The Avengers team takes a swift kick to their remarkably muscular collective ass via a super baddie named Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, likely the best big blockbuster time you will have at the cinemas this summer movie season.
While Marvel movies have been on a nice roll lately (Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Captain America: Civil War), the last "Avengers" movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, was a misguided, boring dud. This third installment (the first of a two-parter, with the second being released next summer) lets it all hang out with a massive collection of characters and a true, scary sense of impending doom.
There are many, many storylines at play servicing so many superheroes and villains. Infinity War feels like the Magnolia of Marvel movies in that it takes all of those storylines and balances them in a cohesive, vastly entertaining manner. It's over two-and-a-half-hours long, but it's never even close to boring.
The balancing act is being performed by directors Anthony and Joe Russo, the team that made Civil War such a winner. The magic of that films carries over into this one, which picks up directly after the end of Thor: Ragnarok. That film ended with Thor and his fellow Asgardians feeling somewhat triumphant after losing their planet after defeating emo Cate Blanchett. A mid-credits scene saw their ship coming face to face with one owned by the mighty Thanos (Josh Brolin).
In one of the great performance capture achievements, Brolin is the best of monsters, one who manages just enough of a sensitive side that he falls well short of stereotype. At one turn, when he's obliterating planets and torturing horrified people under his large feet, he's one holy terror. Then, he'll shed a tear that shows there's a big, obviously misguided heart pumping in his Infinity Stone seeking chest. He's much more complicated than your average CGI character.
I won't go into the whole Infinity Stone thing, other than they've played a part in many past Marvel films, and they all come together and truly show their meaning and purpose in this movie as Thanos adds them, one by one, to his Infinity Gauntlet. Each time he gets another, a mighty palpable sense of dread builds.
The gang is all here. You know them well, so it almost makes sense to just tell you who doesn't show up in this installment: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Ant Man (Paul Rudd) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) are nowhere to be seen, but Hawkeye, Ant Man, and a newish Marvel superhero play into the next chapter.
Robert Downey, Jr. continues his magnificent trek as Tony Stark/Iron Man, trying to arrange a wedding and babies with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) when yet another apocalypse begins. Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) continue their streak of weird humor after Ragnarok while Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America) continues to smolder after the events of Civil War. Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) provides the sensible guy arc, having some of the movie's best scenes with Stark.
Tom Holland continues his joyful portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy join the fray with a welcomed—and quite substantial—contribution, especially from Zoe Saldana (Gamora) and Karen Gillan (Nebula), estranged daughters of Thanos. Some of the best banter in the film happens whenever Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) encounters an Avenger trying to out-cool him.
There's a lot at stake in this movie, perhaps too much for one film. That's not so much a complaint, but a slight, slight sense of overload and loose ends, along with knowing it's essentially a part one, keeps Avengers: Infinity War from being classified as a masterpiece. Hey, maybe it'll get an upgrade to "part of masterpiece" next summer, when the final chapter in the current Avengers arc plays out.
For now, get thee to a big screen and be prepared to have your face melted with superhero/bad guy greatness. It's dark, it's funny, it's thrilling, it's action packed, it's fantastically performed ... and it's just part one in what is looking to be a fantastic finish.