The concept of “more” is a double-edged sword, and it’s also the ethos of Joe and Anthony Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War. It is the most movie. It is the culmination of 18 films. It has more primary superheroes than any other film ever made. It has a villain who wants to wipe out half the universe with a snap of his fingers. There’s no denying that Infinity War is a lot. And while you’re on the ride, it can be loads of fun. There’s great joy to be had in watching the crossover intended to end all crossovers from the studio that defined the crossover movie in the first place. And yet Infinity War is like a hollow planet. It sucks everything into its orbit, and yet there’s nothing on the inside. The movie flirts with some facile ideas about the value of life, but at the end, we’re left feeling drained and wondering if the sound and fury signified anything at all.
Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his henchmen, The Black Order, are on quest for the Infinity Stones, six singularities formed at the creation of the universe. If Thanos obtains all six Stones—the Space Stone, the Power Stone, the Mind Stone, the Time Stone, the Soul Stone, and the Reality Stone—he’ll be able to wipe out half the universe just by snapping his fingers. For Thanos, he’s a bit passionate about overpopulation crises, and believes that randomly killing half the universe is the only fair way to bring about balance. The Avengers end up breaking themselves into groups to protect the Stones on Earth—the Time Stone and the Mind Stone—and Thor heads off on his own mission to find a weapon that can kill Thanos.
Without spoiling anything, the way the characters get broken up into their various groups is pretty random, but also pretty fun. You get to see Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) sparring off with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), which obviously results in a pissing contest between two massive egos. You have Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a man who has lost just about everything before the movie even begins, confiding in Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a character who has spent almost his whole life pushing people away. These combos result in terrific banter that is unique to Infinity War. It’s a joy to watch characters we’ve enjoyed in some movies interact with characters we’ve enjoyed in other movies. There are even places where Infinity War improves on Marvel movies like making Doctor Strange a livelier hero with more interesting superpowers.
More than just mixing and matching, Infinity War also brings its own character to the table in the form of Thanos. Both an antagonist and a protagonist, Thanos drives the action forward even though his primary goal is absolutely insane and terrible. On paper, Thanos is kind of dull and his motives are ludicrous, but Brolin finds a fascinating “in” to the character. He sees the burden of Thanos, not just the loneliness of his quest or being a bad guy who sees himself as a hero. Thanos knows he’s doing something horrible, but believes he has the will to see it through. It’s this quiet sincerity that somehow makes Thanos relatable even if his face looks like a purple nutsack (great mo-cap, but none of it changes the design of the character).