Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Where will you be, when it all ends?
SPOILER ALERT: We know that #ThanosDemandsYourSlience, so if you want a completely spoiler-free experience going into Avengers: Infinity War, we suggest that you re-visit our review after watching the movie.
It’s taken me a couple of days to forgive MCU architect Kevin Feige for Infinity War’s misleading marketing, chiefly the ‘It all ends here’ stuff that’s been plastered all over the trailer campaign. In reality, Avengers: Infinity War is as much of a two parter as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, the picture playing out just like a mega-budget television show series final. Yes, Marvel have dropped the ‘Part One’ from the title, but don’t be fooled, there’s no real ending here, Infinity War simply laying the groundwork for next year’s untitled Avengers 4 project, which is destined to deliver the long-heralded grand finale we’ve all been promised, the upcoming film also given the back-breaking task of having to deal with the repercussions of what transpires in Infinity War’s shocking third act — which, honestly, knocked me for a six!
With that said, Avengers 3 does hit a home run, Marvel Studios’ 19th full-length feature, and the culmination of 10 years of epic storytelling, coming together in spectacular fashion, moviemakers, who are clearly firing on all cylinders, giving audiences an action packed, planet-hopping extravaganza that mixes humor and heartbreak with jaw-dropping superhero smack-downs. For the first time, we have a comic book movie that actually feels like a comic book come to life — heck, there’s a scene that sees Thanos (wonderfully played Josh Brolin in a motion-capture suit) bring down a moon and then battle Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) using psychedelic mystic arts. But, be warned, with so much to cover, Infinity War assumes that viewers have done their homework, never stopping or slowing down to get newbies up to speed.
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo in their third Marvel go around — after Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Civil War (2016) — our story opens deep in outer space, continuing on from the mid-credits scene of last year’s Thor: Ragnarok, where Thanos’ gargantuan warship, The Sanctuary II, intercepted the Grandmaster’s vessel with all of Thor’s people on board. We soon discover that the Mad Titan has murdered all of the remaining Asgardians, bar Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the intergalactic tyrant torturing both (physically and psychologically) in order to get his hands on one of the six immensely powerful Infinity Stones. You see, when combined and placed in his metallic golden glove, these color-coded rocks would allow Thanos to bend reality to his will, in turn giving him the power to wipe-out half of the universe with just the click of a finger.
Each Bejeweled-type stone represents a different aspect of the universe — Reality, Power, Mind, Time, Space and Soul — Thanos already in possession of the purple Power Stone when he first steps out of the shadows, with only five more to gather. Accompanied by the Black Order — four fearsome lieutenants, Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw), Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) and Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary) — Thanos and his henchmen compel Loki to give up the Tesseract, which contains the glowing blue Space Stone. It’s here that we’re given the first (of many) blows to the gut, realizing that the Russos aren’t fu*king about, the film carrying legitimate stakes this time around.
Soon after, a massive Q-Ship appears in midtown Manhattan, where Ebony Maw and the Black Dwarf (Cull Obsidian), arrive to nab the Time Gem from Stephen Strange, which he keeps in the Eye of Agamotto. After an impressive clash between Strange, his sidekick Wong (Benedict Wong), Tony Stark/ Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and the nerdy Peter Parker/ Spider-Man — who swings into action after seeing the donut-shaped spacecraft while out on a school trip — Strange gets sucked into the vessel, this forcing Stark and Parker (who’s armed with a new anti-gravity ‘Iron Spider’ suit) into space. Once Strange and Stark are thrust together, the pair spends a lot of time bickering about one another’s leadership skills, playfully mocking each other, this banter creating a lot of fun moments, while Spidey keeps the pop culture references spinning.
Elsewhere, Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda Maximoff/ Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are hiding out in Edinburgh, Scotland, contemplating whether they’ll be able to make things work as a couple, when they’re jumped by Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight, who are after the Mind Stone, which is embedded in Vision’s forehead. When things seem dire, our heroes are aided by a bearded Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and his renegade team of Natasha Romanoff/ Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Sam Wilson/ Falcon (Anthony Mackie) — who, along with James Rhodes/ War Machine (Don Cheadle), happen to be the least exciting characters in the entire ensemble — the crew temporarily fending off Thanos’ goons. Warned of the Titan’s imminent arrival by Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who was beamed back onto earth by Heimdall (Idris Elba) and spends a majority of the movie trying and to call for his inner Hulk, the team head to Wakanda to try to remove the stone from Vision’s cranium without killing the guy.
Back in space, the Guardians are cursing around to the sweet sounds of The Spinners’ ‘Rubberband Man,’ until they crash into Thor, who winds up on their windshield. Egos are shattered when the God of Thunder is brought onto the Milano and Drax (Dave Bautista) begins to swoon over his heavenly masculinity, dubbing him as some kind of a ‘pirate angel,’ Peter Quill/ Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) feeling somewhat envious of Thor’s unparalleled manliness. After Thor informs the Guardians of Thanos’ fanatical plans, the crew split into two factions. Thor zips off with Rocket (Bradley Cooper) — who he refers to as ‘rabbit’ — and the brooding, moody adolescent Groot (Vin Diesel), the trio making their way to Nidavellir (home of the weapon creating Dwarves) to forge an axe known as Stormbreaker, which is (apparently) strong enough to defeat Thanos; look out for a fun cameo from Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage, who pops up as a giant dwarf named Eitri. Star-Lord and the rest of the a-holes — Drax, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) — however, head back to Knowhere to get the Reality Stone from The Collector (Benicio Del Toro), where they come face-to-face with the biggest bad of the big bads, Thanos himself.
Up until this point, Brolin’s Thanos has (mostly) been relegated to the background; I, for one, was always concerned that, with so much going on in Infinity War, he’d end up being another Malekith or Ronan the Accuser, a mustache-twirling baddie with little in the way of motive or depth. Fortunately, Thanos feels like the main character here with Infinity War being pretty much his story, viewers learning more about the purple big guy than any of the other costumed crusaders. Turns out that Thanos is some kind of twisted humanitarian who believes that he needs to slice the universe’s population in half to ensure its survival, the way he calmly rationalizes mass murder making him one eerily disturbing dude.
What’s more, Josh Brolin, Men in Black 3 (2012), infuses the guy with a force that feels as though it’d take about 20 super-powered men to take him out. Painting this MCU Overlord with shades of grey, Brolin imbues ‘Chins’ with pain and sorrow, our antagonist burdening himself by doing what he feels needs to be done after seeing his home world of Titan crumble and fall. Some of the flick’s most powerful moments take place after the genocidal Thanos is reunited with his stepdaughter Gamora. There’s a moving sequence that involves Brolin and Saldana, which sees Gamora refuse to give into her stepdad’s demands while he’s torturing her half-sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) for the location of a hidden stone.
Based on the 1991 comic book miniseries The Infinity Gauntlet, written by Jim Starlin, George Pérez and Ron Lim, though reworking some of the specifics, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Captain America: Civil War (2016), ought to be commended for the near-impossible task of bringing all these iconic characters together for one audacious showdown, the film staying faithful to both its source material and the spirit of the MCU; the star-studded cast mesh so well together that one mightn’t even notice that all of the 20 or so Avengers, in fact, never meet up — that’s what the next chapter’s for, I guess.
With that said, Infinity War, with its exhausting two-and-a-half hour runtime, does feel rather bloated, the narrative overflowing with subplots upon subplots whilst trying to introduce new players and ideas into the mix. The Black Order generals, for instance, aren’t given a smidgen of backstory, even if this supervillain squad still manage to stand out, these nightmare-fueling CGI boogeymen proving to be a real threat to our outmatched heroes. Hemsworth’s Thor, Rocket and Teenage Groot also spend too long of a time on their mini-quest, while only a handful of characters get any sort of decent development, most (cracking jokes, looking cool or giving witty one-liners) simply reminding us that they’re still around; T’Challa/ Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and his bodyguard Okoye (Danai Gurira) only get a couple of lines, as does Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who’s finally reunited with his BFF Rogers.
Then there’s the haunted Tony Stark, whose troubling apparition of the galactic threat six years earlier could have easily added additional weight to proceedings, his horrifying hallucination coming off as a mere afterthought. And what of Scott Lang/ Ant-Man and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye? Well, sorry to break it to ya folks, they’re simply not in the movie, both MIA, so I can see why they’ve been omitted from the promo material.
From the breathtaking production design (which transports us to a number of beautiful slash terrifying planets), stunning cinematography and Alan Silvestri’s exuberant score, Infinity War succeeds as a triumph for those who have been following MCU’s exploits thus far, the sprawling cosmic adventure bolstered by some truly awe-inspiring VFX — a monumental confrontation between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and a sea of toothy, four-armed humanoids is bound to give even the most moderate of fanboys the chills. If anything, the Russos have proven, time and time again, that they have a clear vision of where they’d like to take the things, Infinity War their boldest, and most ambitious movie to date. Wrapping up on a climactic cliff-hanger that’s bound to send shockwaves through the rest of the MCU and set up future installments, Infinity War’s doom-and-gloom ending does slightly hinder what’s come before, cheapening some of the more shocking narrative beats. Come this time next year, one thing’s for certain … Thanos Will Return.
4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended
Reviewed by Mr. Movie