Avengers: Infinity War, 2018.
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Don Cheadle, Peter Dinklage, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Karen Gillan, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Carrie Coon, Pom Klementieff, Terry Notary, Sean Gunn, Benedict Wong, Benicio del Toro, Gwyneth Paltrow, Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, and Stan Lee.
Avengers: Infinity War arrives on Blu-ray. If you’re a fan, you probably already pre-ordered this one. The movie is a thrill ride with a villain who has a surprising amount of depth to him, and the bonus features are serviceable but lack the kind of lengthy retrospective documentary that I always enjoy.
I would love to go back in time to the mid-to-late 90s and show San Diego Comic-Con goers the 19 movies that culminate with Avengers: Infinity War. A couple days later – and after answering questions about why I used my amazing technology for such a mundane reason, rather than killing Hitler or something – I think I’d end up witnessing some minds very much blown.
For those who weren’t following comics-turned-movies back then, some context: The box office environment for such films was pretty much a wasteland. Marvel’s efforts had been scant, including the ill-fated Fantastic Four film made by Roger Corman’s studio, and DC had fallen from the heights of Tim Burton’s Batman to the depths of whatever Joel Schumacher thought he was doing with the franchise.
Back then, I interviewed comic book artist and writer Mike Mignola for a magazine article and the discussion turned to Hellboy, which was in development at the time at Universal. He actually hoped the movie wouldn’t happen and the rights would revert to him, given Hollywood’s poor track record with comic book movies at the time.
Then 1998’s Blade showed some flickers of life, and X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2002) showed what was possible and ignited a new fire. While those movies weren’t part of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, since Marvel had cut deals with other studios before being acquired by Disney, they demonstrated that comic book films could work when helmed by the right people. (That’s right: Gen X saved comic book movies.)
Getting back to Avengers: Infinity War, this movie is the cinematic version of those events that were such a big deal in 80s and 90s comic books, such as Secret Wars, Mutant Massacre, and, yes, the original Infinity crossovers. All the films that preceded this one have built to a payoff that will conclude with 2019’s currently untitled Avengers movie. Think of the two movies as if they’re a pair of eight or ten-issue limited series, complete with foil covers and other enhancements (make sure you bag them with acid-free boards!).
The road that led here was not without its bumps, such as the 2008 The Incredible Hulk movie and 2015’s uneven Avengers: Age of Ultron, but it’s still an incredible achievement that will be remembered with retrospectives every 10 or 15 years. Kids today: You don’t know how good you have it.
Infinity War brings to the forefront Thanos, who lurked in the background during the previous MCU entries and popped in for a few cameos along the way. He’s been looking for the stones that will complete his Infinity Gauntlet and give him control of the universe. The story opens with him acquiring the Space Stone from the Tesseract that played a role in previous MCU movies, killing a couple primary characters along the way. Hulk escapes to Earth. (Don’t worry, no spoilers here.)
Thanos sends some of his lieutenants to Earth to get two of the missing stones while he goes to Nowhere to get another one. His crew is met by a group of heroes including Bruce Banner (his inability to turn into the Hulk is a bit like the Millennium Falcon’s malfunctioning hyperdrive in The Empire Strikes Back), Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Steve Rogers, and others.
Meanwhile, Thanos heads to Knowhere to get another stone and is met by the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor, who literally ran into their ship and joined their crew. The tone established by the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, as well as Thor: Ragnarok, continues here. Some of the heroes from Earth eventually show up on Nowhere too.
I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I note that Thanos’ relationship to Gamora plays a large role in this film. It helps keep him from becoming “bad guy who just wants to take over everything,” since we also learn a lot about his back story and what motivates him. Josh Brolin, who wore a motion capture suit to play the role, does an excellent job of bringing some pathos to a character who could have just struck one note over and over.
Infinity War builds toward a major showdown in Wakanda, where Black Panther rallies his country’s forces, including the ones who previously gave him grief. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you’ve probably heard about its down ending – make sure you fast-forward and stick around for the post-credits scene. And remember that even Superman died and came back in the comic book world, so I imagine the same rules will apply in the MCU.
This release includes a code for a digital copy of the movie. The package I was sent didn’t include a DVD, which isn’t a big deal – I just hope the fine print accompanying these digital movies doesn’t allow the studios to revoke our access at some point in the future so we have to buy them again.
The digital copy includes all the bonus features found on the Blu-ray, as well as a 33-minute directors roundtable with the directors of many of the previous MCU films, including the recently deposed James Gunn. They discuss their experiences making the movies and look back on how the MCU grew dramatically over the last ten years.
The four making-of featurettes run about 33 minutes total and explore the movie’s many protagonists, as well as their main antagonist, along with two Beyond the Battle pieces that look at the fights on the planet Titan and in Wakanda. There are also four deleted scenes totaling 10 minutes – the best of them features more time with the Guardians of the Galaxy, although I can understand why it was cut from a movie that already pushed the 2.5-hour mark. A short gag reel is included too.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo provide a 1.5-minute introduction to the film along with a commentary track that also features writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The commentary covers a lot, including story choices, influences from their favorite filmmakers (unsurprisingly, Steven Spielberg is mentioned), how they pulled in plot points from previous MCU films, and much more. Fun fact: one of the Russos explains that they saw the plot as “a simple smash-and-grab heist movie.”
I’ve always been a fan of long-form making-of documentaries, like the ones Laurent Bouzereau is famous for, so I hope some day Disney commissions one (or, even better a series of them) that covers the MCU from 2008 through 2019’s Avengers film. It would be a fitting crown on a stunning achievement.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★