When it comes to the best movie of 2018 for lasting memories and re-watchability, it's Avengers: Infinity War.
Nothing compares to hearing a packed theater react to their favorite characters getting "dusted."
Having kept up the momentum built up by last year’s stellar film lineup, 2018 was one hell of a year for movies. Throughout these past few months, especially, some real gems have surfaced. Both BlacKkKlansman and Green Book tackle heavy subject matter with a surprisingly effective degree of levity, while Mandy is the Nicolas Cage-fueled grindhouse fest I never knew I needed.
Similarly, Revenge might just be my favorite film of its kind since Kill Bill. A Star is Born is an excellent showcase of both Bradley Cooper’s directorial skills and Lady Gaga’s acting chops, and here’s something I never thought I’d say: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is the funniest movie of the year.
The most affecting film of 2018, though, is Avengers: Infinity War.
Avengers: Infinity War is a movie that – on paper – shouldn’t work as well as it does. The cast is one of the most crowded ensembles I’ve ever seen, with the closest thing to a lead character being a purple, CGI alien. The film is so massive in scope that it makes the original Avengers look modest in comparison – a point that was hammered home when I watched the two flicks back-to-back in IMAX a few months ago.
Avengers: Infinity War easily could’ve fallen into the trappings of many big-budget blockbusters and become an overstuffed distraction with a lack of focus. However, the Russo brothers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War) directed it masterfully, navigating their way through the challenges typically found in movies like these and creating the most memorable movie of 2018.
Although Infinity War definitely has its own three-act structure, it isn’t exactly a movie that you can just hop right into without any prior knowledge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It may sound unfair, but Infinity War gets a pass from me in that regard for being kind of a landmark film. This movie is not just the third Avengers flick, but a culmination of nearly 20 films over the course of 10 years.
With the exception of Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World, the MCU has wisely focused on telling good stories first and setting up sequels second, and virtually all of the films that precede Infinity War have some relevance here. The way the movie effortlessly ties in plot points and character dynamics dating back to even the original Iron Man is just brilliant. It’s this kind of patient storytelling that’s refreshing to see in a film series, as it’s largely reserved for long-running TV shows.
The way Avengers: Infinity War juggles its insanely large cast is remarkable, too. Without having it come across as ham-fisted, each hero has at least one or two “moments” all their own. The real star, though, is big baddie Thanos himself. It’s a bold move – telling a story mostly from the villain’s perspective – but it’s a gamble that pays off.
A New Favorite Superhero Movie Villain Emerges
I’m a bit more favorable than most people toward many of Marvel’s on-screen villains, but up until this point, the only true standouts for me have been Loki and Ultron. What Josh Brolin brings to the table with Thanos eclipses even them. Aside from Heath Ledger’s legendary turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight, Thanos is easily my favorite superhero movie villain.
Like many of the best villains across all of entertainment, Thanos excels in part because he genuinely believes himself to be the hero of his story. As much as we may want Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the gang to stop his plan to wipe out half of all life in the universe, it’s a philosophy that – given Thanos’ personal experiences – makes sense to him. Even beyond that, there are so many layers to this guy. Throughout the film, we see shades of his personality that make him out to be more than just the ultimate evil of the MCU.
Just as Loki’s complicated relationship with Thor brings humanity to the God of Mischief, Thanos’ fatherly love for Gamora adds a richness to the Mad Titan that’s rarely seen in comic book movie villains. Nowhere is that more powerfully felt than the scene in which Thanos makes what might have been the most difficult decision of his life and sacrifices Gamora for the soul stone.
Let’s not forget, though, that this is still a big-budget superhero movie. Given how desensitized most of us have become toward visual effects, it’s remarkable that Infinity War was able to impress me as much as it did in that department. Each of its action set pieces is not only grand but also have distinct identities and narrative purposes. I haven’t seen a movie use its enormous scope so effectively since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
The handful of films I mentioned at the outset of this article each had a significant effect on me, but none of them have had quite the impact or the re-watchability of Avengers: Infinity War. Its final moments alone made for one of the most memorable moviegoing experiences of my life – hearing a packed audience react to their favorite characters getting “dusted” is something I’ll never forget.
Now, why, Marvel, could you not have at least kept Netflix’s “Daredevil” series from getting dusted, too? On a positive note, it’s likely the dusted characters will return in Avengers: Endgame. We just have to wait until April 26, 2019, to find out how.
Until then, I’ll appreciate Avengers: Infinity War for what it is: Marvel’s strongest outing yet and my most memorable moviegoing experience of 2018.