From the earliest days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when we are first introduced to Tony Stark and his wondrous Iron Man suit, Marvel Studios has been taking audiences on a ride that can only be likened to a jigsaw puzzle. Throughout this ride more pieces have come together giving us an even better glimpse of the overall picture. Movies such as Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy have given us completed pictures, but what audiences may not have fully realized is that each of these completed pictures is merely part of a greater puzzle. Like a beautifully crafted Russian Nesting Dolls, there are layers within layers of the whole package, and Marvel Studios, under the guiding hand of Kevin Feige, have meticulously designed this cinematic universe, the paths that it would take, until it would lead us to a moment of pure perfection called Avengers: Infinity War.

This film picks up shortly after the end of Thor: Ragnarok and hits the ground running. Right at the end of that film the Asgardian refugee ship encounters something in space that was far more menacing than what they escaped from, and for those fans who believed it to be the ship belonging to the mad Titan, Thanos, will not be disappointed. From there the story then transitions to Earth where much of the story will take place simply because of the number of characters who are there. Heroes are then brought together as Bruce Banner crashes Dr. Strange’s sanctum sanctorum, and where Bruce is Tony Stark cannot be far behind, even if it is at the summons of Strange himself. As they start to put the pieces together we are then taken to another ex-Avenger exile as we see Wanda Maximoff and Vision who have chosen to take their relationship to a new level. Unfortunately that is short lived as Thanos’ henchmen, known as the Black Order, are on the hunt for all of the Infinity Stones for his Gauntlet. It was at the end of Age of Ultron where we are given a glimpse of Thanos as he obtains his Gauntlet and states, “Fine, I’ll do it myself,” and we see that happening here. Two of his Black Order descend upon Vision and Wanda, and despite their best efforts to fight them off, come perilously close to losing their battles at the cost of their lives until a very surprising rescue comes quite literally in the nick of time. From there the story continues to bounce between space where Thor has an amusing meeting of the minds with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and ultimately the movie climaxes with two battles of such heart stopping intensity that the film makes you forget to breathe until the very final scene has played.

The Russo Brothers have done more in proving their worth since coming on the scene with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. They have together managed to craft stories that perfectly blend drama and characterizations with action and thrills, creating a perfect blend of plot driven and character driven movies. Nothing is wasted resulting in a movie that can only be described as “economical.” Moving forward with Captain America: Civil War where they successfully upended the apple cart, they now move in with this film in an attempt to not put the pieces back together again as they once were, but to throw out the entire picture as we remember it and give us something totally new. With a screenplay written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and adapted from an original story by Jim Starlin, George Pérez and Ron Lim, the Russos could have still mangled this and delivered a movie that would end up being buried under its own weight. Instead, they painstakingly give the audience just the amount of time with each of these beloved Marvel heroes, and not just show interactions with characters who have never met before, but also show that they have progressed and evolved since the last time we saw them. The movie addresses where Stark is in his personal life with Pepper and with the Avengers. We see how Peter Parker has embraced his life as “your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” and we even see how Dr. Strange has moved on and grown in power and ability since we last saw him become master of the New York Sanctum, not to mention what is going on with Steve Rogers and company since their exile as wanted fugitives. The Russos, and Marvel Studios in general, never talk down to their audience. Collectively they understand that the movie going audience is intelligent, and treat them so by giving them something that speaks up to them, but at no time overwhelms them. While it is clear that fans who have been following the cinematic universe from its earliest days will have no trouble following any of these threads, any audience member who has not been watching these movies should be able to enjoy the film purely on face value. There is plenty of exposition and character growth in this movie that would fill in the gap of any newcomer to the Marvel franchise. Add to that this film is perfectly woven and edited together in pure dramatic and thrill-seeking perfection. Character narratives from one scene blend seamlessly to the next, and moments of heart racing action build the tension to an almost intolerable level, only to shift and create the smallest of releases before building on the next level of tension during another part of the story. The film is like one gigantic roller coaster ride, giving the rider just the right amount of drops and turns until it brings you in to the station where you find yourself wanting to go for another round.

All of the familiar faces are back for this movie, but again the direction to give some more screen time than others is well thought out. While it is always enjoyable to see scenes between Tony and Pepper, there is greater joy in seeing where Wanda and Vision have taken their relationship. While we are all happy to see Steve Rogers reunited with Bucky Barnes, the scenes between Tony, Dr. Strange, and especially Peter Parker, give the movie more heart than anyone would expect. Lastly, Marvel has shown that they chose wisely when casting these characters. Back from their origin movies, these actors understand the roles they are playing, and continue to show depths that only come from time and growth. The studio treats them intelligently as well, and instead of giving us a very static film, where things never change and the familiar stays familiar, this film is a culmination of everything that these characters have gone through since their beginnings, and this cast delivers with genuine honesty, making it obvious why they have continued to come back again and again to these roles. They even gave us scenes that nearly had me in tears, and for what is essentially a comic book movie to achieve that is a mark of excellence from all those involved.

From moments of fist pumping cheers, to moments of heartbreaking tenderness, Avengers: Infinity War is a triumph in movie making by showing that one does not need to make only a thrilling action movie, or just a dramatic film, but that with great care and thought, they can be one and the same.

Avengers: Infinity War gets 5 out of 5 Infinity Gauntlets!!!
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