It’s difficult to write a review for a movie like Avengers: Infinity War. It’s difficult because every Avengers movie is more of a culmination and celebration of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) than an individual film. And if you think the first two Avengers movies were big, Avengers: Infinity War is something else entirely.
Infinity War brings together not only the original members of the Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, etc..), but the Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man and others including Scarlet Witch, Vision and War Machine. With so many characters, no wonder the movie is 2 ½ hours long.
But you need the ’27 Yankees to deal with a villain like Thanos. Introduced at the end of The Avengers, Thanos is the ultimate bad-ass in the galaxy. His goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to wipe out half of all living beings in the universe. It’s his sordid way of establishing balance so that those who remain can lead a full and rich life. That or he just has a real affinity for jewelry.
And he’s arriving at the worst possible time for the Avengers. Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, the Avengers have split up. Cap and several others have gone dark, Iron Man is struggling with the truth behind his parent’s death and Thor and Hulk are hurtling through space.
Within the first five minutes, Avengers: Infinity War establishes one rule: there are no rules. Whatever you think you know or love about the MCU changes quickly with Thanos. It’s a shocking opening that sets the tone for the rest of the film. It also introduces Thanos as something more than a one-note villain who’s only desire is to destroy the world.
The best villains are those who believe what they’re doing is morally right. Thanos is a character with a belief system and moral compass. It makes him terrifying and somewhat empathetic at the same time. Josh Brolin dons the mo-cap suit to portray Thanos and he gives a refreshingly complicated and layered performance as the antagonist. He also cries. When was the last time we saw a baddie cry in a superhero movie?
When you have so many characters, the usual course of action is to break them up. The aspect of the film I was looking forward to the most was the interactions between characters who hadn’t previously met. In this case, seeing Tony Stark and Doctor Strange trade snarky quips was everything I wanted it to be. Equally satisfying is the Guardians interacting with any of the Avengers. Star-Lord is jealous of Thor’s good looks. Rocket wants the Winter Soldier’s metal arm and Drax continues to confuse everyone he encounters.
Despite the dour opening, the Russo Brothers maintain that signature humor that has been present in the MCU going all the way back to the original Iron Man. The stakes may be as high as ever, but there’s still room for jokes about Cap’s haircut, Bruce Banner’s performance issues and the movie Footloose.
The Russo Brothers previously directed the last two Captain America movies and they prove worthy successors to Joss Whedon in taking over the Avengers films. Every character has a moment to shine which is remarkable and they once again show off their ability to create fun and exciting set pieces. During a pivotal scene, a number of characters team up to remove Thanos’ mighty glove. It’s as if comic book panels leap from the screen as our heroes work together to stop Thanos.
Despite being the longest movie in the MCU, Infinity War flies by thanks to roughly 80 percent of it being action. This proves to be a bit exhausting. While there are some emotionally effective beats, it would have been nice to see a few quieter moments. The constant action causes the film to feel a little disjointed narratively.
I mentioned earlier that each of the characters are given their moment to shine. But for a large majority of the characters, it’s only a moment. There’s a romance between Scarlet Witch and Vision that proves to be a pivotal relationship in the movie. But there isn’t enough time for us to buy them as tragic lovers.
Cap and Black Widow are given nothing to do and while the last act features Wakanda heavily, the rich and interesting country established in Black Panther is nothing but a playground of destruction in Infinity War. You could tell this movie was filmed before the release of Black Panther. It’s kind of like when Lupita Nyong’o won an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave and then showed up as a flight attendant in a Liam Neeson action movie a few months later. Marvel just didn’t know what kind of phenomenon Black Panther was going to be.
There’s also a few powerful superheroes conveniently “hurt” in some way resulting in Thanos having a much easier time. But these are minor quibbles.
Avengers: Infinity War is everything Marvel fans want in a superhero movie. It’s exciting, funny and full of surprises. Now let’s talk about the ending. I won’t give anything away, but let’s just say it ends on a cliffhanger. It’s meant to be shocking, but it kind of felt like a cop-out regarding the stakes. Perhaps it will play a little better once we know the full context of the overall story with the release of the final Avengers movie next summer.
But for now, enjoy the mother of all superhero movies. Ten years and 18 movies have led to this and for the most part, Marvel and Disney pull it off.