Avengers: Infinity War is the Superhero Crossover Event You Have Been Reading For

Ten years. Eighteen movies. Dozens of characters. One threat. Pulling off The Avengers was hard enough, and the fact that Marvel Studios managed it is still one of the most impressive feats in blockbuster cinema. But could every single one of these stories come together for the climax that we were promised?

Yeah. They could. Are you really surprised at this point? This is the only job they had left, you gotta stick that landing.

[No spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War]

I should start out by saying, if you’re not incredibly invested in the MCU, this movie is a hard sell. And that’s not wrong, obviously; some people just want to see the next big movie and they’re not in it for the backstory. But Infinity War is emphatically not here for people who are lukewarm about the journey. If these are fun flicks for you, the journey might still be fun for the action sequences and all the pretty people. Or it might seem incredibly overwrought and confusing. There are a lot of bearded guys named Chris in it, after all.

But if you’ve been waiting since 2008, watching the board expand, hanging on as each new element fit together, then this is your reward. This movie is here to thank you for the time you have dedicated to a cinematic universe. As thank yous go, it’s an earnest one. As crowning achievements go, it’s a gargantuan circus tent and functions roughly the same; maybe you don’t like every act in the circus, but the ones that you do are worth the admission alone. And if it all works in concert, that’s really all down to one thing—the film is a superhero crossover event on film. Not a single-team comic, but one of the big events where you’re reading eleven separate books to know the entire story. It is an odd way for a film to conduct itself, but we’ve been prepped for it. The fact is—The Avengers, Age of Ultron, Civil War, they’ve basically been calibrating our brains for this. You’ve seen comic book movies with over a dozen known characters in them already. What’s a dozen or two more?

Half the joy is in watching all these familiar faces meet faces that are not familiar to them. The meet-cutes in this movie are extremely freaking cute, and certain crews match up better than you expect them to: Rocket and Thor can do a road trip movie anytime; Doctor Strange and Tony Stark actually make an odd and interesting duo; watching Black Widow and Okoye share a screen for any length of time feels like a gift. Because the film is so careful about tracking a progression that the audience can follow, the timeline is more meticulous than anything we’ve yet seen in the teamed Marvel films. The whole thing occurs on a relentless schedule, picking up right where Thor: Ragnarok ends and running straight for the end zone.

For a franchise that has been so big on developing more and better CGI, there are places where certain special effects look incredibly underdone, which is an odd thing to clock. It appears in some sequences as though they spent ages on the graphics to make it pristine, and simply ran out of time for less-pressing effects and shots. Obviously, with a massive undertaking like this, it’s understandable that a few things didn’t quite come together, but it’s jarring when you notice that a character or piece of technology suddenly doesn’t come through.

The big question for most fans was whether or not Thanos—one of the biggest bads of the Marvel Universe—was going to work out, starring as the primary antagonist to a major film arc in which he has only briefly shown up beforehand. While Thanos does seem properly powerful and threatening and the script works hard on his emotional arc, we don’t learn enough about his past or his acolytes to completely sell the narrative. There are a few vague monologues and flashbacks, but they do little to set him apart from other nasties in the universe. The only thing that seems to make him different is that he’s something of a zealot who has bought into his own faith. In the end, he’s a properly threatening villain, but there too many holes in his expansive backstory to make him a compelling one.

There are a few characters here and there who do feel as though they’ve been given lines just to prove that Marvel could fit one more character in the film. It stands out when this occurs primarily because everyone who has a proper spot in the story has been painstakingly folded into the narrative, and the few places where this does not occur stand out drastically. The film is dazzling whenever it uses humor and heart to balance out the grimness of the story, and those are always the places where the experience feels whole and effective.

As a film, Infinity War is perhaps too much everything all at once, but as a culmination of years of work and countless moving parts, it is a sight to behold. While it occasionally moves too quickly in an effort to cram as much story in as possible, after spending so much time with these characters and their stories, the very least they could do is overstuff the thing. The fact that it is coherent at all is boggling, the fact that the experience is overall enjoyable even more so. And that is about as much as anyone can say without giving the whole darn thing away.

Prepare yourselves, friends. This one is coming for your heart.

Emily Asher-Perrin was over-prepared for her feels, but she still had a bunch leftover by the time the film was done. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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