Avengers: Infinity War is this Generation’s Empire Strikes Back

A review of Avengers: Infinity War by Nicholas Cara

My title is a bold statement, one that probably already has some fans cursing my name out loud but after careful consideration I’m going to stick with it. Avengers Infinity War is this generation’s Empire Strikes Back. The moment in cinema where everyone will remember where they were.

Now this isn’t going to be a review, ok well it sort of is so let’s get that part out of the way. Oh and here is your needed warning:



The movie in my opinion was an A+. Infinity Wars was 2.5 hours of action, adventure, and twists I didn’t see coming. And as I told my wife later, something I believe that has been both a comfort and a hindrance to comic book fans while watching superhero movies is we have seen the stories that the directors have been using for the recent decade of films years before the scripts were written. Yes, there has been a few changes, some good and some bad along the way (I’m looking at you Mandarin) but the essence of the story has pretty much been there. That was until now, Infinity War does something I haven’t experienced before, it surprised a comic book fan, and I don’t mean surprised in a “oh wow” way, I mean I felt my jaw drop to the floor way and it was not only once in the film. And I’m saying that admitting that I, as most comic book readers did, knew the ‘snap’ was coming. So for that it gets an A+ from me.

But there have been A+’s before, and none of those movies could walk the hardened road that the Empire Strikes Back marches to in some minds. That film is the movie of some cinema goers youth, the film that redefined what a true adventure movie, full of battles, love, pain and a shocking twist could be. Since then all big surprises on the silver screen have been compared to the words “I AM your father!” and in one way or another found lacking. Infinity War tops that epic moment because as with a fine wine the Marvel characters have been allowed to ferment in our culture even deeper than Luke and Leia were. While Empire Strikes Back was the second movie of one big adventure, Infinity War is the culmination of a decade of movies, and to those who read comics a lifetime of reading.

Now I’m going to leave comic book readers out of this for the time being because to truly change pop culture as Empire did Infinity War has to transcend the fan base. It has to reach people that before Robert Downey Jr. suited up had never heard of Iron Man before. And that’s where the Marvel Cinematic Universe has succeeded over the last 10 years. The MCU has produced 19 films over the past 10 years that in one way or another stuck their hand out to the masses and said “here’s your new favorite character, enjoy!” The shock to our pop culture that allows for the iconic moment in cinema Empire had was seeing those heroes fail, where instead of the smooth sip of Merlot you were expecting with the heroes saving the day at the end of the movie, you find the director pouring it all over your head. The heroes don’t win at the end of Empire, they in almost every way lose and they lose badly. Luke didn’t simply learn Vader was his father, he had just had that man beat him easily, slice his hand off and then tell him! And never mind what happened to his best friend Han minutes before. Audiences left that movie beaten as their heroes were, not knowing how the galaxy could or even would be saved in a future film or was this just the end? Marvel’s Avengers Infinity Wars doesn’t simply spill your wine of assumed misconceptions, it takes that bottle of wine that has been sitting for 10 years full of adventure and the public’s belief that they knew what was going to happen, holds it in front of them and smiles as it drops it shattering it all over the floor.

Do you have a favorite Marvel movie character? They always win in the end right? That’s how superhero movies go, right? Watch them die with a snap of a mad Titan’s fingers. Fan of Black Panther? Wakanda Forever? Nope, gone. Loki? Gone—violently. The Guardians of the Galaxy? I am Groot. Gone. Dr. Strange? Gone. Spider-Man? No way, they can’t kill Spider-Man! Yep, he’s gone, with an ending eerily resistant of David Tenant’s farewell to Dr. Who. Falcon? Vision? Scarlet Witch? Gone, gone, and gone. The remaining heroes barely kneeling at the end of Infinity War were left like the audience, without hope. The audience sees their heroes, these gods that can do the impossible, that always find a way to save the day fail completely. And that is where this becomes the Empire Strikes Back of this generation. The experience of watching their heroes who movie goers always believed would find a way fall is a turning point for both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and pop culture in general. Before the final Infinity Gem fell into place the world made sense, heroes won and the villains lost. Now that norm has been turned on its head.

Thanos is the cinema world’s new Vader, who has no equal. He is a tyrant who can match strengths with the Hulk, wits with Tony Stark and tactics with Captain America. How can our heroes overcome him? Is there even a chance anymore? As we did watching Luke and Leia look into the darkness of place as the Millennium flew into the unknown searching for Han the audiences over the weekend were left with their dispirited heroes wondering where the universe’s salvation could come from. Could it be from a mysterious red and blue star beacon or an unknown plan of Dr. Strange’s from one of his millions of scenarios, no one knows.

But everyone of them left that theater knowing they would remember where they were when their heroes fell.

Nicholas Cara is a contributing writer to Pop Culture Philosophers. He is well known as the author of the Grey Ghost book series. The Grey Ghost: The Shadow that Walks is available now on Amazon.