In Avengers: Infinity War, Joe and Anthony Russo accomplish many small miracles on the way towards crafting one of the most interesting films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Though previous iterations of the Flagship Get-Together Movie have buckled under the weight of too many characters with too much to do (Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War, especially), Infinity War deftly isolates characters into distinct groups, thereby localizing their stories, goals, and actions. Furthermore, though practically every film in the MCU brandishes a makeshift villain, Infinity War finally gives us Thanos, a three-dimensional and fascinating villain with a cabal of sadistic and distinct generals. The action set pieces are all up to the same high standard that we have come to expect from the MCU, and the new interactions between old characters add some nice spice to the film. Avengers: Infinity War shouldn’t work; it should be too big, too busy, and too safe, bursting for the seems with one too many formulaic superhero movie tropes. Instead, it is the perfect distillation of what the MCU should be: fun heroes, terrifying villains, and high stakes.
As the thirteenth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and first of Phase Three, Captain America: Civil War is full of crowd-pleasing moments, but it fails to deliver on these on a thematic level. Its neutered narrative pulls more punches than its heroes, the villain is more unnecessary and forgettable than the average Marvel fare, and a potentially powerful story line is treated with all the nuance of a Political Science 101 class. As a comic book action film, it certainly manages to entertain, but it falls far short of any aspirations to be something more than the latest summer popcorn flick.