By now, I shouldn’t have to tell you that I live for Marvel. This is no surprise or shock to any of you. I’ve been waiting for this film for 10 years, which means there are incredibly high expectations and that I’m completely invested in this world. Your opinion of the film will likely be drastically different than mine if 1.) you haven’t seen the other movies, 2.) you don’t really know what’s going on, or 3.) you want a self-contained story. This entire movie is the culmination of 18 prior movies, there is no first or second act here. It’s all third act, it’s all climax, it’s all edge of your seat excitement that is completely reliant on you being completely onboard for the ride.
So does it succeed?
If you’re somehow not caught up, this film isn’t for you. I’m not going to summarize the past 18 movies but you can catch my ~20 minute refresher video here.
In this film, we mostly follow the villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) who is on a quest to gather six powerful gems that together allow the wielder ultimate power and he intends to destroy half of the life in the galaxy. When the movie opens, Thanos has attacked a ship full of Asgardians, led by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the action is nonstop after that. On Earth, we follow Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) as they defend against some of Thanos’ goons. Another attack brings Captain America (Chris Evans) and his team of ‘secret Avengers’ out of hiding (including Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie) to protect the Vision (Paul Bettany) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). In the African nation of Wakanda, the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) prepares for an assault with the help of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Oh and did I mention the Guardians of the Galaxy are on their way to help? Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) take the Guardians to protect one of these gems in space before Thanos can arrive to claim it.
As a culmination of ten years of movies, this movie absolutely succeeds.
This movie is like a box of toys that you love and adore and you’ve played with all the toys before, but now you get to dump the box out and create the giant crossover that only your wildest imagination can come up with. We finally get to see these personalities clash and blend in the most interesting of ways and pair up in unique teams and it is everything that my inner child has been wanting to see for years.
As a standalone movie, this doesn’t work. It’s not supposed to. This entire movie is climax, it’s the third act of our entire franchise. It’s nonstop action and it’s fantastic. Everyone gets a moment to shine (for the most part) and there are some jaw-dropping action sequences, highlighting just how powerful some of our heroes (and villains) are. And to see them come together is incredibly rewarding. To see Dr. Strange and Iron Man and Star-Lord combine forces is something I never thought I’d see. The action is intense and looks fantastic.
However this movie also doesn’t hesitate to punch you in the gut, from the very opening scene. It’s unpredictable and throws you for quite a few loops, where absolutely no one is safe from Thanos. There are stakes here, unlike we’ve really seen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, the question of permanence is a valid concern, but it still feels like there’s a weight to this film that we haven’t seen before.
In terms of performances, Josh Brolin steals the show as Thanos, undeniably the strongest villain that Marvel has given us yet. The CGI is astounding and Thanos is a complicated (and maybe even empathetic) character here. He is also an absolute beast, showing his dominant prowess in the opening moments of the movie and never slowing down.
My other favorite standout performance is Chris Pratt, who gets much more to do here than I really expected, having time to show his comedy chops as well as some real emotional depth. Not everyone gets this sort of time or attention but I think we all expected that going in.
What doesn’t work?
This movie doesn’t have any speed other than incredibly fast. There are no moments to breathe, no time to relax. That’s perfect though considering all those quiet moments occurred in the 18 movies leading up to this.
The resolution might also bother some of you, in that everything isn’t cheery and triumphant. It’s a gutwrenching climax with zero regard for your feelings.
I’m not reviewing this as a standalone movie. I’m reviewing this as an experience. A climax to 10 years of films. This is simultaneously incredible to see your favorite characters together but also tragic in that nothing is safe. Thanos is the best villain Marvel has delivered yet and he is a force to be reckoned with here, destroying everything you’ve come to love. This is a powerful and emotional and action-packed culmination that will not be resolved until Avengers 4 next Summer, so there will be quite a few dangling threads here. For most of you, this is the epitome of the Avengers and everything we’ve been waiting for.