Opening Night: Avengers: Infinity War
It is May 2010, and I am sitting in my old Honda while my dad drives our family to AMC Loews Port Chester 14, one of the movie theaters near my house. We were going to see some movie he’d been excited about for a while called Iron Man 2. He’d been talking about how much he loved the first Iron Man and was really excited to see the next one, so naturally he dragged all of us to watch it with him. Honestly, I was just a little annoyed, because I hadn’t seen the first film. While Iron Man 2 ended up being regarded as one of the worst movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), I was still somewhat charmed by the movie and went on to watch the MCU films that followed: Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, and Iron Man 3.
It is August 2016, and I am sitting in a classroom filled with students I don’t recognize, but all are taking the same class: the StuCo 98-275, Marvel Film and Media Studies. I was really intrigued by the idea of student-taught courses, but at the time I didn’t feel like a big enough Marvel fan. But, throughout the semester, we’d learn about a different movie or two each week, generating deeper discussions about each film itself and its social themes and messages. The two teachers of the StuCo encouraged me to participate in class discussions, and, over time, not only did they help me become a more outspoken, confident person, but they have also become two of my closest friends.
It is April 26, 2018, and I am sitting on the 61D bus, on the way to AMC Waterfront 22 to meet up with past and present students of 98-275 before seeing the most ambitious crossover event in history. I promise this will be the only time I reference that meme in this article. It isn’t quite ten years later, but the magnitude of the event feels the same. We all had dinner at Burgatory beforehand and shared our speculation and the same anticipation. One of the guests dressed up as the Hulk, painted green and all. All of the course’s past teachers were in town — the founder of the course had graduated, and the other four teachers were still current Carnegie Mellon students.
As I’m standing in line, two hours before me and the other 34 people in the group enter Auditorium 1 to see Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios’ 19th film, I can’t help but worry that this movie will suck. I can’t help but panic over the fates of these 27 characters I’ve grown up seeing on screen for pretty much all of my teenage years. I can’t help but wonder if directors Anthony and Joe Russo have taken on too gargantuan of a task, worrying they’d crack under pressure and produce only a subpar movie that, in Marvel Studios’ near-perfect record, would actually end up being a pretty big stain on it.
Thirty minutes later, the doors of Auditorium 1 open and our group takes up a substantially large portion of, if not all of, the large middle section of unreserved seats. We pass the next hour and a half catching up with each other, making final predictions, and barely containing our excitement. We also end up participating in a round of HQ Trivia with each other, alongside other Marvel-obsessed moviegoers near us in the theater. As more people start to pile in, including familiar faces from some of my classes and people I lived with in my freshman dorm, I couldn’t contain my excitement alongside my four other StuCo teachers.
And, despite its whopping runtime of 149 minutes, Avengers: Infinity War passed by with a snap of its fingers.
Hyped up as the culmination of the last ten years of Marvel Studios movies, Avengers: Infinity War is not meant to have a social agenda like Black Panther, or kickoff the start of something greater like Iron Man. It’s a marvelous (sorry), astounding movie, and lives up to its grand, impossible scale. In all senses — from its cast, to its visuals, to its sweeping, tragic, epic tale, Avengers: Infinity War is ambitious, daring, and lives up to its praise and anticipation, launching the MCU and its fans into a familiar yet new, uncharted atmosphere within Marvel Studios’ legacy. Everything passes by so quickly because from the first minute of the film, you are engaged and pulled into this world once again, and you can’t let go.
Thankfully, the Russo brothers have delivered a magnificent entry into the MCU that only further shows their cinematic skills. Granted, this movie still has problems: the plot is not as airtight as the Russo brothers' other Marvel Studios films, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War; sometimes the balance between humor and darkness gets erratic, and some characters retract rather than progress and grow.
And, most importantly, you need to do your homework. If you had walked into this movie missing some key films, like the Russo brothers’ previous two Marvel movies or any of the previous Avengers films, you would have been lost. While waiting for the movie, we made one of our friends who hadn’t seen Thor: Ragnarok before, (attempt to) finish it while waiting for the movie to start.
But, it is evident that the Russos know what they are doing. The one-liners stick a near-perfect landing, especially those that are effectively timed to fit the movie’s tone. The visuals of the movie are breathtaking, inventive, and creative, truly expanding into the imagination of the MCU. The movie’s huge action sequences (think of the airport scene in Captain America: Civil War but around three of them) are engaging and incredibly immersive, only pulling the audience even more into this world that they love. And perhaps most shockingly, each hero feels like they’ve been given an equal chance to shine.
But, notice how I didn’t say each character. And, by not doing so, the Russos made their smartest decision in deciding to position the story from Thanos’ perspective. In an interview with mpaa.org, the Russos mentioned how “Thanos is the one thing that unifies them all in this movie. So, orientating our story and telling it from his point of view had a lot of practicality to it as well.” Shattering Marvel’s villain problem, Thanos stands out from other Marvel villains in that he’s the only one that’s predominantly menacing out of Marvel Studios’ 19 other cinematic rogues. He barrels through all those that stand in his way, and his moments of heart and emotion shake you to your core because they’re completely unexpected coming from this absolute, intergalactic monster. It feels like actor Josh Brolin knows the villain and his motivations completely and wholeheartedly, delivering an amazing performance that is masterfully written and executed.
It is a little over 1 a.m. on April 27, 2018, right after the post-credits scene of Avengers: Infinity War plays, and I am looking down from the back row at my friends and students alongside my four other teachers, astonished at the turnout and the community that the five of us have nurtured and grown over two and a half years. None of the people have left the theater yet because they all know to stay, and they’re all still in utter disbelief by the Russos’ latest and greatest movie for the Marvel machine. As our group exits the theater to head back home, there’s an aura of shock among us. But, among our group, there’s a sense of a stronger bond and excitement for what’s to come.
Because, amidst everything, the Russos remembered to keep this movie incredibly fun. Apart from the experience of watching the movie with dozens of Marvel fans, there were many moments of the audience openly cheering, laughing, and sobbing together, cherishing in this feeling that you won’t be able to replicate again, even a year from now when the fourth Avengers film is released. Avengers: Infinity War is a great embodiment of Marvel Studios’ current legacy and never manages to lose its heart even when its tearing out the hearts of others.