There has never been a movie quite like Avengers: Infinity War, and there likely will never be one again. The culmination of ten years of shared universe world building by Marvel Studios, the movie was touted as the "biggest crossover event in history" for good reason--it brought together the casts of no less than six individual franchises from every corner of the MCU, boasting a roster of A-list actors so massive it necessitated a "class photo" style shoot that only barely managed to cram everyone into frame.
But beyond its scope and scale, Infinity War also represented something fans of the MCU have been desperately craving for years: payoff. After first being teased in The Avengers back in 2012, Infinity War's big bad, Thanos (Josh Brolin), finally made his real deal cinematic debut, and brought with him the weight of six whole years of anticipation. A masterclass in slow burn narratives coming to explosive boiling points, Infinity War was at once a love letter to the MCU's legions of devoted fans and a bold, unprecedented act of experimentation in filmmaking and franchise building--not only because it was huge and not only because it managed to wrangle an appropriately comic book event sized cast, but because it dared to deviate from Marvel's carefully crafted "the good guys always win" mold in a way that some might even call traumatic.
Turns out, we've had good reason to be anxious about Thanos's arrival for all these years--and for as bleak as Infinity War's last shot may have been, it was still oh so worth it.
Infinity War managed to take the disparate pieces of Marvel's scattered lore and, against all odds, blend them into one cohesive unit, plucking the humor and irreverence of comedies like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy with the high-stakes action of thrillers like Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther. And it did so with the unselfconscious ease of something that knew exactly what it was--there was no time wasted in trying to re-familiarize viewers with who and what they were watching. The movie just expected its audiences to be already up to date. This was a movie with some serious prerequisite reading--which, in any other franchise, probably would have been frustrating. But here, in the MCU, it only managed to make a decade (or more) of fandom feel worth it. It was dense, sure, and packed to the brim with plotlines to track and characters to follow, but it managed to never feel bloated or stagnant.
In our review, we singled out the unlikely balance Infinity War managed to strike with it's gargantuan cast. "Incredibly, Infinity War actually manages to do every single one of these characters justice. Some of them only get a few lines in the movie, or just a couple of awesome shots during a huge battle, but that's understandable. The fact that Infinity War actually feels like a well-balanced movie, with time for small, emotional moments between characters in addition to the multiple budget-breaking battles, is undeniably impressive."
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And it's not just that balance that makes Infinity War stand out--it's the fact that it manage to strike that balance, all while ostensibly focusing on a villain who had, prior to this movie, only lurked in the shadows. Make no mistake: Infinity War is Thanos's movie, the same way movies like Iron Man or Captain America belong to Tony Stark or Steve Rogers, it's as much his origin as it is everything else. The potential for things to go off the rails for that fact alone--the juggling act required to both build up and sell what amounts to be a brand new character in a believable way, while simultaneously showcasing an entire roster of tried and true fan favorites--was so high the fact that the movie came together at all, let alone that it managed to be good, is nothing short of miraculous.
It really has all been leading to this. Ten years, eighteen plus films, and the tireless dedication of both fans and filmmakers alike coming together to make a movie experience unlike anything else 2018 had to offer.
What do you think was the best movie of the year? Do you agree or disagree with our decision? Let us know in the comments below, then check out our lists of the 10 best TV shows of 2018, the best streaming services we used in 2018, and the best Netflix exclusives of 2018.