23 movies in 11 years.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe Infinity Saga pulled off a feat never seen before in the history of cinema.
The Infinity Saga is the highest-grossing franchise in cinema in terms of domestic revenue with $8.55 billion. Second place is Pixar-Disney animations with $6.013 billion. The only franchise to gross over a billion dollars and has more films than the Infinity Saga is the 25-movie James Bond franchise, which totals $2.1 billion. However, the Bond franchise consists of many different reboots and recasts while the Infinity Saga was one gigantic story. It felt like a one-season TV show epic with each episode being the length of a film. Regardless of what the future of the MCU holds, the Infinity Saga will go down as the greatest saga in film history as I doubt its success will ever be replicated.
The Infinity Saga consists of the introduction and collection of the six Infinity Stones: The Space Stone, the Time Stone, the Mind Stone, the Power Stone, the Soul Stone and the Reality Stone. Throughout the saga, these stones appear and contribute to the overall narrative. In 2012’s The Avengers, Thor’s adopted brother, Loki, uses the Space Stone, A.K.A., The Tesseract, to bring the Chitauri forces to Earth. The Avengers must assemble to defeat them and save the earth from total invasion. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Ronan the Accuser wants the Power Stone to use its power to destroy the planet Xandar.
At its climax, intergalactic warlord Thanos wants to collect all the stones and harness its power inside the Infinity Gauntlet to destroy half of life in the universe. He spends the duration of Avengers: Infinity War collecting the stones, and despite the resistance from the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, he succeeds and wipes out half the population in the universe. In Avengers: Endgame, the Avengers devise a plan to go back in time and collect the stones before Thanos collects them to undo the events of Infinity War.
They succeed, but Thanos from 2014 (four years before Infinity War) finds out and invades earth to reclaim the stones. All the heroes from across the various movies unite and defeat Thanos in an epic final battle. The battle ends with Iron Man sacrificing himself by using the gauntlet to destroy Thanos’ army. Captain America, meanwhile, goes back and places the stones back where they were collected from and lives out his life with his love from the 1940s.
There are many reasons why the Infinity Saga is a masterpiece but the three biggest factors I will focus on are the massive ensemble, the continuity and its ending.
The main cast in the MCU is massive and all of them have their chances to shine and become their own characters. We see a trilogy of films for Iron Man, Captain America and Thor each. Not only do we see these characters grow but the supporting characters introduced in them, such as Loki in Thor, Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Pepper Potts in the Iron Man trilogy, add to the size and scope of the world.
However, this works because all the characters are perfectly cast and have fantastic chemistry with one another. The perfect example of this is the scene in Infinity War where most of the Guardians of the Galaxy members meet up with Doctor Strange, Iron Man and Spider-Man. It is hilarious and their interactions feel real and organic. It is a tremendous scene and the perfect representation of the flawless ensemble.
Also, like an excellent TV show, the continuity is brilliant and there are many moments or themes that return in the saga and play a role in the overall story. When you are doing a larger story, it is important to make events feel important to heighten its impact later. Two examples are Starlord lashing out at Thanos in Infinity War and Steve Rogers (Captain America) dancing with Peggy Carter during the final scene of Avengers: Endgame.
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Peter Quill (Starlord) goes through an emotional rollercoaster. He meets his long-lost father only to discover he is a power-dominant maniac who killed his mother and will kill his friends too. Quill ends up killing his father but at the cost of losing his father figure, Yondu. In Infinity War, Quill finds out Thanos killed his lover, Gamora, and he lashes out at him, causing the rest of the Avengers to lose their grip on Thanos, allowing him to break free. While that scene is tough to watch, it shows how the impact of moments can carry through to multiple movies.
As for the ending of Endgame, it fulfills many emotional moments from the Captain America trilogy well.
In The First Avenger, Rogers meets Carter and they form a relationship. Alas, it is cut short as Rogers must crash a place into ice to destroy the weapons on board. He mentions how he wants to dance with her while crashing. In The Winter Soldier, he visits her decades later. She is elderly and it is implied she is suffering from Alzheimer’s. In Civil War, we see him attend her funeral and grow close with her niece.
In Endgame, he sees her in the SHIELD headquarters in 1970 and one can see all the regret of him not living his life with her all coming to him in the scene. However, after the final battle in Endgame, he must put back the stones and after completing the task, he decides to live his life with her after spending the saga regretting that he didn’t. It is a beautiful ending to a story given a lot of development in the saga.
The conclusion to the saga was perfection. Infinity War and Endgame were perfect ways to end the saga. We saw epic battles, the saga’s best villain in Thanos, and important characters dying and staying dead. Loki, Heimdall, Gamora, Vision and Black Widow all died and those scenes were very impactful, adding to the stakes of the story. However, Iron Man’s sacrifice at the end was one of the saddest but best death scenes in cinema history. Many people cried and his development through the saga made it that much worse to watch. The two third-act battles looked amazing and were incredible to watch. We saw more great chemistry in the ensemble and the music composed by Alan Silvestri made it epic. Also, Thanos in these two movies was so incredible that he reached the iconic villain level Darth Vader holds. It is very deserving as he was the perfect villain for the saga’s conclusion.
When it comes to larger cinematic sagas, the biggest comparison to the Infinity Saga would be Star Wars, a saga with nine main episodes and two spin-off movies. While I slightly prefer the Star Wars saga due to nostalgia and setting, the Infinity Saga is the superior franchise with a much better ending and consistency in quality.
Overall, the MCU Infinity Saga is the best cinematic franchise in film history. The ensemble was amazing along with its phenomenal ending and continuity. If you have not checked out this saga, I highly recommend doing so. It is worth your time and then some.