By Nick Maylor
Becoming the highest-grossing film franchise of all time (in less than a decade), The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an epic crossover that plays out in a continuous anthology of interconnected stories just like the Marvel Comics Universe that the film’s are based on.
With Avengers: Infinity War (2018), ten years and almost 20 films have led to a culmination event that sees a cast so impressive that it could collectively headline tons of individual stories (and it HAS).
The home digital release (in advance of the Blu-Ray release) features the film with lots of compelling special featurettes.
Directors Joe Russo & Anthony Russo along with screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus provide an insightful commentary track for the film and the behind-the-scenes features show the process of not only making the film, but doing justice to the long road that led to it starting with Iron Man (2008).
The movie itself is better upon repeated viewings. There are lots of lines and jokes that I missed in the theatre due to the audience laughter and enthusiasm.
As the writing and directing team of Captain America: Civil War (2016), McFeely, Markus and the Russo Brothers already demonstrated their incredible talent for incorporating massive numbers of characters without having them feel shoehorned into the story. Civil War introduced Black Panther and Spider-Man as supporting characters and yet they felt integral to the plot. Infinity War builds on that winning formula. Josh Brolin’s villain Thanos is the main character of Infinity War, having the most screen time of any character. Even Robert Downey Jr. is only on screen for under 20 minutes along with Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, who has the most screen time besides Brolin.
Yet the story feels right. Everyone has a part to play and several teams of “Avengers” and “Guardians” are spread across the galaxy in a massive effort to stop the Mad Titan in his genocidal “salvation” mission.
The combination of Thor, Rocket and Groot is my favourite team in this movie. Those three together do some amazing stuff. Rocket and Thor share one of the film’s greatest emotional moments (there are several) when Thor ventures to attain a replacement for his hammer; a weapon of the “Thanos-killing” variety.
Anticipation for the Untitled 4th Avengers movie is now at a maximum for me. While Infinity War is a self-contained story, SPOILER ALERT: The bad guy wins.
Out of over 14 million possible futures, Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) informs his companions that there is only one future where they win. We don’t know what that is yet. Strange told Stark that they were in the “end game” after sacrificing the time stone to Thanos in order to save Tony Stark’s life (something he explicitly said he would not do). It’s going to be interesting how they correct the course and pull off a final victory over Thanos.
I won’t speculate about how this will happen. I’m just counting the days.
The best featured extra is a director’s round table featuring Jon Favreau (Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010)), Joss Whedon (The Avengers (2012), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)), James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)), Peyton Reed (Ant-Man (2015), Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)) and Ryan Coogler (Black Panther (2018)) joining Anthony Russo & Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016)); discussing the decade-long journey that led to Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
Seeing the group of filmmakers discuss the ambitious and uniquely collaborative process of sharing a fictional universe while maintaining their separate projects’ respective tones, objectives and stories.
Interesting points of discussion include exploring what the Russos call “Strange Alchemy”; the process of taking disparate characters, tones and worlds, and combining them in interesting and unexpected ways. Ryan Coogler also delves into his sources of inspiration for Black Panther (2018) including The Godfather (1972). Coogler explains how he was able to meet Francis Ford Coppola who immediately turned the young director on to a plethora of literature and cinematic titles that Coogler needed to explore in order to make his film work. These included everything from films to ancient legends and myths.
Joss Whedon also explains the infamous “Shawarma” scene that appears (post-credits) at the end of The Avengers (2012). Whedon explains how the scene was filmed after the movie’s premiere; based on a one-off remark Whedon had made to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. Feige is the connective tissue that holds the MCU together as producer of every one of the films. While Feige serves as the head of the studio, the directors explain how he was very open to the ideas and voices of the respective filmmakers tasked with making each movie. The table discussion is full of great insight into this ambitious world.
The “Shawarma” scene was a reference to a line spoken by Tony Stark after the culmination of the Battle of New York and its notoriety has resulted in Marvel’s post-credits sequences being referred to as “shawarma”. Because some of their films now have multiple post/mid-credits scenes, they are referred to by the number of “servings of shawarma”. It’s fun.
The MCU has traversed into new territory when it comes to storytelling in film. While the success of the franchise broke records and boundaries, the group of filmmakers are quick to point out that when it comes down to a point, all that Marvel has done here is translate to the big screen, the thing they have always done in the comics.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) is available for digital download and will be released on Blu-Ray August 14th
Nick is an actor/writer/comedian/musician from Hamilton, ON Canada. Having been a film nut since the early days of his life, Nick has had an obsession with cinema and popular entertainment. Nick has written for thecinemaholic.com and is the current Foote & Friends “expert” on all things geek/superhero/comic-book related. Nick met John when studying acting at the Toronto Film School, for which John H. Foote was director and Film History professor. The two have been arguing ever since.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickMaylor