Review by Daniel Weber
Running Time: 2 hours 29 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely
(Based on the comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)
Starring: Robert Downy Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Danai Guirra, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, Chris Pratt, William Hurt, Leitia Wright, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Carrie Coon, Michael James Shaw, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba
So… how was the last decade or so for you? What did you do? Do you even remember? I sure don’t. Ten years ago I was in my bar hopping heyday. I was going out to karaoke five nights a week, shaking off hangovers every morning, and making all sorts of bad decisions. But outside of a broad view of things and a couple of specifically traumatizing incidents, I don’t remember what I did last week let alone ten years ago. I do remember seeing Iron Man in the theater though, getting stoked at seeing the beginning of what would come to be called The Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Flash forward and here I am, reviewing the first half of a culmination of what amounts to almost a third of my entire life. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that up till this point Kevin Feige and the rest of the brass running the MCU have done a wonderful job. Billions of dollars, 13 released films, numerous television spin-offs, and dozens of stars later and Feige and friends have brought us the first half of the (first) endgame – and like almost all previous MCU efforts – and unlike many attempts at superhero movies that cram as many characters as they can in a sequel – they’ve pretty much succeeded with flying colors.
The biggest worry about Avengers: Infinity War is the same worry we all had about the previous two Avengers movies and Captain America: Civil War, which was basically Avengers: Two Point Five. Will the film hold up with all of those characters?
A photo I was able to snag of the end credits on my phone.
I mean really, my fingers were cramping after typing the “Starring” part of this review. Look at that list, it’s insane. However while other comic book movies have proven to be too bloated when it comes to their sequels and packing as many characters as they can, some how all the MCU films have been immune to all those traps and pitfalls. It’s clear it’s been a mix of the creative talent behind each film, and the guiding hand of Kevin Feige, who developed a long term plan to get us to the clash between The Avengers and Thanos.
Avengers: Infinity War is a much larger undertaking than any previous Avengers movie however, and while the film does all it can to make it work, and ends up delivering in the end, with so much going on and this many main characters it was literally impossible to not come away from the film with a few criticisms. Though Marvel did all it could to mitigate these problems, it was just impossible to keep this a completely smooth ride. But hey – since when are the smoothest rides the most fun?
The film begins a few minutes after where Thor: Ragnarok ends, and we can deduce later in the film that despite being released after Thor: Ragnarok, the events in The Black Panther had to have happened somewhat before the events in the last Thor film. As soon as it starts, Avengers: Infinity War never lets up. There are no lulls in the film, it’s almost all-forward all the time, except for very brief moments of calmer exposition or humor, which are much needed to catch your breath.
Unsurprisingly, I don’t know if I’ve ever really seen a film packed with so many big sequences. The film treats its audience with respect in this way, not assuming it has to backtrack and explain everything that’s going on. It rightfully assumes if you’re watching this film then you have followed, at least loosely, what’s happened up to this point in the MCU, and it’s refreshing to be treated like an adult in that way when it comes to superhero movies. This combination of leaving out almost any exposition about the previous films, as well as the tightly packed, never-let-up action sequences ends up producing what may be the closest to the feeling of reading a comic book that a film has ever accomplished. And I mean so close that it’s almost a wholly unique movie experience because of it.
Infinity War tries to get around the issue of such a large cast by cleverly dividing the characters up into groups and sending them on different arcs in the plot. While those arcs all wind up working out really well in the end, getting to the end just can’t help but feel a bit disjointed. I didn’t feel it was because it wasn’t executed well, it was just a consequence of the scale of the entire project. You can’t refuse to take into account Infinity War is the climax of 10 years of films, all pointing toward this one film. Or one half of two films? Or whatever, you know what I mean. And that makes Infinity War like no film to have come before it. So it’s unfair to not cut it some slack in that regard, especially when the final product as a whole ends up being so good despite it not being completely flawless the entire way through.
Outside of that Avengers: Infinity War does so many things well. All the hallmarks of a Marvel/Avengers film are here and then some. Amazing action sequences, characters you believe and care about, humor, inner-conflict, suspense. Along with the break-neck pace of the film, where action is either on the screen or about to be, Infinity War also has this amazing sense of give and take. The loop of “Suspense – Elation – Devastation” is constant and masterful.
Infinity War also gives us what I believe is by far the best villain in the Marvel films, and actually may be close to rivaling the two great villains from the Netflix shows, Killgrave and Kingpin. Thanos (Josh Brolin) ends up becoming a flawed and sympathetic antagonist by the middle of the film. You don’t agree with him, but you understand him, at least a little. This more nuanced villain is what most of the Marvel films are missing, so it’s really nice to see a more complex rival in Thanos.
Being a single father sucks, let alone when you have to give your little girl “The Talk”
I obviously have tried to avoid spoilers in this review, as just like the film itself, if you’re reading this you probably have a sense of who plays Captain America (Chris Evans) or what an Asgardian is. I could get into more specific details about what worked, like how Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) ends up squabbling with both Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Star Lord (Chris Pratt) as the film moves along, and how awesome yet different and nuanced both conflicts are. I’d rather you get the experience yourself, and I just give you broad strokes like “inner conflict was great!” That still leaves the elephant in the room though…
Who dies? Everyone knew people were going to die. Would it be just one person? Two? Lots of secondary characters? A full-on George R.R. Martin death-fest? Maybe one of those is right. Maybe none of them are. But I don’t think me saying that this was clearly the Empire Strikes Back of the series in regards to how it ends is a surprise or spoiler to anyone. Nor would me saying that they set the second half up perfectly and I’m even more excited to see the next film.
In the end, Infinity War may not have been perfect but it was an insanely fun ride, and as close to a comic book experience as I’ve ever seen accomplished on the big screen. Feige has done a literally unbelievable job to get the MCU to this point, and I have a hard time thinking it’ll stop with the next Avengers film. It will most certainly be different after the conclusion of the Infinity Stone saga, but I doubt it’ll be less entertaining, or profitable. Avengers: Infinity War was only made because of the hard and amazing work of all the producers, directors, writers, and actors that brought a comic book universe to life in a way no one before them has been able to, and Infinity War itself is by far no exception.