This movie is an event.
Since the release of 2008's Iron Man, Marvel Comics has been producing the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a series of 18 interrelated movies, as well as several television shows, all focusing on different aspects of the Marvel Universe. Much like Marvel Comics, these movies have had a variety of scales and tones, some focusing on the cosmic, some on contemporary life, some extremely serious, while others have been more comedic. The center of this universe has been The Avengers, starring Chris Evans as Captain America, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Chris Hemsworth as Thor. The previous two Avengers movies were big budget spectaculars that managed to sell a lot of tickets, as well as being accepted by any critic who wasn't trying to score snob points.
So this brings us to the most ambitious project yet: a 300-400 million dollar spectacular that would feature over a dozen big super heroes (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, The Black Widow, The Vision, The Scarlet Witch, The Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man included) as well as dozens of other supporting cast members and villains. This movie has "infinity" in its title, after all. It is big in scope. Its story is taken from the Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War, two early 1990s Marvel Comics events where Thanos attempted to harness the Infinity Gems to become omnipotent. If that sounds like an overblown comic book plot, you aren't wrong, but both the original material and this movie manage to get some drama and some grandeur out of what seems to be the simplest of "villain wants to take over" plots. Josh Brolin stars as Thanos, the demigod who wants to become a real god for not-totally-evil reasons, and as many people have mentioned, this movie focuses on his character as much as that of the titular heroes.
While watching this movie, a thought occurred to me: this is exactly the movie I imagined. Back when I was in elementary school reading comics, when I hardly saw any movies and the movies I did see could have never handled any special effects more complicated than a rubber suit, I still managed the pacing and quirkiness of Marvel comics in cinematic terms. And this movie delivers perfectly: Stan Lee's soap opera and Jack Kirby's cosmic vision trade off in a crescendoing story that fits perfectly even when it takes unexpected turns and seems to divert its energy. When I say that this is exactly what I dreamed of when I was ten, I hope that doesn't sound like sarcastic praise. This movie exactly fits the energy and spirit of Marvel that has captivated me for thirty years.
There is a complaint with this movie, and a fair one. There is too much going on here. Characters who have had their own dramatic character arcs are confined to a few one-liners or a few action scenes. Less than three months ago, Black Panther set records for being one of the most popular films ever with an (almost) all black cast, as well as for expanding the scope of comic book movies. Here, while we see the Black Panther, he is a static figure with no focus on him as a character. Even the characters who we do see a lot of, like Iron Man and Thor, are quickly glossed over for the exigencies of the plot. But that is part and parcel of the Marvel Universe (and of real life): sometimes we are the star of the show, and sometimes we are just an onlooker to great events. There have to be trade-offs between plot and characterization in any work, and for an epic scale movie, I think they handled it well.
I saw this movie yesterday. Perhaps movies like this won't age well, perhaps I am just emoting like an enthused fanboy and the plot holes and shortcuts of this movie will not stand up to repeated viewing. But for now, I just want to enjoy what I found to be an utterly engaging mix of cosmic drama and witty humor.