Infinite Darkness

Ever since Marvel Studios first proved that comic books, with all of their convoluted and wacky storylines, could be successfully translated onto the big screen with 2012’s The Avengers, they have been teasing and building up to an even bolder experiment: turning the “event comic” into a movie.

For those who don’t know what an “event comic” is, every few years the two major comic book publishers, Marvel and DC, will publish a limited-run special series telling a story that involves nearly all of the comic book characters in their fictional universe. Usually these will involve all of them having to team up to fight some sort of ultimate threat, or in some cases, it will involve the characters all fighting each other for some reason. These are usually marketed as “changing the Marvel/DC universe FOREVER!!!!*” 

*”…by which we mean until we undo it and revert everything back to the status quo except for the one or two changes that fans actually enjoyed a year or so from now.”

Event comics are the penultimate expression of comic books’ soap opera-like character, involving a deep continuity built up from years and even decades of stories about dozens of characters that we have grown to love all being juggled and balanced by the writers as they craft a tale of epic struggle. It’s a real challenge to pull off, with so many plates spinning in the air to keep track of. The best event comics are beloved by comic book fans, while others are made fun of as being among the worst comics in history.

I’m happy to say, Avengers: Infinity War manages to pull it off. The film is directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, in their third outing co-directing for Marvel (they previously had directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War), and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. It not only captures the epic scale of the best event comics, it successfully juggles the vast cast of characters that Marvel has built up over the years. No one character overpowers all the others; the script carefully balances each of them to give each of them room to breathe. It also is paced VERY well. Even though we are jumping from one end of the universe to the other as we follow our heroes, it is really easy to follow what is going on and I never felt lost. The plot is not rushed, but instead each scene is given just enough time to really settle in before we are whisked away again.

Also, can I just mention how amazing the visuals are on this film? Fantastical scenes from across space appear absolutely breathtaking and even the more mundane shots set on Earth are beautifully framed. It was a very smart move hiring Trent Opaloch (Elysium) as director of photography, that man knows his stuff. All of the actors brought their A-game for this one, and Chris Hemsworth in particular turns in what is undeniably his best work playing Thor thus far. Also, the film includes an excellent cameo by Peter Dinklage.

I can’t deny that this is the best-made film Marvel Studios has turned out yet. And I won’t be seeing it again anytime soon.

Okay, here we go…

I now know why the most recent Marvel releases, Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, were more comedic and campy in tone than most of the other Marvel films. It was for balance.

Avengers: Infinity War is by far the darkest movie Marvel has ever made. Yes, darker than Captain America: Civil War, which looks like a humorous romp by comparison. Darker, indeed, than the recent DC movies that have become quite infamous among superhero fans for being dark films.

Infinity War goes into some really messed-up territory, and I ended up feeling physically ill at the end. It goes into abuse, torture, the dangers of power, and extremism. I really struggled with how to write this without spoilers, as I always find it annoying when film critics include spoilers in their reviews, even if they warn their audience ahead of time. Still, it is almost impossible to talk about this movie without talking about the ending.

Suffice it to say, it is not a good ending for our beloved heroes. I think I’ll just leave it at that.

If you are thinking, as I had, that you want to have a fun afternoon out and watch the latest Marvel film to enjoy some fun action with men in suits while eating popcorn, be warned. That is not what you are going to get with Infinity War.

In a way, part of me applauds Marvel for just being willing to go there. As much as we think of Marvel as a “brand” now, a franchise known for quality movies with comic book characters, it often gets forgotten that a large part of why Marvel is so successful is that it does take risks. This was not something I saw coming, nor, if the reactions of the rest of the patrons in the theater with me were any indication, did anyone else expect this.

Still. The one thing Marvel has always counted on, nay, depended on, to get people to keep coming back to their movies is the promise of fun. This film basically flips that table over.

Will I watch another Marvel movie in the future? Absolutely. But not this one.

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