Infinity War Is Marvel's Lord of the Rings
One of the key aspects that separates Infinity War from other 'typical' superhero movies is its sheer scale. The movie brings together ten years of story and characters in a movie so big it has to do a lot to justify its existence. Instead of the typical action or sci-fi flicks that comic book movies usually emulate, the film is structured like an epic fantasy film with heroes forced to journey to far-flung locales to face impossible odds. We've already seen the Avengers save New York from aliens and Sokovia from robots. Infinity War raises the stakes so that the climax occurs on two different planets, with the conflict in Wakanda to defend the Vision's Mind Stone from the Black Order's alien horde staged as a war on a battlefield like one would see in Lord of the Rings. The Avengers and Black Panther's Wakandan forces are like the alliance of humans, Dwarves, Elves, and Hobbits facing off against an army of extra-terrestrial orcs.
What's more, Infinity War doesn't just evoke Lord of the Rings in sheer spectacle, it culminates as the most emotional Marvel film to date. The Avengers suffer multiple deaths, and the ones who somehow remain alive are forced to watch in despair as their friends and loved ones fade to dust in front of their very eyes. The helplessness and sense of loss Tony Stark feels when Peter Parker clings to him begging not to die is as heartbreaking as when Boromir perished in battle but urged the Fellowship of the Ring to carry on and watch over Frodo and the Hobbits.
While fans know Avengers 4 is just around the corner and that the heroes will somehow return, Infinity War's grand scale deaths are as resonant as when Gandalf died in The Fellowship of the Ring after he declared to the Balrog "You shall not pass!" Yes, Gandalf returned to life in the very next film, and so will the Avengers next summer. But watching the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy fight their hardest but die anyway loses none of its unsettling impact. This is because fans have come to love and invest in the MCU's characters over the last decade. Other superhero films, like X-Men: Apocalypse, have attempted world-ending epic spectacle and heroes unleashing their powers on an unstoppable villain, but even the often recast and rebooted X-Men franchise doesn't match the scope of the MCU. The fondness fans have for most of the mutants (besides Logan) overall pales in comparison to the type of affection often lavished on the Avengers and Guardians and their loyalty to Marvel Studios brand.
Infinity War Delivered Closure In Unexpected Ways
To paraphrase Gamora, all the roads the heroes have traveled eventually led to Thanos. The Infinity Stones were seeded in several of the previous MCU films, and enough characters know about the Stones so that everything was already set up beforehand. Infinity War was free to plunge right into the payoff of Thanos collecting the Stones, with the Avengers and Guardians playing games of catch up and keep away. Avengers 3 was touted as a culmination of many narrative threads and this was indeed the case. Gamora and Nebula's history with their 'father' came to a tragic fruition, Spider-Man became an Avenger like he always wanted but died on Titan, and Thor, who lost Asgard and nearly everyone dear to him, gained a new weapon to replace Mjolnir.
Yet, the film's payoffs brilliantly amounted to more set up. Thanos' victory is so complete, there seems to be no way for the Avengers to restore the universe to what it was. The film offered no obvious 'Rey offering Luke his lightsaber' moment to give fans hope that this can all be reversed. (The end-credits scene promising Captain Marvel only raises more questions rather than creating solid reassurance.) However, Infinity War did drop subtle clues as to what comes next; with his declaration that this was the "endgame" and surrendering the Time Stone to Thanos was "the only way", Doctor Strange must have a plan to achieve the one future in 14-million where the Avengers win but what could it be? Meanwhile, the personal animosity between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark that broke the Avengers apart is among the important events that remain unresolved.
To return to the Fellowship of the Ring comparison, Avengers: Infinity War does end on a heartstopping cliffhanger. Yet, it is nevertheless a complete movie with a defined ending while simultaneously leaving fans begging for something more to follow, which we know is indeed coming. Infinity War shoulders the weight of the previous decade of films, along with the loftiest of expectations, but it succeeds because of Marvel's clarity of purpose and a willingness to take risks (a segment of the film, after all, involves Thor, Rocket, and Groot going on a side mission to ask a giant Peter Dinklage to build a magic ax). And with Avengers 4 on the way, Marvel Studios is like Doctor Strange - the master of the superhero arts poised to pull off his greatest trick yet.
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019