Avengers: Infinity War
Jacob Richardson | 25/04/2018
Ten years ago the MCU kicked off. With the frenetic, never let up Avengers: Infinity War, it approaches it’s inevitable explosive end; and it does so with real stakes, incredible action and a flair for everything you love about Marvel.
When big baddie Thanos (Josh Brolin) tracks down the Tesseract, he ramps up his pursuit of the remaining Infinity Stones to fill his shiny new gauntlet - all in service of his ultimate goal; to be able to eviscerate half of the Universe with a snap of his fingers. With such a widespread and destructive plan, you’d expect him to come up against some forces of good looking to stop him, and Thanos not only arouses the ire of Earth’s mightiest heroes in the Avengers, but also the Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a race against time as they race to track down the remaining Infinity Stones, in an effort to keep them from Thanos’ grasp.
There are some movies that are inevitably more than movies. Black Panther was one such film; a byproduct of its own place in our history, revolutionising racial depiction on screen and creating a cultural zeitgeist. Indeed, the original Avengers was such; a long awaited superhero team up thought nigh on impossible before Kevin Feige brought his own special brand of problem solving to the Marvel universe.
And now we have Infinity War; the first part of a two part capstone of 19 Marvel films - 10 years in the making. And it’s bloody glorious.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, who have been adamant that fans avoid spoilers and the internet prior to their viewing, Infinity War is undoubtedly a movie best seen fresh. They bring the same sense of gritty realism and plotting to the tale that they did with Winter Soldier, and indeed the Captain America sequel is most likely the closest comparator in tone, because this certainly feels like a genre piece. Infinity War drops you in the middle of the action with no Marvel crawl, as surprised as our heroes, and for the duration of the incredibly, satisfyingly long 2 hr 29 minute film, you’re on the back foot. It’s a constant retreat, trying to stem the flood of the improbably powerful Thanos and his occasionally interesting, up to the challenge cronies as they get stone after stone.
Most excitingly for an MCU movie, Infinity War has actual stakes. Characters we know and love die, and the Russo’s waste no time in letting us know that not all our heroes will survive this encounter (indeed, none might). It makes for a much more intrepid sense of storytelling, keeping a constant air of suspense about the picture.
It also makes the inevitable hero moments and team ups so much more satisfying, because we know that at any minute this rag-tag, multi-galactic, dispersed team may be broken apart irreparably. The Russos, who have smartly managed to eschew any real giveaways in the trailer (if you go back you might actually see some shots that could never have been in the film), consistently surprise us with the combinations of heroes we see on screen; it’s not an even split of heroes as presented in the trailers, but rather a constantly melding quadrilogy of teams that convenes in different combinations on different planets in service of their ‘stop him at all costs’ plan. Dr Strange and Iron Man's bickering is offset by Peter Parkers purity, Thor and Peter Quill have some nice back and forth banter, and Bucky and Rocket have one of the most cheerable moments of the film.
Infinity War is also undeniably beautiful, with some of the most impressive CGI work from Marvel to date. Whether it’s the sandy, gravity distorting oranges of Titan, the purple hues of The Milano, the incredibly picturesque dream sequences or the rainy darkness of Scotland, the movie combines tones, genres and sensibilities seamlessly both visually, narratively and tonally. The Wakandan fight scenes, in particular, are stunningly shot and kinetic.
Thanos, for being a giant purple CGI monster with a scrotum-style chin, manages to resonate and connect as a villain, and this is in large part due to the performance of Josh Brolin, who delivers the requisite gravitas for the grandiose, self-obsessed monologuing. His relationship with Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is explored expertly, giving it depth and meaning.
That is, perhaps, more than can be said for a number of other relationships, connections and personal events, which sometimes feel glossed over. We’re assumed to be familiar with these characters and their journey over the past 10 years, and for a large part that is an accurate assumption. It’s in the new, minor details, however, that this feeling of glossing over occurs; Tony’s new chest plate, the introductions and understanding of Thor’s presence amongst the Guardians. Oftentimes, while the circumstances of these meetings feel authentic, their outcome and rapid resolution feels contrived.
This feels like more of an issue during the film than after it. When the big, climactic reveal comes, we more readily realise that these minor details have been eschewed not because of unimportance or a disregard for audience curiosity, but rather in pursuit of a feeling - the feeling of panic. Because indeed this film does bring a sense of edge-of-your-seat terseness that has been missing from so many Marvel films. It’s the stakes, the never let up sense of pursuit, and the ultimate strength and power of Thanos that raises the bar, creating this ominous cloud of impending doom. It not only keeps you utterly engrossed for the duration, but also makes every stand our heroes take, every time they get up from the dirt to fight once more, so much more impressive and admirable.
Acting wise, the assembled cast is one of the best of all time, so there are no qualms there. In particular, Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt and Robert Downey Jr. have very nice moments, where their talent is required to really sell an emotion that probably, due to the pacing of the story, doesn’t have the preceding content to drive that emotional connection.
There are certainly other issues, and one of them is in Peter Dinklage’s character, who never really connects with his odd accent choice. But they are so minor, in this film that is not only so ambitious, that they don't really linger. It's a movie which manages to make a series of hero moments more than the sum of their parts, with a strong story and a true masterclass of how to run the first part of a split film. It’s an impressive achievement, and for those fans of Marvel who started all those years ago with Iron Man, it’s a long overdue, incredibly satisfying one.
Avengers: Infinity War is a mile a minute, action packed, fanboy overloading film about retreat. Bloody brilliant.