“We’re in the end game now,” Doctor Strange tells a confused Tony Stark. There were reports of Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Doctor Strange in Avengers: Infinity War, being the only actor who read the film’s entire script. By admission of Marvel’s players, they only got the portions of the script that directly involved them – only half answers. Given that a film this monumental is an ensemble, as well as incredibly secretive, you could buy into that. No one had\s a firm grasp on how this epically told saga spanning ten years is going to play out. Only Cumberbatch read ahead to the spoilers – the end game. He knows something none of us do. Remember that going in.
Directed by the Russo Brothers, Anthony and Joe, Infinity War gives us Thanos, motion captured by Josh Brolin, as a twelve-foot purple monstrosity “burdened” with purpose: to eliminate half the universe so the other half won’t suffer. Only he needs the six Infinity Stones to do it. Most of which we know what they are and who has them, expect for one. Thanos is hitting the road, retrieving them one at time, leaving bodies in his wake. And yes, Marvel regulars bite the dust. This is a Marvel villain that makes you nervous for every hero he shares the screen with.
That’s all we need to get the band back together, but still sort of separate. Iron Man teams with Doctor Strange, sharing some friction since both are geniuses armed with knowledge that each could use from the other. Spider-Man, unable to sit idly by on a school bus en route to a field trip, joins them when Thanos’ legions arrive again in New York, this time looking for the Time Stone which is around Doctor Strange’s neck. Bruce Banner joins Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, and Scarlet Witch to help protect Vision who has what Thanos wants lodged in his forehead, the Mind Stone. But they’re the Avengers so naturally they need more help. So where to go for more help? Wakanda Forever, baby. Black Panther squads up with his countrymen to assist in the fight to come. Thor – having narrowly escaped Thanos’ attack on his ship of Asgardian refugees – gets rescued by the Guardians of the Galaxy, who are still the biggest breath of fresh air in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The pieces are all in play and the game is to prevent Thanos from collecting any more stones.
To reveal any more of the plot would be venturing into spoiler territory. This is a diesel ensemble cast of characters so there is a lot of ground to cover and Macguffins to gather. Naturally, Iron Man is a key player, but less so than in the previous Avengers films. He has some semblance of being in control in The Avengers and Age of Ultron, but here he’s caught off balance and spends the entire movie trying to get ahead of everything. Robert Downey Jr. facing off with Benedict Cumberbatch is especially awesome to watch. Chris Pratt nails it again as Star-Lord who becomes more formidable in the fight scenes here, stripped of his god status; he’s been all over the universe, meeting all types of beings, so it makes sense guys like Stark and Strange don’t inspire awe with him. Chris Hemsworth, fresh off Thor’s rebranding in Thor: Ragnorak, mixing it up with the Guardians brings in some of the movies biggest laughs. He keeps calling Rocket “rabbit” and it killed every time. And Hemsworth was always the Avenger who had the least to do for whatever reason in the past two installments – not here though. Thor has huge moments that actually had me fist pumping in the theater like a mark. It’s good to see him finally getting his licks in. Captain America and Black Widow on the other hand seem to have drawn the short straws here. They don’t have much to really do (how can they with talks of space and collapsing stars, etc.) except brawl with charging aliens. But that’s something, I guess.
Thanos is the center of this movie though, and arguably its biggest star. Infinity War does a decent job making you sympathetic toward him. There is one scene, undoubtedly the most heart wrenching of the movie, where he sheds tears for something he didn’t think he had to do (also, with the unlikeliest cameo of a Marvel character you didn’t expect to see again.) You do see his point of view, which is basically population control, but the Russos want too much of your sympathy at times. Yes, we see his perspective but he’s still a psychopath for harnessing all his efforts into mass genocide. But then again, that’s why he’s the villain. Infinity War shows us how this colossal undertaking has taken its toll on Thanos; you see in his face he’s been through the ringer coming to terms with this decision. You do feel for him, juuuuust a bit, but still cheer whenever the heroes bring him to his knees.
Much can be made about squeezing all of these characters into one movie and still giving them proper screen time. But I believe Marvel struck the right balance. Nothing like this has ever been attempted on this scale before, so there’s really no blueprint for it. The Russos give each character their individual moment to shine (Marvel always spreads the wealth there.) As for Infinity War’s most shining moment, I’ll give it to Thor who was due for a kickass showcase, on earth at least.
Toward the end Thanos finds a commonality with Stark in their battle: “You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge.” And it is only until the very end you realize how those words truly stick. When the credits roll, you and those who survive Infinity War wish you could shake Doctor Strange for answers to what he saw. What is the endgame for the Avengers?