Its here. Essentially a season finale 10 years in the making, Infinity War represents not only an end but a new beginning to the little experiment turned cultural juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And despite a number of flaws, this an experience impossible to forget.
WARNING: This review does not contain direct spoilers but in order to get the full experience I personally recommend only reading ahead once you’ve seen the film. #Thanosdemandsyoursilence.
Avengers: Infinity War is the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War). It stars essentially everyone (except Hawkeye) as their returning characters who are forced to assemble to stop the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) from collecting all six infinity stones and wiping out half the universe.
Due to its monstrous cast and scope, Infinity War clocks in as the longest Marvel film to date at 160 minutes – a necessary evil to cover all the ground that it does, but also an indication that the Russo Brothers may have bitten off a little more than they could chew. The film, while consistently exciting and entertaining, feels like its balancing too many plates at once and constantly struggles at being both overly busy and a little messy. For people invested in the characters, the constant jumping between different groups is going to be a joy rather than a chore but it does often feel like a constant full steam ahead without much of a break. Frankly this is Infinity War‘s biggest weakness and potentially one that it never could have avoided.
The one thing that somewhat saves Infinity War from its fragmented structure is that its individual snippets are each compelling enough to hold their own movie. The exchanges – from characters meeting for the first time to previously established relationships – are all at their heights emotionally and comedically. It wouldn’t be a Marvel film without some great humour and that’s definitely here, but the one thing Infinity War possesses that has thus far alluded all other Marvel films is stakes. And serious stakes. From scene one this film feels different – death has weight, characters are legitimately traumatised and despite maintaining a consistently entertaining exterior, a creeping sense of dread and finality can’t help but permeate through the air.
This all comes from the mother of all purple bad guys at the film’s helm – Thanos. In many respects Thanos is as close to a protagonist as this film gets, and he’s a surprisingly compelling one at that. The search for the infinity stones is a deeply emotional and spiritual journey for him, and I salute the Russos for making him much more that an imposing force of evil. While his motivations are a little muddy, you still cannot help but root for him and even sympathise with him to some extent. Imagine that! Beyond all the incredible twists and surprises the film throws out this turn was far and beyond the most shocking direction and I love it deeply. It also helps that Brolin in motion-capture is giving his all to this character. This isn’t some throwaway role for him – Brolin imbues him with an incredible pathos and grandeur, and a large part of why Thanos succeeds so much as a villain is thanks to him.
Infinity War is also on record as one of the most expensive films of all time, and it shows. All that money is right there on the screen immediately through some truly impressive and startling visual effects. Whereas Black Panther seemed like a step back for CGI in the MCU, Infinity War is a leap forward towards some incredible vistas and motion-capture performances. It helps that the film is so reliant on CGI that it becomes the norm, but even that is diminishing the incredible work done by hundreds and hundreds of people behind the scenes.
This amounts to some truly impressive set pieces. While on occasion it can get too messy to follow – one action scene in Scotland is particularly rough – the grander scale of conflict here has allowed the Russo brothers to step up to a wider approach to shooting action and it pays off in dividends here. There’s a real sense of weight behind much of the combat, particularly when it comes to larger characters like the Hulk and Thanos, which once again contributes to the heavy stakes felt all through this film. Match up after match up creates another spectacle to gawk at, and there’s an awful lot of it as well. This has got to be one of the most action-oriented Marvel films thus far, which makes it great for blockbuster viewing but means there’s a little less time for a well-paced plot.
To go through every single character in this film would take a review unto itself so lets just stick to the big hitters. Robert Downey Jr. (praise be unto him) is back as Iron Man and while I would’ve preferred more actual screen-time with him (considering he is basically the grand daddy of the MCU), this film still gives him plenty of characters to play off of. The Guardians in comparison actually get much greater screen time to the film’s benefit, with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in particular getting some truly incredible and gut-wrenching moments.
On the more earth-based side is Captain America (Chris Evans) and his merry band of Secret Avengers. Much like Tony I expected a little more from him and he truly feels like the one major character who gets a little lost in the shuffle which is disappointing for one of Marvel’s big three. The same however cannot be said for the other point of that triangle in Thor, who’s paired off with some characters you might not expect and is actually given some surprisingly great emotional drama to work with.
One other group of characters sadly worth mentioning as a negative is Thanos’ Black Order. Considering the massive quantity of characters already in this film, adding five more into the mix doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. While they do have a distinct design and style to each of them, they feel like little more than chess pieces to move around as the story requires them rather than actual characters and in doing so feel a little disappointing.
Despite a number of flaws that Infinity War was always going to succumb to, this is a truly memorable and deeply emotional experience for any long-time fan invested in this franchise. It presents some incredible set-pieces, a surprisingly compelling antagonist/protagonist and too much emotion to handle. This is a film about dealing with loss and looking to the future with both dread and optimism. Just like Marvel fans! To infinity and beyond.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Recommended
Blockbusters: Highly Recommended
True Believers (Marvel): Must-see