Ever since Captain America: The First Avenger, a WWII movie as much as a comic book movie, Marvel has blended superheroes with classic film genres. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a political action thriller, Thor: Ragnarok is a superhero comedy, and Spider-Man: Homecoming was a John Hughes-esque teen adventure. But what can we expect from next year's guaranteed blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War?
In a recent interview with CNET, directors Joe and Anthony Russo have talked a little about the movie's unique style, and the challenge of negotiating such a vast cast. To the surprise of fans worldwide, they've compared it to a heist movie.
'Avengers: Infinity War' Will Be An Infinity Stone Heist Film
Although Infinity War is an ensemble project, uniting countless Marvel brands, there's one character who needs to stand center-stage: Josh Brolin's Thanos is Marvel's ultimate villain, pursuing the unlimited power of the Infinity Stones in an insane attempt to "rebalance the universe." Fans and critics have often complained that #Marvel has something of a "villain problem," with the bad guys not really fleshed out as characters. Thanos will be very different, and Anthony Russo described him as "almost one of the leads." As Russo noted:
"We've shaped an interesting narrative around him that in some ways leans heavily on a heist film in the fact that he's going after the infinity stones in a much bolder, successful way than he has in the past."
The central concept is a thrilling one. Thanos has come to Earth, and set his sights on the Infinity Stones. He knows that the Avengers stand in his way, and so he's spent time and effort working out how to get around them. Some heroes need to be confronted; the Vision and Doctor Strange, for example, will need to be taken down if the Mind and Time Stones are to be retrieved.
In other cases, though, the Mad Titan will presumably launch devastating attacks as little more than a diversion, drawing his enemies out. This may well be the reason we've seen hints of an invasion of Wakanda. Anthony Russo noted that most heist movies work because the star is one step ahead of his opponents, and the surprise twists of Thanos's plans look set to give Infinity War an unusual energy.
These comments dovetail neatly with what little we already know of Infinity War. We've already seen evidence of Thanos's Outriders, his sinister scouts. These fanatical beings possess the power of invisibility and intangibility, meaning they can infiltrate even the likes of Wakanda with ease. No doubt the Outriders will have given Thanos the information he needs to hatch his plans. Once they've done their work, Thanos will set his plans into motion, with the Black Order serving as his front-line agents.
Why We'll Be Watching 'Infinity War' Over And Over Again
This should make for a fascinating narrative, not least because the Russos intend every scene to work in several different ways. As they told CNET, they are drawn to the idea of telling stories from multiple points of view. They're working towards a movie that's unusually layered, with viewers able to interpret each scene from several perspectives. As Anthony Russo observed, "It's the kind of storytelling that, hopefully, you can keep revisiting because there are a lot of dimensions to discover on multiple viewings."
That approach is going to make Infinity War absolutely fascinating. Imagine, for example, that you're watching this heist movie from the perspective of Iron Man. You'll see him struggle to understand the sheer scale of Thanos's plan, and grow increasingly frustrated as he realizes the Mad Titan was one step ahead of him. On the other hand, when you rewatch the film you'll see how Thanos puts together his strategy, and you'll spot the openings he's about to exploit. You'll grow to appreciate the film even more on second, or even third, viewings.
That's the kind of film the Russo brothers are aiming to make. A blockbuster ensemble movie that has a unique kind of energy, blending superheroics with the staples and tropes of the heist movie genre. With the Mad Titan himself as the thief, and his gaze fixed on the #InfinityStones, this should be a Marvel movie like no other.