Warning: SPOILERS For Avengers: Infinity War:
After ten years and eighteen films leading up to it, Avengers: Infinity War proved it was worth the wait. The apex of the Marvel Cinematic Universe up to this point, the third Avengers film is a massive, exhilarating, and awe-inspiring story about loss, sacrifice, death, and heroism. Infinity War puts nearly every superhero fans know and love to the ultimate test but then shatters the status quo of the entire MCU. It's Marvel's boldest, most epic film.
It has been an entire decade since Iron Man became a global success that launched the MCU to unprecedented acclaim from audiences and critics, becoming a franchise worth billions. Back then, the possibility that Iron Man could one day be joined by Thor and Captain America (if their solo movies were hits) in an Avengers team-up movie still felt like a pipe dream. Fans certainly had no idea of the scope of Marvel Studios' ambitions. Now, Infinity War is all of that ambition writ large on the screen; along with being unequaled superhero movie spectacle, Avengers 3 transfers the palpable feeling of reading a Marvel Comics crossover event - in this case, the film's source material, Jim Starlin's The Infinity Gauntlet - to movie screens.
As such, Infinity War is admittedly not an entry level Marvel film, it's a grad school Marvel film. It's for the True Believers who have absorbed the previous 18 MCU films (likely multiple times) and have forged relationships with heroes as diverse as Thor, Black Panther, Rocket Raccoon, and even Nebula. And to be fair, the "ten years" hype is a little misleading; fans have only waited for this particular film for the past six years since Thanos appeared in the end-credits scene of the first Avengers. But that cameo of the smiling purple Titan was a promise Marvel made to fans that they would adapt The Infinity Gauntlet. Marvel has now delivered on that promise. And to their credit, it is Thanos himself who powers Infinity War.
Thanos Was a Worthy Villain For The Entire MCU
Marvel boasts the grandest superhero universe in movies, and Thanos proved to be their best villain ever. The Great Titan was an adversary who could successfully threaten not just all of the Avengers, but the entire MCU cosmos. Thanos was a dicey proposition, however. A motion-captured CGI Big Bad has burned other movies, like Justice League. Even in Age of Ultron, the titular android villain underwhelmed, despite James Spader's gung-ho performance. Thankfully, Thanos has virtues those other villains didn't: a genuine personality, an intriguing inner life, and a powerful motivation. The Infinity Stones are MacGuffins that force the stakes of Infinity War to be the highest they can be. We've already seen superheroes save the world, but Thanos aimed to decide the fate of half of all life in every world. Only Thanos could deliver escalation of such magnitude.
True, Infinity War's Thanos is different from the loquacious nihilist in love with Mistress Death found in The Infinity Gauntlet. But he is the furthest thing from the one-dimensional non-entity Steppenwolf was in Justice League. The CGI for Thanos was the best-ever from Marvel; Infinity War never plunged into the uncanny valley, and by making him the main character, Thanos enjoyed the necessary emphasis that made him the most important person in the movie. It was smart writing to transfer Thanos' desire to win Death's love to instead making him torn from choosing between his genuine affection for his adopted daughter Gamora and his unrelenting belief that he alone must balance the universe by killing half of the people in it.
Thanks to Josh Brolin's soulful performance, Thanos exhibited the best of all villainous traits: He is physically powerful enough to humble the Hulk and savage enough in battle to overwhelm the combined forces of the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, but there's also a beating heart inside him. It may be black and twisted, but that heart leads Thanos to care for the young Gamora he personally orphaned and adopted to his cause. At times, Thanos feels regret and sorrow at the things he feels he must do - like sacrifice Gamora for the Soul Stone - but he fully embraces his self-imposed destiny as universal executioner.
While Thanos is undoubtedly evil, he is nonetheless complex and he has a unique sense of fairness. Thanos even offers Tony Stark his respect for fighting so valiantly against him. The Mad Titan mournfully weighs the cost of his genocidal quest but he refuses to yield until he achieves his lifelong goal - and Thanos wins in the end! Not only does the villain completely triumph, which is already a rarity in superhero movies, but Thanos is the sole character in Infinity War who gets a happy ending. Meanwhile, the surviving heroes are broken, wondering what happened in utter disbelief because they failed.
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