Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, lots more
Directed by: Joe and Anthony Russo (“Captain America: Civil War”)
Written by: Cristopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”)
The rumors are true—it’s all been building toward this. The entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starting with “Iron Man” in 2008 and running through 17 movies in the past 10 years, culminates in the latest film, “Avengers: Infinity War.” Well, I guess really I should say it all BEGINS to culminate in “Infinity War” because—somewhat frustratingly, and despite reports to the contrary—the movie ends up being very much only the first part of a larger story, with a shocking ending that can’t help but call into question what exactly was at stake in the two hours and 40 minutes if this isn’t the end of the story.
Here’s the lowdown: cosmic bad guy Thanos (Josh Brolin), who we first saw in a post-credit’s stinger in 2012’s “The Avengers,” is hunting down the six Infinity Stones that have been scattered across the universe—and turned up as MacGuffins in many a Marvel movie—in order to achieve his goal of ultimate power, which he’ll use to wipe out half of the life forms in existence in order to save resources. Out to stop him is an all-star lineup of just about every superhero introduced in the MCU so far. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) stow away on one of Thanos’ spaceships, which leads them to bump into Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff).
Meanwhile Thor (Chris Hemsworth) takes off across the galaxy with Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and surly teenaged Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) to go forge a new weapon to take on Thanos. Back on earth, Captain America (Chris Evans) travels to Black Panther’s (Chadwick Boseman) Wakanda with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and back-from-space Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to reunite with no-longer-brainwashed Bucky (Sebastian Stan). If you’re looking for Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye or Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, sorry—they stayed home on house arrest, even though the fate of the universe is on the line.
While I won’t go into spoilers, know first and foremost, this is very much a Thanos movie. The Russo Brothers have made an interesting choice in focusing the story on their giant purple villain, with their equally-giant roster of superheroes coming in and out of his orbit. Unfortunately, that means some all-stars (like Cap and Black Panther) and solid bench players (like Scarlett Witch and Bucky) are left with little screen time to make an impact. Conversely, the Iron Man-Spider-Man-Doctor Strange trio is a real winner, as is pairing Thor up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. But as the movie nears its ending, there’s a jaw-dropping event that finds no resolution—at least not until the next Avengers movie is released. And, since nothing takes place in a vacuum, the stakes that the move lays out are somewhat cheapened, because Marvel certainly isn’t going to stop making movies anytime soon. While there are awesome thrills and amazing battles that fans have been waiting years to see, my real wish was that this were a complete story—and it isn’t.