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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Avengers: Infinity War is the most intense of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films so far, due to the villain's genocidal quest and the grave consequences for some well-known characters. It has plenty of humor and lighter moments, but it ultimately goes to places darker than in any previous Marvel Cinematic Universe entry. Also, it requires more knowledge of things that have happened in previous Marvel movies than other Avengers films have; it's the meeting point of several franchises and storylines. Violence is the biggest issue; it's stepped up even by MCU standards, with some torture and several impalings and crushings in addition to the usual smashed buildings, giant fights, and blasted spaceships. Thanos (Josh Brolin) is by far the most powerful nemesis the Avengers have faced, which the filmmakers establish right away with his brutal beatdown of one of the mightiest Avengers. The key plot element is mass murder on a universal scale, which might be a little much for younger viewers. Frankly, things get pretty grim: Key characters die, and the villains are much scarier than most comic book baddies. The gore level isn't higher; it's really the emotional impact that's different. There's also some strong language (including "s--t," "a--hole," "dammit," and several colorful insults), but sex isn't a factor beyond a few loving kisses. As always, teamwork and courage are core messages as the Avengers (including Robert Downey, Jr.'s Iron Man, Chris Evans' Captain America, Chris Hemsworth's Thor, and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow), other MCU heroes (including Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther, Tom Holland's Spider-Man, and Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange), and the Guardians of the Galaxy (including Chris Pratt's Star-Lord and Zoe Saldana's Gamora) come together to defend humanity -- and the universe.
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What's the story?
In AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, Thanos (Josh Brolin), whose efforts to acquire powerful cosmic gems called "Infinity Stones" have been important elements in previous Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies, marches toward his goal of eliminating half of all life in the universe (he believes it's the only way to stop beings from using up all of the universe's resources). Lining up to stop him are almost all of the big-screen Marvel heroes, including Avengers Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and others; plus Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and the Guardians of the Galaxy, led by Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana). The sprawling epic takes place on multiple continents and multiple planets as Thanos and his terrifying accomplices stop at nothing to find the stones and take them by whatever means are necessary. It all leads up to a massive climactic battle with shocking consequences.
Is it any good?
This is the most intense, complex, and stirring Marvel Cinematic Universe film yet -- though the sheer number of characters and storylines make it a bit confusing for anyone who's not a hard-core fan. Avengers: Infinity War is also the grimmest MCU movie so far, with consequences unlike any that have come before in this massive franchise. Much of the talk about the film will center on those events (no more details here, to avoid spoilers), but there's more to it than that. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely were already responsible for two of the best MCU entries to date, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. With Avengers: Infinity War, they continue to respect viewers' intelligence while giving their characters deep motivations and presenting knockout action scenes. It's as lean as epics get; none of its nearly two-and-a-half-hour running time feels wasted. While the many characters and intersecting plots may confuse casual viewers -- the filmmakers assume audiences are familiar with all that's come before -- for fans, it's one mind-blowing moment after another, starting with a jaw-dropping fight in the first minutes. Plus, Infinity War is also one of the funniest MCU movies yet, relying on character-based humor rather than some of the wacky flights of fancy of, say, the also excellent Thor: Ragnarok.
The performances benefit from the strong script, no-nonsense direction, and the growth the actors have experienced in their roles over many years. It's fun to watch two of the MCU's biggest egomaniacs, Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark and Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange, bump up against each other -- and then for Pratt's off-kilter Star-Lord to crash into the mix. Relationships are deepened, and it's a huge relief to see the Avengers working together again after the events of Civil War. Thanos, as voiced by Brolin and brilliantly animated by the VFX team, is perhaps the most frightening villain ever in a comic book film (including Heath Ledger's iconic Joker in The Dark Knight) -- largely because he's so thoroughly convinced that he's actually a good guy who's willing to make hard choices and impossible sacrifices in the universe's best interests. Without spoiling anything, the film's dire consequences feel almost Game of Thrones-like, with well-known characters defeated as never before. Some kids will likely be upset by that. But keep in mind that this is a comic book world (so things aren't always what they seem), and -- in the meantime -- appreciate the fact that the overall effect gives Infinity War the highest stakes and biggest wow factor of the MCU so far.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Avengers: Infinity War. How does it compare to the other Avengers movies? Is there a difference in the impact between hand-to-hand combat and catastrophic, buildings-collapsing type of explosions? Was the movie scarier than previous MCU entries? If so, why?
What are the movie's messages about teamwork and courage? What happened when characters didn't work together as planned? Why is teamwork an important character strength? Which teammates in Avengers: Infinity War were particularly effective? What strategies did they use to contribute to their team?
How does the movie explore the idea/theme of sacrifice? Are there different kinds of sacrifice in the movie? What role does it play in the movie? What impact does it have on the characters?
Why is it important for superheroes to be diverse? Do you think the Marvel Cinematic Universe offers strong examples of both racial and gender diversity? Has that changed over the films' history?
Captain America: Civil War left the Avengers split into factions. What's changed since then, at the start of this movie, and what happens when a larger threat arises? What does that say about what's most important to the characters?
- In theaters: April 27, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: August 14, 2018
- Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Zoe Saldana, Tom Holland, Josh Brolin
- Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures, Space and Aliens
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 156 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.