This is a spoiler-free review of Avengers: Infinity War, the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the film 10 years in the making, so I’m not going to be a dick and ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. I just want to share my reactions to having watched the film and basically telling you how much I enjoyed it.
The first thing that’s so impressive is that this film lived up to its own hype. After all the build-up and the fact that it would have (nearly) all the MCU heroes in one film, Avengers: Infinity War had a lot riding on it and it had created a level of expectation that was going to be tough to reach. You then add in the mostly good reviews that the film is getting and you have a formula for disappointment because it can’t meet the desired result. I’m here to say that this film succeeded: it delivered on its promise and exceeded expectations. That’s an amazing achievement.
The second aspect is that this film creates precisely the same sensations that comic book fans have been enjoying for many years in the comic books, where a big story is built up and all the heroes have to come together to battle overwhelming odds. I believe that one of the main reasons for the success of the MCU films is that they have successfully transferred that best qualities of ‘comic book’ essence and made them work on the big screen in live action (and a whole load of CGI). This film delivers the same delirious enjoyment of an epic crossover, where different characters handled by different creators are brought together and maintain their essence in service to a huge story, but with all the different parts you liked from each character/team.
The plot is simple enough – Thanos is seeking the Infinity Stones for his Infinity Gauntlet so that he can wipe out half the universe, and the MCU heroes have to stop him – so it’s the individual aspects that have to satisfy, and they do so with brio. This film has spectacular action and excitement, right from the start, but it also has time for quiet character moments to remind you that it’s about the people, but it is also hilarious – the quip level is off the charts, which is perfect and exactly like the characters we know and love – which is needed in a storyline with the foreboding aspect of ‘wiping out half the universe’.
The film has MCU characters interacting with each other in a variety of ways, playing off each other in enjoyable fashion (much as the comic book fan has always enjoyed imagining the characters coming together, right from the beginning of the Marvel comic book universe), in a variety of different locations across the universe as different characters have different roles to play in the massive scale of the story. The film looks beautiful and the action scenes are amazing and a joy to behold; all the actors do their bit in bringing life to their characters in the small amount of screen time that they have, because there are so many included in this film, and where everyone gets good screen time and something to justify their existence in the film, including supporting characters.
A special mention for Thanos – I’ve always felt that the character was a bit silly (I bought and read The Infinity Gauntlet series as it came out and thought he and it were silly back then, and I worried that the mini-series and villain seem to have formed the basis for the central connecting thread in the MCU) and I was concerned by previous appearances of the character. However, I was wrong: the CGI/mo-cap works, the character is three-dimensional, Brolin voices the character with depth (in character and in vocal tone) and you believe in Thanos.
The kudos must go to directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and their screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who both also wrote Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War for the same directors), plus of course producer Kevin Feige, who has charted the course of the MCU so successfully for so long. Corralling such a large and diverse cast of characters into a single, cohesive story with time for quiet moments and belly laughs in between the spectacle is a huge task that they have accomplished admirably.
Getting everyone into this film (the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and various supporting characters), maintaining the plotlines and the tones from previous films, including very specific callbacks, plus obligatory cameos and surprises, while making it all coherent and living up to expectations – I wouldn’t want that sort of pressure, but these fellas seem to have thrived on it. On top of that, the filmmakers have coped with the changes in tone within the story itself, mixing dark and light in a successful balance that keeps you entertained throughout. The 2.5 hours of screen time whizzes past in a cornucopia of comic book confection that is a delight and still seems like not enough – there is so much going on that I will enjoy going to see this in the cinema again so that I can take it all in.
The minor negatives of the film: if you haven’t watched the films leading up to this, you won’t really know what’s going on; also, it’s the first half of the story so 2019 can’t come soon enough for the second part of the as yet untitled Avengers 4 to see if they stick the landing, because Avengers: Infinity War is absolutely fantastic …