Latest posts by Oliver Ledingham-Smith (see all)
- Avengers: Infinity War Is A Success That’s Ten Years In The Making - December 10, 2018
- Review: ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ Is, By Default, The Franchise’s Best And Bloodiest - November 29, 2018
- ‘A Monster Calls’ Capitalises On Liam Neeson’s Voice To Deliver The goods - November 21, 2018
Avengers: Infinity Waris the culmination of every single MCU movie that has come before it in the last ten years, and so it begs the question: how in the holy hell can you make a movie that lives up to the expectation and the hype and the fact that there has been nothing like this in the history of film that has been accomplished before? The answer: have Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely write the screenplay, and put Joe and Anthony Russo in the director’s chairs. Create contracts with actors, meaning that they have to be in a certain number of films and fulfil their roles over the intervening years, meaning that they hone their relationships with their respective characters, and provide those characters with story arcs that have satisfactory and great conclusions. Make characters you care about, so when the stakes are that high, you really docare for them. And when Disney announces that it’s going to be a two-parter, you decide to just call the film Infinity War, and keep people guessing about the title for Avengers 4(it’s weird writing a Marvel review and not knowing everything now). And finally, you take a good long hard look at every Marvel film that has come before it, acknowledge that the villains were never that great (except for Loki, and to a lesser extent, Killmonger), and you make the best damn possible villain you’re able to, thus obliterating Marvel’s Villain Problem.
Well Marvel’s Villain Problem, I’m happy to announce, was totally destroyed within the first five minutes of Avengers: Infinity War, never mind the remaining two hours and twenty-five minutes. For this particular film, I decided to do something different in the run up to it. Normally with Marvel films I watch every TV spot, every trailer, find every single bit of non-spoiler-y information that I can about it before I then go and see it. On this occasion I decided to do quite the opposite. Other than watching the initial trailers, I went blind on everything else. I didn’t want to see anymore clips, I didn’t want to watch any interviews (but even then I caved when Jimmy Kimmel hosted them in the week running up to the release date), and I didn’t want to read any reviews. The only other thing that I found out about that I didn’t want to know were the early reactions. Critics, it seemed, loved the movie. Which settled me down for when I went to a midnight showing with my girlfriend and a couple of our friends. I knew it was going to be good. I knew how it started, and I knew that I was going to enjoy it. After all, I’d waited nearly a decade for this, so I didn’t want to be disappointed. And my biggest worry going into Avengers: Infinity Warwas Thanos (Josh Brolin), and whether or not he was going to exceed expectations, or go the way of most of Marvel’s other one-shot villains/antagonists.
In order to make it so that Marvel got rid of their Villain Problem, they had to do one thing that hadn’t been done before: make their villain the main character. Sure, you can argue that Avengers: Infinity Waris an ensemble piece, with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) effectively being the lead man (as he always is and always should be) in the fight against the biggest threat the universe has ever faced, but at the end of the day, Infinity Waris Thanos’ film. He has finally got off his big bad purple arse and is showing us all how fearsome he truly is, how powerful he is, and how determined he is. This unwavering determination is perhaps scarier than if he had just been a crazy lunatic, because he believes that what he is doing is right, and he won’t let anyone stand in his way, no matter the cost. I’m being intentionally vague here in case you’re one of the ten people in the world who hasn’t seen this film, but those of you who have (and perhaps need a refresher for just how darn great this movie is), you’ll know what I’m referring to here. And, yes, Thanos’ other title is the Mad Titan, but there will probably be a part of you that can at least see where he is coming from. After all, he wants to wipe out half the universe, and thus curtail overpopulation.
A sign of a good film is that the story actually deals with real world problems and issues while maintaining a high level of quality entertainment and tells an amazing story. If you thought for a second that the screenwriters for Infinity Wardidn’t have enough to do already, well you were mistaken, because they threw in the theme of overpopulation as a great way to make Thanos seem a bit less reprehensible. If all Thanos had wanted to do was to control the universe – or destroy it completely – then there could be no feasible way for you to empathise with him. Yet, in his own way, all he really wanted was to restore peace and balance to the universe, which isn’t all that terrible; it was just the way he went about it that was remorselessly abhorrent. Am I perhaps being too kind to the Avengers’ main big bad? Perhaps, but it’s only because I love a good villain. And Infinity Waractually has more than one: Thanos’ Black Order are also along for the ride, wanting to help him achieve his goal, although none perhaps more than Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), better known to Stark as Squidward. The Black Order are fearsome by their own merits, and not just because they believe in Thanos’ cause. They give the Avengers a hard time on their own, forcing them to have to fight to their limits if they want to even be on the same level.
This is actually a good thing (despite there being even more characters in this film), as it means that Thanos isn’t just swatting the Avengers around like flies for the entire movie. His lieutenants are doing some of the work for him, wanting to help him in retrieving the Infinity Stones. Maw and Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary) fight Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Wong (Benedict Wong), Stark, Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) – but not the Hulk, as Hulk doesn’t want to come out and play after what happened in the opening five minutes of the film. Meanwhile, Vision (Paul Bettany), and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) have their own problems, most notably because one of the other Infinity Stones is held in the middle of Vision’s forehead. It makes him a literal walking target for Thanos. Luckily for two of our heroes, they are joined by Steve Rogers/Nomad (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie). And if you thought that this wasn’t enough (because obviously you’ve seen the trailers, so you should know that it isn’t), along for the fun and games are the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Bucky Barnes/the White Wolf (Sebastian Stan), T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and half the characters from Black Panther, too. The majority of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have come together to attempt to put a stop to Thanos’ truly abominable reign of terror.
From a tonal standpoint, I felt that the shifts worked rather well, despite the overall severity of the situation that the Avengers were facing. Sure, the Guardians brought their unique, bright and colourful brand of humour to the proceedings, but after the success of Thor: Ragnarok, they managed to bounce off Thor rather well, so that even though Thor was telling them (and, subsequently, recruiting them) about the terrors of Thanos, it still worked. Thankfully, the Guardians also manage to remain true to their character traits in dire situations. Although this is their third time on the big screen, it is also the first time when, technically-speaking, they weren’t written solely by James Gunn. Yes, Gunn helped Markus and McFeely to keep true to each of the Guardians’ speech and linguistic quirks, but it was still their script at the end of the day, and boy was it a joy to see the Guardians interact with some of the Avengers. They brought a certain levity (especially Drax (Dave Bautista)) to scenes that might otherwise have felt a bit too dark/dramatic. After all, the creative team didn’t want this to turn into a more epic version of BvS. This wasstill a Marvel film, after all. And in any case, by having tonal shifts, it allowed us room to breathe – albeit briefly – in between the scenes that were heavy on the drama and the heartache, so that there was almost room to relax.
That’s me being kind and superfluous for the sake of it by the way. Infinity Waris such a whirlwind of a story that you’re swept up along on that there is little to no time to breathe at all, barely a moment to gather yourselves after the most recent catastrophe, before it steamrollers on to the next one. It is one gut-punch after the next, so that even when it feels as if the Avengers have a win, in reality they are still reeling from the most recent course of events. I can easily see why some people may not like this, and may have considered Infinity Warto be too dark for their liking. Admittedly it is a big change from prior entires in the MCU, but while there have only been a few deaths to date, Infinity Wareasily doubles, if not triples, the death count by virtue of not pulling any punches. For me, that’s what I like about a story: one that doesn’t refuse to hit you where it hurts in the feelings. You’ve spent time, and you’ve invested, in these characters, and so it’s about time that we received some kind of repayment for our time and investment, and that is where Infinity Warhappily delivers on the goods. If you don’t like it, then may I suggest you return to happier times, such as Thor, or Captain America: The First Avenger, or even just The Avengersif you want a hearty team-up movie.
Purely from a storytelling point of view, Infinity Warhas a lot to do, and a hell of a lot of ground to cover, in its lengthy 149 minute runtime. This is perhaps another reason why people may not have enjoyed this film as much as they thought they would – or even wanted to. The reason being that some of their favourite characters did not get as much screen time as they hoped. I’m talking, of course, about Rogers. Out of the original six Avengers, he was one of the ones who got the least amount of screen time; as opposed to Stark, who got a fair amount, or Thor, who got the most after Thanos. If it’s a big gripe, I would say not to worry too much, as reports state that Rogers is going to get a lot more to do in Avengers 4. Yes, I know that that’s not that much consolation, and you just wanted to see Rogers with his beard in more scenes, but I’m sure there are GIFs out there of him catching one of Proxima Midnight’s (Carrie Coon) spears, and appearing out of the darkness. It was a bit of a fist-pump moment. Incidentally, there were a few of those throughout Infinity War; in spite of all the emotional turmoil that the film invariably puts you through, there is no doubt a few moments when you think ‘hell yeah’, and that’s just down to the writing itself.
Having said that, editing also plays a big part in the film-making process. You can have a great script, great acting, and a great story, but if the direction and subsequent editing isn’t done to a high standard, then it’s going to affect the overall tone of the finished product. Thankfully, we were in brilliant and safe hands with the Russo brothers, who managed to make a cohesive story even with the long running time. I say this because for those of you who don’t know, there was actually a lot more backstory to Thanos than what we got: more was written, more was filmed, but it was ultimately decided to be left on the editing room floor, because they already had so much story to tell. So for those of you asking ‘how come Thanos knows Stark?’ Well, other than the fact that he literallysays, ‘You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge, Stark’ (which is pretty self-explanatory, I would have thought), it’s quite easy to figure it out. But if you ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. My personal grievance about stupid questions aside, there was still enough backstory to Thanos that made him a wholesome villain while maintaining a high level of credibility and power to the character. For some, it would just be enough that Thanos is actually doing something; for others, they want everything. But I say don’t be greedy, and to accept what we’re given, which was a wholesome, fantastic, bombastic film.
I have seen some people complaining about the special effects and the CGI that was used in Infinity War, and I genuinely can’t decide if these people are Marvel haters/DC Fanboys who believe that Justice League is the best film ever, or they’re just unaware of how CGI works. Thanos, for example, actually looks devastatingly realistic, despite the fact that he is mostly CGI. In the final twenty-five to thirty minutes of Infinity War, there is a hell of a lot of CGI used in the fight sequences, but again, it looks realistic and not at all video-game-esque. My point being: it is believable, which just adds to the fun and the experience that the film has to offer. I’ve tried to keep away from most major story beats, and offered little in the way of minor spoilers, because if you only saw it once in cinemas/theatres, there’s a chance that you may have forgotten what transpired, and thus want to experience it all over again (which you can now on Digital, and will be able to also in Blu-Ray as of the 14th August), so that’s why I’ve not gone into the nuts and bolts of the story itself. What I will finish off on though is that this was a huge undertaking of staggering proportions, the likes of which the history of film hasn’t ever seen before. There was a very good chance that it all could have fallen apart at this particular hurdle, but thankfully it didn’t, and the past ten years have actually paid off. Avengers: Infinity Wartried something that has never been done before, and despite prior MCU films (namely, Captain America: Civil War) feeling overcrowded, this one ensemble picture managed to hold its own and stand tall above everything that had come before it.
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