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A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post that listed six reasons why I was scared for Avengers: Infinity War. In order to keep this post spoiler-free, I’m not going to discuss how the film scores/fails on these points here; I’ll keep that for a later post.
Where to begin?
Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of a story that’s been dominating movie theaters since 2008. It is the franchise’s 19th film in ten years, and is the end product of everything you’ve seen before. No need to draw attention to the fact that Infinity War has a massive responsibility here. While there were a great many things that I liked, there were also some elements that noticeably fell flat. This review is spoiler-free. I won’t mention any story elements that you didn’t already know from watching the two trailers. That being said, if you want to go see the film without any prior knowledge or considerations, then this review is read-at-your-own-risk. Let’s dive in.
In Infinity War, the Avengers AND the Guardians of the Galaxy go up against the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) who’s on a quest to collect the universe’s most powerful MacGuffins known as the Infinity Stones. As Kevin Feige (Marvel’s main producer) put it in a promotional featurette, “Thanos shows us why he’s the biggest, the baddest we’ve ever seen”, and he’s right. We’ve already caught brief glimpses of Thanos in The Avengers (2012, Joss Whedon), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, James Gunn) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015, Joss Whedon), and Infinity War wastes no time to establish Thanos as the most threatening and potentially consequential antagonist the MCU has seen so far. From the outset, Thanos is characterized by a hitherto unmatched Marvel level of cold villainy. At the same time, though, he’s more than the indestructible guy going around punching people with that big gauntlet of his. His motives are clearly presented to us and, not unlike previous MCU villains like Ultron or Killmonger, his reasons are not completely misguided.
Infinity War juggles an insane amount of characters, all of whom we’ve already seen in previous films. It speaks to the writers’ creative ability that every single character gets his or her moment of glory. If, while watching previous Marvel films, you ever felt that characters like War Machine (Don Cheadle) or Mantis (Pom Klementieff) got a bit lost in the mix of more A-list characters, then you’ll get character satisfaction here. Infinity War doesn’t break with the latest character developments that you’ve see these heroes go through, and, in most ways, provides a fitting continuation of their character arcs.
Having these diverse characters, some of which who’ve never met, interact with each other is the film’s strongest achievement. It’s just great fun to see Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) interact with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) while Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) are just standing two feet away. It’s not only amazing in terms of fan service but also in terms of world building, since it’s really intriguing to think about what might be coming next.
Bringing the fight to an impressive villain like Thanos requires equally impressive battles, and Infinity War delivers on its promise of creating the biggest fight sequences of the MCU so far. Action scene after action scene, each hero’s individual strength is shown off effectively and the combination of some hitherto uncombined heroes makes for some fun and powerful moments. The main problem with Infinity War is that action seems to go at the expense of a thoroughly constructed story. I won’t go too in-depth into the film’s narrative, but I will say that the film’s main heart seems to lie in the creation of emotion and spectacle (in which it succeeds) instead of plot. The story also perhaps relies a bit too much on the more-than-occasional ex machina, which I guess might be understandable in a world where these powerful heroes get together, but at some points Infinity War seemed to overdo it.
One point where the film also struggled a bit was in finding the right balance between CGI and non-CGI. (I know this was one of the points in my list of six reasons that I said I wasn’t going to talk about, but this seems like too big of a point to skip over here.) Like last year’s Justice League (2017, Zack Snyder), Infinity War often frames its characters through close-up to hide the fact that there’s a green screen behind them. This often works, but in more than one instance, it kind of didn’t. I understand that the filmmakers couldn’t practically recreate the scale of some of the incredible settings, and that the use of CGI isn’t a sin per se, but the fact remains that some scenes felt noticeably artificial.
Marvel is also known for its use of a characteristic, Whedonesque brand of humor. When it was announced that Infinity War would be way funnier than the previous Marvel films directed by the Russo brothers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014 and Captain America: Civil War in 2016, which you could think of as their Infinity War initiation), I was afraid that humor would go at the expense of gravitas (which at times it did in Thor: Ragnarok (2017, Taika Waititi)). It doesn’t, though. Infinity War is full of truely heartfelt scenes that left many in the audience gasping.
Have you ever gone to watch your friends compete in a sports game, where you kept cheering them on even if you thought they were doomed? Avengers: Infinity War is kind of like that. We know these characters so well, and seeing them go through an ordeal like this hits you on a certain level. It maybe goes too far to say that this is the greatest superhero team up film ever made, but it is no doubt the biggest and most impactful one, and will leave audiences eagerly anticipating whatever is to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
AND HOLY SHIT THAT POST-CREDITS SCENE THOUGH.