Avengers: Infinity War is stunning, hilarious, and heartbreaking

The most definitive main problem with the Marvel movie universe has been the lack of bets. Over the course of the previous 18 films in the series, the MCU heroes have faced numerous threats that have ended in the world, winning victories by the skin of their teeth, only to have their worlds essentially return to normal in time. for the next delivery. The approach worked early, film by film, but when viewed as part of a 10-year narrative, it tended to weaken the broader franchise. There can be no drama without real risk, and in the MCU, the public has learned that none of their favorites is really really in danger.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo seem very aware of this problem with their last entry, the massive, multi-film team-up Avengers: Infinity War . The long awaited showdown between the Avengers and Thanos (Josh Brolin), the great success of the MCU, is enormously entertaining, skillfully incorporating dozens of characters into multiple stories with a kinetic touch. His devotion to jokes and witty phrases makes it one of the funniest movies in the history of the studio, but it is also a film in which very bad things happen to good people. After years of movies where even the most mediocre heroes seemed invulnerable and indomitable, it's a dazzling jolt, and exactly the movie the franchise needed.

After years of making fun of the upcoming arrival of Thanos, Avengers: Infinity War does not waste time with the staging. It opens with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) on the ship last seen at the end of Thor: Ragnorak facing the great purple villain. Thanos looks for a powerful crystal called Infinity Stone, and suspects that Loki has one in the Tesseract, the brilliant cube that served as a key device of the plot six years ago in The Avengers .

There are six Infinity Stones, the movie explains: powerful crystals that originated in the Big Bang, and that represent aspects of existence and have related elemental powers. Some are distributed throughout the universe, but half of them are on Earth, where they have played an important role in previous MCU films. Thanos is trying to get them all together by giving them a big golden glove. If he acquires them all, he says, he will have the power to eliminate half of the universe with a snap of his fingers.

The film tracks Thanos's search as he moves from stone to stone, while several superhero factions try to stop him. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) are attacked by several of Thanos' henchmen, who are eager to obtain the Green Time Stone that Strange protects within the mystical eye of Agamotto. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), who have hidden to feed their flourishing romantic relationship, are attacked by minions who seek the Stone of Mind that is integrated into the brain of Vision. Along the way, the Guardians of the Galaxy join with several heroes, a Bearded Captain America (Chris Evans) comes out of hiding and Wakanda's Black Panther house becomes ground zero for a central conflict. Almost all MCU characters are involved in the war, with Thanos quickly establishing himself as an unprecedented threat on multiple fronts.

Photo: Marvel Studios

With so many characters at stake, the writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely ( Captain America: Civil War ) face a remarkable challenge: to give each character a place in history, without letting anyone else Thanos dominate the broader narrative. The story crosses four or five main threads of the story, like Game of Thrones Westworld and other complicated serial narratives. It's a testament to Markus and McFeely's work that the movie never gets crowded, even though it's juggling so many movie stars. In fact, the film is able to give many characters their own meaningful arguments throughout the film, with special emphasis on Tony Stark, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and love story Vision / Scarlet Witch The result is a film that often feels surprisingly serious and emotional. It's worth the emotional investment that movie audiences have been making in these characters for years, sometimes in really heartbreaking ways.

Even with all that, this movie belongs to Thanos by Josh Brolin. The perspective of a bad boy generated by giant purple computer has caused some skepticism, but in context, the character is wonderfully effective. The visual effects undeniably capture the nuances of Brolin's facial tics and gestures, allowing the actor to shine through all the magic of CGI. It's good that it works so well, because Thanos is not the villain of the cardboard cutout that some of Marvel's bad guys have been. Your master plan involves destroying half of the universe, but in your own mind, your motivations are noble. He thinks that he is the hero of his story, and although no one will agree with his tactics, his background story gives his general reasoning a kind of perverse logic. At several key moments in the film, Thanos almost becomes a sympathetic character, even when he is doing truly horrible and unforgivable things. The biggest surprise of all is that the most extravagant Marvel villain is also the most complex and stratified, which simply would not be possible without the film's synthesis of script, direction, interpretation and visual effects.

The sparkling sense of humor of the film balances the weight of Thanos's actions. Marvel films have always had a knack for comedy, but Infinity War further widens the dial, maximizing the lightness found in films like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy . The hyper-insecurity of Star-Lord against the arrogant hyper-masculinity of Thor provides some of the funniest moments in the entire MCU.

Doctor Strange and Tony Stark also play comics for one another, discussing what could well be the title for the most arrogant superhero on earth. In a film that mixes so many different elements, it would be easy for many of the essential features of these characters to get in the way. But the Russo brothers not only retain the innate sensitivity of the characters. In fact, they can incorporate the cinematographic sensibilities of the different franchises in their own tapestry. The sequences with Star-Lord, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) feel as if they were from one of James Gunn's films Guardians ; Thor seems to have come straight from Thor's set of Taika Waititi : Ragnarok . The film is a Marvel mixtape that combines the best of all of the above, but recontextualizes the individual parts to tell their own unique story.

Photo: Marvel Studios

The massive scale of the company has periodic drawbacks. The action sequences are mostly effective, but sometimes there are as many characters thrown out as CG rag dolls that it can be difficult to measure what is happening to whom, in what order. And while all the characters laugh, a heroic choice or at any other time to shine, fans will no doubt be frustrated if their favorite hero does not stand out as much as other characters. However, that is simply the nature of the beast. Inevitably, it would happen with a project of this size. The fact that those concerns are fleeting, however, is a testament to what is a massive contagious achievement Infinity War .

The film can be stretched around the time of its camera to the same extent, but it gives all the characters the same opportunity for despair. A decade of films has taken Thanos, and Avengers: Infinity War meets that threat with a film that twists the whole plot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. No character is safe from the far-reaching implications of their actions, and it's impressive to see how dark Marvel is willing to go for this story. Even the best favorites of fans are really vulnerable, and the film reinforces that idea, relentlessly, sometimes, as it moves towards its dazzling final moments. By the time the credits arrive, the public will no doubt be horrified at how far the Avengers have fallen.

One problem, however, is that Infinity War is leaning so excessively towards darkness that it is impossible to believe that the studio will not recover many of the things that happen on the screen . This is still the Marvel universe run by Disney, after all, and the popularity of some of its iconic characters almost guarantees that, no matter what happens during Avengers: Infinity War a lot will not be permanent. (In fact, in its final act, the film seems to tilt its hand towards a Hail Mary solution that probably comes into play in the not-yet-titled sequel Infinity War ). But that is the least of the complaints. After all, this is a universe of comics, and the fact that Infinity War is able to embrace this darkness in the first place is a wonder. The only real crime is that the hearings will have to wait until 2019 to see the conclusion.

Avengers: Infinity War opens on April 27.

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