Back in 2008, I was 11 years old and Iron Man had just been released. I went with my brother and my godmother’s daughter (I believe the term is godsister) and since I wasn’t of age my godsister fulfilled the ‘A’ of the 12A rating. As best as I can remember, this was my first superhero movie; the first stepping-stone towards a life of small Bat-signals, Riddler Converse, and Suicide Squad snapbacks. Nowadays I’m pretty up to date on all things superhero: casting, upcoming films, the comic book storylines they corresponded to etc.
But back in 2008 this wasn’t the case. Life was simpler. It was a time where it was still socially acceptable to leave at the start of the credits, to not know what an Infinity Stone was, and to Google who that purple guy was at the end of Avengers Assemble. The term ‘cinematic universe’ had not yet entered the mainstream.
Ignorance was acceptable and 11-year-old me had no idea how much of a gamble Iron Man was. I didn’t know about which studio owned which properties, didn’t know who Robert Downey Jr. was, didn’t know what rehab was, and I didn’t know what a heroin addiction was (still don’t). Nevertheless, reading back now on coverage of the film at the time, what is clear is that this film rested on shaky, shaky ground.
Race forward ten years, 18 films, and nine franchises later and that shaky ground has turned into the safest pair of hands cinema has ever seen. These hands can turn a genre previously reserved for a clique of speccy nerds (of which I consider myself a proud member) and turn it into entertainment for the masses.
These hands can turn a dying Andrew Garfield into a fresh, new-baby-smelling Tom Holland within three years. These are special hands. Magical hands. Nay, miraculous hands. So, when a few years back president of Marvel Studios (and my heart) Kevin Feige announced that near every property they owned would come together to fight Thanos (that purple guy you know you Googled), no one questioned it.
It was the single biggest promise to ever come to cinema, and no one stopped to think that Marvel might have bitten off more than they could chew. Why would they? Their biggest crime thus far was a perfectly watchable Thor sequel (a franchise they then fixed with Ragnarok). Marvel doesn’t f**k up. At best they stumble, before bandaging the wounds with billion-dollar notes. So, the world waited patiently for Infinity War’s arrival. And now it’s here.
This film is so f*****g good. It shouldn’t be possible. It shouldn’t be doable. To have this many characters, dominating personalities and plotlines flow so naturally into one compelling and cohesive script is mind-blowing. Directors Anthony and Joseph Russo have always delivered excellent additions to the MCU (Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War) but to say this is their best work is to dilute the sheer scale of their achievement. This film is not only the best entry into a decade long franchise, but it is the crown jewel in a project that myself and many other children grew up with.
This film gave me everything I wanted and more, it delivered on every promise of scale, grandeur, gravitas and levity and all within the first 30 minutes. With the second part coming this time next year, I feel confident in saying that the world of cinema will never experience anything like this again in my lifetime.
Following directly on from the end of Thor: Ragnarok, the film wastes no time in firmly establishing Thanos and his henchmen, the Black Order, as the pinnacle of all evil. Thanos seeks to wield all six Infinity stones: Space, Power, Time, Soul, Mind, and Reality. With them, he will have ultimate dominion over the universe. Needless to say, the stakes have never been higher. One by one the Avengers are roped into his scheme and the battle commences.
One concern of mine when going into this film was that, with so many disparate plotlines to merge into one, the script would struggle to bring these groups together into one cohesive unit. Incredibly, I never once regarded any of these meetings as unlikely, unnatural or unbelievable. Every strand is stitched together seamlessly, never leaving you with a frown of disbelief or even a whiff of plothole.
The script deals with some heavy themes: loss, sacrifice, guilt, and yet the balance of tragedy and comedy means that no moment carries any less weight than it deserves. Each poignant moment is given exactly the amount of consideration it deserves, but the following joke never ruins the moment, allowing the film a consistent level of sobriety and levity.
Make no mistake though, Infinity War hits hard. Previous entries into the MCU have been criticised for a lack of risk-taking. The age-old stereotype in comic-books is that death is meaningless. The villain is defeated, a city has been destroyed, but nothing has been sacrificed. When War Machine was shot down in Civil War many saw this as a wasted opportunity to teach Tony Stark a real lesson about loss and sacrifice. Infinity War pulls no such punches. Playtime is over now the grown-ups have arrived. Speaking of which…
Thanos. The Avengers may be on the label, but this is his film. He plays judge, jury, executioner and is the closest this film has to a main character. The Mad Titan is, undoubtedly, mad but there’s certainly method to his madness, an evil method though it may be. Far from a one-note villain we see a whole spectrum of emotion on his chiselled, violet face. Anger and sadness are to be expected but grief and serenity also make a welcome appearance, firmly establishing him as the greatest and most complex villain the MCU has ever witnessed. Josh Brolin is perfect casting.
Infinity War has some of the greatest, most awe-inspiring moments the series has ever created. Several times the theatre I sat in was stunned into pure silence, not a breath to be heard, let alone a rustle of popcorn. Speaking as someone who’s grown up with these characters, their personalities developing as mine did over the years, this film delivers on all fronts. It’s the perfect beginning of the end to a decade of film that I and many others hold very dear to our hearts. The highest compliment I can give this film is that, ten years on, it instilled in me the same sense of wonder that I felt at 11 years old.