MCU: Is Infinity War the Best Avengers Movie?

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With Avengers: The Kang Dynasty recently announced, the MCU is very different from the time when Infinity War was released. The Avengers that assemble for the upcoming Avengers movie will be very different from the ones that assembled to fight Ultron, and the ones that couldn’t bring themselves together in time to fight Thanos as a unified front. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are both going to be missing from that lineup, and new characters like Shang Chi and Ms. Marvel will take their place.

Now may be a perfect time to examine Infinity War, given that it and Endgame marked the end of the Infinity Saga and the end of the story Marvel had spent a decade piecing together. Many of the people who defined this era of Marvel have or will be doing different things with their careers from now on. There are questions as to whether they can even reach that level of hype and recreate that level of success again. Was it the best Avengers movie? What did it do that the other movies didn’t? What did those movies do that could put them in the conversation for best Avengers movie over Infinity War? Before the Avengers themselves change forever, it’s worth examining the era of Marvel that preceded this one.

Pre-Infinity War Avengers

Avengers 2012 Joss Whedon
Via Disney

Prior to Infinity War, there were two Avengers movies: The Avengers (2012) and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Both these movies were directed by Joss Whedon, as outlined by Collider, in contrast to the sequels that followed, which were directed by the Russo Brothers. The two earlier films both feature the characters as characterized by Whedon, rather than the Russo brothers: Thor is less jovial, Captain America is less serious, and the films don't reach out to as many non-Avengers films. These differences generally mark the Whedon Era of Avengers and the Russo Era of Avengers.

The Avengers and Age of Ultron have both advantages and disadvantages when compared to the two latest Avengers movies. Releasing early in the Infinity Saga, a fewer amount of connecting franchises means that these movies can be understood fairly easily if you only watch a few of the other MCU movies. You don't really need to watch Iron Man 2 to understand The Avengers, or Captain America: The Winter Soldier to understand Age of Ultron, but of course your viewing experience would be enhanced by doing so.

Age of Ultron, however, has the disadvantage of not contributing directly to the Infinity Saga. Although Tony made Ultron to protect Earth against another possible alien invasion, the series doesn't do too much to push along the narrative of Thanos collecting the Infinity Stones, besides giving Vision the Mind Stone. Age of Ultron also suffers from Ultron himself, who doesn't really get to contribute much directly to the overall story of the MCU. Mostly, Ultron contributes indirectly by introducing us to Vision and Wanda. It's a shame that such a cool concept for a villain doesn't get much of a chance in the wider franchise.

The Avengers is the movie that made the franchise — and arguably the entirety of the MCU's extreme success — possible. Whedon's film proved that a massive superhero crossover was possible and could be successul. However, the characters were still in their infancy: Captain America still hadn't gone through his Winter Soldier Arc and met Bucky; Thor hadn't gone through his Ragnarok arc; and all the original members were still establishing themselves as a team. The Avengers provided many iconic moments, but didn't really serve to develop any of its characters in particular, save for their newfound ability to work with one another. The Avengers and Age of Ultron both have their strengths, but the characters don't have the same level of development and the story doesn't have as many of those beloved characters as the last two Avengers movies. The movie that's most comparable to Infinity War in terms of quality is Avengers: Endgame.

Infinity War vs Endgame

Marvel Studios

Infinity War and Endgame contrast each other in terms of tone. In some ways, both are the same story, extended over two movies. First, you have the dire straits and eventual villainous success of Thanos, then you end it all with the triumphant win of the Avengers, who manage to stop everything that Thanos was planning. These two movies are so entwined that it can be hard to evaluate one without the other, but they are still distinct films in their own right.

Endgame has a lot going for it. It's the end of the Infinity Saga, representing an end to many of the character arcs of favorite Avengers like Tony Stark and Captain America. It has the iconic scene where Wong manages to summon nearly every character through a portal to fight Thanos' army. There's also the sense of optimism and hope that Endgame brings — especially in the face of the tragedy of the Snap — that helps elevate the movie. Still, despite this, Infinity War manages to top Endgame. Many fun character moments come from Endgame, like the emergence of Professor Hulk or Rocket Raccoon and Nebula interacting with the Avengers.

Ultimately, what puts Infinity War over the top of Endgame is this: There could be no Endgame without Infinity War, but there could be an Infinity War that isn't followed by Endgame. Per Deadline, people flocked into theaters in order to see Infinity War and enjoyed it despite its bleak ending, not knowing that Endgame would come and serve as the capstone to the story. Infinity War would not be incomplete if it was never followed by Endgame. It would be a sad, depressing story of the Avengers failing to win, and many of them dying. That said, it would still be an ending to the Infinity Saga.

Is Infinity War the best Avengers Movie? It's the most surprising. It's the most different. It has some of the most memorable moments. It has the most iconic MCU villain. It has a unique tone among superhero movies. If you measure the best Avengers movie by "The best example of an Avengers movie" then The Avengers or Endgame could be considered the best. If, however, you measure it by the most audience impact and unique risks taken, then Infinity War is the best.