Review - 'Avengers: Infinity War'
I’ve been on-board with just about every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the first Iron Man. It has never ceased to amaze me how consistent Marvel has been at bringing its A, B, C and even D-list heroes to the silver screen, and all to critical and financial success. Perhaps their most ambitious endeavor thus far is Avengers: Infinity War, a film that unites just about every Marvel character into one huge film. I’m sorry, but have you seen how many Marvel movies there are? And have you counted how many characters exist within them? Yeah, a lot. Enter the Russos, who I feel are some of the only people capable of pulling of a feat like this one. And yeah, um, they did it. They accomplished the virtually impossible. Avengers: Infinity War is a triumph of monumental proportions.
At their most divided, the Avengers are forced to face their most daunting adversary yet; Thanos, who has designs on eradicating half of Earth’s population in hopes of restoring balance. With the power of the infinity gauntlet and six soul stones, Thanos is virtually unstoppable.
Let me get this off of my chest: I didn’t love the first Avengers when I originally watched it. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was good, and maybe I was just so overwhelmingly hyped for it that their would be no conceivable way to meet my expectations, but for some reason I left the theater with the slightest feeling of disappointment. Upon repeat viewings I was able to temper said expectations and enjoy the film for what it was: a feat that while not perfect, did something truly revolutionary in bringing characters together from different franchises and somehow not feel incongruous. I only say this to emphasize what the Russos have just managed with vastly more characters. They saw my expectations and said: “I’ll raise you”.
Avengers: Infinity War has so many moving parts that it’s baffling how it turned out to be this coherent, but when you look at what the filmmakers did to combat the bloat, it all starts to make perfect since as to why it all doesn’t come crashing down. For one, the Russos wisely split the bigger personalities into three different groups and gave each group a significant job to do. Iron man, Doctor Strange and Spider-man go in one direction, the Guardians and Thor in another and finally Cap and all the rest in the last group. Secondly, the filmmakers clearly grouped characters together based off how well they would bounce off of one another. Iron man and Doctor Strange bickering over what plan of action to take is hilarious because they’re sort of the same character but with different world-views. Thor interacting with the Guardians after he was featured in his own wacky space adventure in Ragnarok also makes perfect sense and leads to some comedic gold that surprisingly doesn’t feel out of place in all of the bleakness.
What really makes the film work, though, is Thanos. Thanos is a central character here and the plot revolves around him. He’s pretty much the main through-line for the film and every one else reacts to what he’s doing. Which brings me to another thing that could have easily fallen flat here. A big, purple CGI brute being the main character in a superhero movie sounds ridiculous on paper. credit to Marvel studios, because Thanos is the best part of Infinity War. For one, bringing in Josh Brolin to portray him was a very smart decision, his delivery and expressions are perfect for the character. In addition to this, this is probably the best looking entirely digital character that I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t ever convinced that Thanos looked real per-se, but there is such an attention to bringing out real emotions in the character’s face that he felt flesh-and-blood to me.
The rest of the cast is also solid as ever. In a way, Thor is actually the MVP for once with Chris Hemsworth running the gamut of emotions from somber and serious to jovial and goofy. Thor also gets one of the most cheer-worthy moments in the film. Goosebumps. The guardians (Chris Hemsworth, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Pom Klementof) also play a pivotal part here, and each of them get moments that stand right up their with their best scenes in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Iron-Man, Spider-man and Doctor Strange also bring everything they have here, with Benedict Cumberbatch really coming into his own as Doctor Strange, even more so than we saw in his solo venture. I never quite bought him completely as the character until I saw him toe-to-toe with Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man. Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannsson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) all sort of get the short end of the stick in this film. All of their arcs are brief and more-or-less cut short by the end, but I got the sense that some of them would really get more of a spotlight in the next film, and if I were a betting man, I’d expect some pretty serious stuff surrounding Captain America in Avengers 4.
On top of all this, Avengers: Infinity War is the first marvel movie to have the gumption to actually do away with some big name characters. The Russo’s smartly establish that no one is safe in this film right from the beginning by gut-punching the audience not once, but twice! There’s at least one more big loss somewhere in the second act. Then we have the final moments of the film, which really ensure that nobody leaves the theater cheering. But that’s fine! Because otherwise, this would have felt like filler. The ending to this movie, while I’m fairly certain that it’s a ruse, is still quite bold and if taken on its own without considering the upcoming sequel, is one of the most cathartic and somber endings to a superhero film of all time.
Finally, Avengers: Infinity War is the best-looking film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. The film’s massive budget was clearly put to good use. I was worried because the Russo’s previous films, while being some of the best in the entire series, had a washed-out, realistic look to them that I didn’t feel would translate well to an Avengers team up movie that I generally envision as colorful and bombastic. Well, they impressed me yet again. Infinity War is filled with color and a sense of wonder that their previous films lacked. The effects work is also superb, particularly on Thanos, which I mentioned earlier. Lastly, the score by Alan Silvestre captures the mood of the film perfectly.
Overall, Avengers: Infinity War, while an incomplete story, is an altogether satisfying one that knows exactly how to handle all of its characters. It’s truly amazing that the Russo brothers were able to give so many characters the service they deserve, introduce a new villain who can arguably be viewed as the protagonist, and bring all of these disparate, moving pieces together into a package that is both stirring and epic in all of the right ways. While there are times where you can see the machinery behind the facade, Infinity War is nonetheless one of the most impressive cinematic achievements in recent memory.