The release of Avengers: Infinity War has raised a lot of questions.
Can a film successfully balance this many characters and still function as one cohesive movie?
Can Thanos really be a villain worth the attention of all the Avengers combined?
Can the film tackle Marvel’s issues with the third act and the lack of stakes?
And, most importantly – can it live up to the hype?
Turns out that the answer to all of the above is the same; yes, yes it can.
Thanos, a giant purple space dude from Titan, has been pulling the strings of the MCU as we know it pretty much from the start. He was behind Loki’s attack on New York in Avengers Assemble, Ronan going after the orb in Guardians of the Galaxy, and has been sending other alien beings to do his dirty work and collect all 6 Infinity Stones, so as to possess ultimate power.
His goal is to wipe out half the universe to restore balance and as a solution to the galaxy’s finite resources being spread too thin amongst such a huge population from. Looking at how this relates to our issues here on Earth IRL, you can almost see where he’s coming from – but the Avengers can’t let the fate of the universe and trillions of deaths be in the hands of one guy, and so unite to stop him from getting the mystical MacGuffins.
So…where to start?
It’s a question that directors the Russo brothers seem to have pondered too, as Infinity War skips the usual fun-filled action sequence we tend to see at the beginning of these kinds of films to ease the audience in, and instead dives straight into one of the many dramatic and intense scenes of the movie – so much so, it feels like it’s starting in the middle, and that there’s something on the cutting room floor that proceeded it. The events of the start of the film are somewhat expected from how previous films were left, but it still makes for a jarring introduction.
The Russo’s have said that this film would belong to Thanos, and that’s evident right from the get go. You’re immediately made aware of his power and strength as an opponent for our heroes, as well as the abilities of his minions (though these are undoubtedly the most forgettable and underwhelming aspect of the film).
“Thanos is Marvel’s best villain, without a shadow of a doubt.”
Played brilliantly as a motion capture performance from Josh Brolin, Thanos is hulking and intimidating as well as intelligent and relatable. For perhaps the first time in a Marvel movie, you feel real fear at the thought of him approaching, and every time he goes to punch an opponent or use that handy Infinity gauntlet, you’re terrified of the consequences.
Thanos is Marvel’s best villain, without a shadow of a doubt. He has backstory, he has trauma that acts as motivation for his evil plan – he has true conviction in his beliefs and you can almost understand why. He’s given enough screentime for us to actually understand his motives and his personal journey, and that’s all hammered home really well in the ending. It’s hard to tell where Brolin ends and the CGI begins, but you can see the human underneath that giant purple chin, and it gives everything in the film more stakes and more clout when the antagonist is so effective.
There’s some interesting parallels in the film between how Thanos is forced to make sacrifices over and over again for what he believes him, and that in order to stop him, the Avengers may have to do the same. Captain America says early on that ‘we don’t trade lives’, and that’s something that keeps cropping up and forcing the team to make some really hard decisions.
With the sheer number of characters at play, Infinity War feels almost like Captain America: Civil War dialled up to eleven. The film was clearly placed in the Russo’s hands because they’ve shown an ability to balance so many people and narrative threads, and they’ve done another stellar job.
What helps is that there’s barely a sliver of time taken for exposition, or to recap our heroes in any way. In fact, there’s so much assumed knowledge from the audience that anyone mad enough to see this film without having invested some serious hours into watching the MCU will leave extremely confused. The script does the bare minimum in terms of bridging the gaps between the most recent films and the present moment, with characters catching each other up or introducing themselves – but does this in fleeting moments around the action.
“random groups of our heroes are thrown together, with the chemistry between every single one of them outstanding”
In something more like a series of vignettes than one linear narrative, random groups of our heroes are thrown together, with the chemistry between every single one of them outstanding, and Thanos flits in between, managing to have a scene with all of them.
Every character gets their moment, with a beat of comedy or poignancy, but some are definitely more used than others. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) seem to have the most to do, the latter you’d expect with her being Thanos’ adopted daughter, and Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) feel distinctly out of the action. This is surprising, given the success of Black Panther and how Cap was so lauded in the trailer, emerging from the shadows with beard and all, but with this many threads going on, some people had to take a step back.
As for the trailers, this might be one you wish you hadn’t watched. There’s some money shots missing from the final cut, and the way the trailers were constructed means you know a moment that’s coming in pretty much every scene, and though there are some huge surprises along the way, it’s almost like you’re watching something you’ve already seen.
The pace of the storytelling is impressive, if not so fast you can barely keep up – but with only 2 and a half hours and a whole lot of Infinity Stones to get through, you can understand why. It pauses when it needs to, for levity or emotional markers, but doesn’t waste a second in pulling all the threads together, and the fact that you completely understand where the stones are as well as why each individual character needs to be where they are so neatly is a massive achievement for a story so sprawling. Whilst what we’re left with is remarkably efficient, you can’t help but feel that there’s a 4 hour movie lurking in a past edit, which might have given you the time you needed to feel a little more absorbed in what’s happening with each group of characters.
Whatever Infinity War might be lacking in structure, it most certainly makes up for in heart. The sense of history between these characters now is astonishing if you’ve been in the MCU for the long haul. You feel like you’re watching season 19 of your favourite TV show, each movie like an extremely elaborate episode, and you’re so invested in these people that they become like old friends.
Everything the previous 18 films has set up in terms of relationships, romances and conflicts is paid off, sometimes to devastatingly heartbreaking effect. Because of the work that Marvel Studios have done over the past 10 years in building this world, every moment of Infinity War feels like pay-off, like a reward, like something you’ve always wanted to see happen – and that makes for an extremely intense and entertaining ride.
The wit and humour here is incredible, and perfectly pitched – every one liner or funny moment fits in exactly with each respective character as we already know them to be, and as we would expect them to react. Watching this film in a cinema surrounded by people resulted in communal laughs-out-loud throughout, the hilarity effortlessly relieving tension and making interactions all the more poignant. Thor making lasting damage to Peter Quill’s ego; Bruce Banner trying desperately to get the Hulk to come out and failing (‘you’re making me look bad in front of the wizards’); Groot introducing himself in his usual manner to which Cap replies ‘I am Steve Rogers’; literally any time Okoye opens her mouth – there’s no shortage of comedy.
“The last 30 minutes of this movie, if you’re as invested in the characters as Marvel hopes you are, will pretty much leave you speechless.”
The action itself is good, though not as good as we’ve seen it from the Russo brothers – because the nature of the story is so much more cosmic and fantastical, it doesn’t quite have the more grounded feel of fight sequences that were so effective in Winter Soldier and Civil War, and whilst it’s as cool as you’d expect to see so many of our heroes fighting together that had previously never met, the action isn’t what makes this movie special.
What does make Infinity War stand a million miles separate from the rest of the MCU is the bravery of the ending. As a fellow CineBlog writer said in our group chat this week, ‘I DIDN’T KNOW DISNEY HAD THE BALLS’. This film isn’t afraid of casualties from the get go, but we all knew that was coming. The gut-punch that is the ending, though? NONE of us will have expected that. The last 30 minutes of this movie, if you’re as invested in the characters as Marvel hopes you are, will pretty much leave you speechless. The entire runtime is an emotional rollercoaster, but the ending of this film is extremely brave, and bold, and we dare you not to well up.
Bear in mind, however – Avengers 4 (as yet untitled) is due next year, and there’s a post-credits sting to that end that you HAVE to stay and wait for. To be honest, you will most likely be hoping that the credit sting is in fact the next movie in its entirety just to give you some kind of closure. The sting is VITAL for you to not walk away from this movie disliking it and its creators for the emotional ringer they’ve put you through, and will have you bursting with fury at having to wait so long for the next instalment – but then again, that’s probably what Marvel were hoping for.
The sheer visceral response that Infinity War will pull from Marvel fans is enough to put it near the top of anyone’s list of favourite superhero movies. The depth, the history, the humour…the tension you feel at the thought of – is this person’s time up? Is this where we finally lose them? There is jeopardy sewn into every second of this film, and it will have you both leaning forward out of your seat in disbelief and shrinking back into it in fear. The credits roll and you’re left speechless at what you’ve just seen, and then unable to talk about anything else afterwards – and what more can cinema hope for than that?
It would have been so easy for this film to fail: too many characters, not enough action, the plot not making sense. But Infinity War has not fallen into any of these traps. It’s shown movies like Justice League what it really takes to build a universe that audiences invest in – it takes time, and commitment, and forward planning, and, most importantly, good movies.
Avengers: Infinity War is not perfect. It probably isn’t even the best Marvel movie. But it is truly a cinematic experience like no other. What Marvel Studios have achieved in creating this world is unparalleled, and the quality just seems to keep, inexplicably, increasing. This movie may have been what everything was leading up to, but it’s nowhere near over yet. We can’t wait to see what happens next.
Avengers: Infinity War is showing in cinemas now.
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