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Friday, April 27, 2018


It was a Friday afternoon in the spring of 2008.  A friend was running for state office in North Carolina and I had been serving as his campaign treasurer.  And at a rally in Chapel Hill he had been given the hearty endorsement of then-presidential candidate Ron Paul.  Meeting Dr. Paul was a great honor and I was feeling pretty good about things.  So en route back home, just on a whim I decided to take in a movie that was just released that same day.

Said movie was Iron Man (read my review here).

Ten years later, dozens of movies and many television spinoffs later (and maybe someday we'll see those intersect with the main films... I mean how hard is it to get Peter Parker into the offices of Nelson and Murdock for legal advice?!) and what seems to me like two or three other lifetimes, the grand experiment that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come to this: Avengers: Infinity War.  And if you had told me when Iron Man was coming out that this would be the result of an unprecedented concerted effort across a full decade, I would have said "Not possible.  It's never going to work."

It worked.  And when the final credits began to roll at the premiere screening last night here at a local cinema somewhere in North America...

There was no applause.  There was no cheering.  There was no praise.  There was no laughter.  There was no crying.  There was nothing at all.  Except collective shell shock.  It was an audience reaction I had never seen during a lifetime of watching movies at at theater.  To be honest everyone looked drained.  Like seeing Joker at the end of Full Metal Jacket: that "thousand yard stare".  It was like all of us had the same thought: "did that just happen?  Did that REALLY just happen?  What was that?  NOW what?!"

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been pure orchestrated cinema magic.  And Avengers: Infinity War is the massive conflagration that it has all been building up to.  EVERYTHING that has come previously ties into this film, even the bits and pieces that seemed so inconsequential.  Now we know: nothing has been inconsequential in this saga.  As with all the best magic tricks, when it's happening before your eyes and you don't even realize it, and then you whomp yourself upside the head stunned by the sheer genius of it...

Everyone who has contributed to this over the past ten years deserves utmost appreciation.  And the Brothers Russo - Anthony and Joe - are going to see their work on this film the subject of study in storytelling for many years to come.  Avengers: Infinity War is a perfect ensemble film.  With a cast of zillions it would seem nigh on impossible for everyone to have a chance to show their virtues.  And yet, there is not a character you've come to love (or hate) across the MCU that doesn't get their moment to shine.  They play their parts in a tapestry stretching across the cosmos, the stakes couldn't be higher.  And the Russos pulled off a dance most elegant with them all.

If you've been following every iota of the MCU material, you will be rewarded immensely with this movie.  And even if you haven't (memo to self: need to watch Black Panther) you are most likely still going to have no problem following along with Avengers: Infinity War.  I still haven't seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 but found it no trouble at all to accept Mantis with the barest minimum of exposition.  Again, more of the beauty of this franchise at work.

It's been a long time since I've reviewed anything on this blog.  And maybe I'm just out of practice.  But more likely it's because Avengers: Infinity War shatters the superhero movie oeuvre wide open, that I find myself inadequate to write more about it without risking tipping a hand about the details of the film.  And this movie merits more than any other in recent memory going in cold.  If you've seen it already, heed the hashtag campaign of #ThanosDemandsYourSilence and be considerate of those who haven't the opportunity yet.

However, I will remark on something and if this doesn't whet your appetite then I don't know what will.  For the better part of ten years we've been seeing Thanos teased on screen, either as silent cameo or in fleeting "stingers" mid-ending credits.  And apart from the Marvel comics themselves Thanos has remained a pretty obscure figure in pop culture.  Most people outside of the comics fan base have been seeing Thanos and probably asking "Who's he?  Why should we care about this corrugated-chinned purple guy?"

After this opening weekend of Avengers: Infinity War, they will care.  Thanos has just shot up the charts to the top of the Greatest Film Villains Ever.  And somewhere Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin must be wielding massive grins on their faces.  That the character they created forty-five years ago has come out of left field to threaten all of creation.  Bookstores this weekend are going to be selling out of 1991's The Infinity Gauntlet trade paperback.  And if there is any sanity left at the Academy, then Josh Brolin will get a Best Actor nomination.  There has never been a cinematic bad guy like Thanos before: someone with this kind of complex character and motive and power to manipulate.  Brolin breathed an all-too rare depth into Thanos and he's set a platinum standard for all movie nemeses to come.

If Star Wars Episode 9 is even half as good as Avengers: Infinity War, then we are gladly going to forgive every mis-step that saga has made.  Even Jar Jar Binks.  Yeah, I said it.  I went there.  THAT is how mind-blowingly awesome Avengers: Infinity War is.

I gotta give Avengers: Infinity War my highest possible accolade for a comic book-based film.  Go see it as soon as you can.  And remember: DO NOT DISCUSS SPOILERS AND AVOID SPOILERS HOWEVER YOU CAN!  Because Thanos wouldn't like that.  Don't make Thanos angry.

(By the way... and you should know this by now... stick around for the end of the credits.)


Geoff Gentry xforce11 said...

Yes, watch Black Panther. It is like Shakespeare level goodness.

Brian Fesperman said...

I agree with Geoff. As quality of storytelling and cinematic beauty go, it's nearly on par with Infinity War.