Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Winston Duke, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Vin Diesel, Terry Notary, Peter Dinklage, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Brolin
Well, here it is, the fuss it’s all been about for the past decade. The Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy and more come together as not just Earth and the galaxy are under threat, but the entire universe. That threat being the big purple dude known as Thanos. Through eighteen films that have preceded Infinity War we have come to know, and in a few cases love, many of Marvel’s most well-known heroes, and now they face their biggest challenge, not knowing who, if anyone, will come out alive. And perhaps the same risk applies to Disney, Marvel Studios and the Russo brothers. Though the gauntlet was thrown down (pun entirely intended) and the challenge accepted by studios, filmmakers and actors alike, can Infinity War live up to the expectations of fans (of the films and/or comics), or has it all been just to appease the want and need for an epic team-up?
First off, this review is entirely SPOILER-FREE. It’s going to be a general roundup of what you can expect on the surface without giving any plot points away. The basic story is this: Possibly the evilest and most powerful Marvel villain, Thanos, has gotten hold of a powerful object known as the Infinity Gauntlet. This golden glove has six spaces on it for the six Infinity Stones that, when all are together and fitted into the gauntlet, allow the wearer to wield an insane amount of power that could destroy the entire universe with one click of his or her fingers. Thanos wants these stones, obviously, and it’s down to all the MCU heroes (bar one or two) to track down each stone and stop Thanos from… well, you know.
The first thing to note is that, for the majority of the two-and-a-half hours (now the MCU’s longest film), Infinity War is an absolute onslaught on the senses. But what else would you expect from not only an Avengers movie, but a movie with ‘war’ in the title? Most other films with such enthusiasm (to put it lightly) for action can be easily off-putting after about ten minutes, particularly if there’s no real story or characterisation to back it up and give it meaning. Luckily Infinity War will capture your attention from the off, as it hits the ground running with a strong opening that starts not long after the end of Thor: Ragnarok. The action rarely lets up, and on the odd occasion that it does, you will realise you are tense and on the edge of your seat: a brief moment of respite to remember you are only in a cinema, not on the Milano. During the end credits you can relax and take in everything you’ve just witnessed, as you await the post-credits scene (which is not a spoiler, as any MCU regular will know there is always a post-credits scene. If you do not know this, you should not be watching this film and you are hereby ordered to take the Time Stone and go back to 2008 and start again).
The story overall, written by Captain America, The Winter Soldier, Civil War and Thor: The Dark World co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, is pretty solid, though really the majority of it had already been set up in each hero’s individual film(s), as well as in The Avengers/Avengers Assemble, Age of Ultron and Civil War. Nevertheless, new elements have been added to flesh Infinity War out into its own film, rather than as a product of a decade of material. It stands on its own two feet rather than taking the credit of years of hard work from the eighteen previous films that are the muscular, well-built legs attached to those feet (a humble lesson that DC could learn: walk before you run). As we know, Infinity War brings together numerous characters in the extended MCU who have never met on the big screen before, something that is sure to excite a ridiculous amount of fans more so than Infinity War’s direct predecessor team-ups. It also means a lot of the characters’ individual stories come to a sort of cross roads, possibly in preparation for future movies (depending on actor contracts, that is). Each scene is dedicated to a handful of our favourite protagonists coming together with their unique strengths to thwart Thanos’ attempts to get the Stones. This is in part what makes the dense amount of action bearable. Each grouping gets a certain amount of time with the audience, kind of splitting the movie into segments, so that you can’t really get bored. As soon as a group’s ten/fifteen minutes are up, we jump to another group, which each time makes you go ‘oh yeah, this lot are together! Let’s see how they’re getting on’.
The characters are all just as charming as ever in their own special ways, and the dialogue is pretty much there, however at times it’s plain that Markus and McFeely have tried to imitate the kind of humour that Joss Whedon injected into the two previous Avengers movies, but without quite hitting on the same comedic mark that’s unique to Whedon. Credit where credit’s due for the attempt, but at times the comedy is pushed almost over the edge into pointless. It’s possibly a credit to the Russo brothers for reigning it in when necessary (after all, this isn’t a Guardians-only movie), but a few times it very nearly falls off the edge into Knowhere. Thanos in particular is a character that, if you’re unfamiliar with the character in general, isn’t the two-dimensional villain that ninety-per-cent of movies deal with. He bears more than just a resemblance to Shrek: he has those onion-like layers that provide depth and genuine motivation that might even make you think about his reasoning, even just for a second. If there’s one thing Marvel have always been good at, its villains, and Thanos is the best of their best (or so many fans say).
With great action comes great visual effects and production design (usually). Motion-capturing Josh Brolin as the hugely imposing Thanos is expertly done, right down to the strong chin and familiar eyes. The creation of space and planets and unique characters all lend towards the feeling that the entire universe truly is at stake. When you’ve got some of the universes biggest heroes and villains (and actors) battling it out, the world and space around them has to match up, and match up it does, whether its flying through space, creating vortex’s via wizardry, or just showing off beautiful natural landscape that makes places like Wakanda so enticing, it all helps keep the movie interesting, especially during those aforementioned rare lulls in action. A lot of the time it’s necessary as a reminder as to just what these heroes are fighting for.
Infinity War truly is just what the fans have been waiting for. It’s sure to be the action/adventure blockbuster of the summer (and the summer isn’t even here yet). It would be a shock if it didn’t top all MCU films and become the highest-grossing MCU movie to date. So far The Avengers/Avengers Assemble tops the lot, currently ranking number five on the list of highest-grossing films of all time* (before inflation). With Black Panther already having snuck in there at number ten, it is likely to only be a matter of time before Infinity War makes its debut in the top ten. With more movies to come in the next couple of years at the very least (including the as yet untitled part two of Infinity War next year), the MCU certainly shows no signs of slowing down. Signs of change, yes, but not of decelerating in any capacity. With their constant use of innovative and fresh talent (directors, writers, performers, to name a few), there’s no stopping the MCU machine for quite some time. Infinity War is another integral and solid cog in that ever-growing machine, ready to churn out its next blockbuster.