAX cameras, making this the first time a Hollywood movie was filmed entirely with IMAX cameras. They noted that with a number of tall cameras, in addition to the breathtaking film locations, it was more than worth it.
Infinity War was a massive success both critically and commercially. It became the first $2 billion dollar superhero movie in history with a total of $2.048 billion worldwide. That made it by far the most profitable movie of 2018, in a year where 5 movies earned over $1 billion. It’s also the currently the fourth most profitable movie of all-time, behind Avatar, Titanic and Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. It enjoyed the biggest opening weekend in history with $640 million, the fastest $1 billion dollar movie in history, in 11 days to eclipse The Force Awakens’ 12 days. It also currently holds the record for the highest grossing IMAX release at $13.5 million. That was all on a budget of $316, which actually made it cheaper to make than Avengers; Age of Ultron, despite how it feels like a much bigger movie.
It also earned an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.6/10. The Hollywood Reporter praised the director’s ability to balance such a large cast. Variety did the same, noting “Infinity War is a brashly entertaining jamboree, structured to show off each hero or heroine and give them just enough to do.” Richard Roeper stated that Infinity War is Marvel’s “biggest and most ambitious movie yet”, however he said that as good as it is, it’s not Marvel’s best. Back to the Hollywood Reporter, they mentioned that the ending took its cue from The Empire Strikes Back, putting the whole Han Solo cliffhanger on steroids. As for the independent critics scene, YouTube personality Tony “Nem” Mitchell watched the movie 103 times in theaters, a world record.
The movie also earned several awards from the Visual Effects Society, including Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature, Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature (Thanos), Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature (it actually received two nominations in that category) and Outstanding Composition in a Photorealistic Feature. The movie also earned nominations for visual effects at the Academy Awards, the BAFTA awards, the Satellite Awards and the Critics’ Choice Awards, however it didn’t win any of those.
As for my own thoughts, I don’t even know where to begin. Infinity War somehow manages to juggle a gigantic cast, giving them all at least a couple good moments. The movie wisely splits the superheroes into multiple teams before eventually combining them into two groups. Each group features a main character. Thor is the closest thing this movie has to a major protagonist, having gone through the most out of anyone. Gamora also has some great character development. Iron Man is kind-of the star of his group that includes Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. Last but not least, Vision and Scarlet Witch get the main emotional focus of the superheroes that remain on Earth. The cinematography is also great, with some fun tracking shots when Thanos’s henchmen first touch down on Earth. There’s just the right touch of shaky cam during the Wakanda battle to embrace the chaos without making things hard to see. The camera often embraces the fantastic environments in full, whether it be actual sets or digitally created environments. This is also a very emotional movie, especially towards the end. And finally, we’ve got the greatest superhero entrance in cinematic history.
Despite all of my praises, it still feels a bit overcrowded at times. While the CGI on Thanos is consistently convincing, and same goes for all of the environments, there are moments where Corvus Glaive looks like he’s straight out of a video game. Sometimes his movements are a bit too smooth to feel right, and sometimes his face and outfit seem to lose detail. Some people also complain about how Starlord lost his cool and blew Iron Man’s team’s chances to remove the gauntlet from Thanos’s hand, but personally I feel that it’s in character.
I agree that this isn’t the best MCU movie, in fact it’s not even the best Avengers movie. That probably goes to Civil War. But it is an amazing first half of a superhero epic like we’ve never seen before. It definitely gives Endgame the potential to be the greatest superhero movie of all-time. That alone makes this movie an easy recommendation. Of course you definitely won’t feel the full impact of this movie without seeing at least half of the previous MCU movies up to this point. Some of the plot points will even be confusing if you haven’t at least seen all the movies that show the infinity stones, and the major game changing movies I mentioned earlier. This is not a self-contained movie, and that is arguably Infinity War’s biggest flaw. But for any fan of the MCU as a whole, it’s hard to be disappointed with how Infinity War turned out.
Next up is Ant-Man and the Wasp, which in-universe, happens pretty much at the same time as this movie. After that, it’s Captain Marvel, and then we get to the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. I’ve enjoyed this look back at the MCU so far, especially with watching several movies I haven’t watched since before Age of Ultron released.