What a mind-boggling juggling act this is. So many characters, powers, locations, histories and they all have to be brought together in a coherent, entertaining and emotionally satisfying way after ten years worth of setup. An lo and behold, the creative team behind AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR did it…almost. I’ll have to watch this again soon with a less distracting audience, but for now I’m of the opinion it’s a very good, well performed superhero epic with a few flaws.
All has been leading to this. The Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) comes to Earth to complete his acquisition of the six Infinity Stones, which will allow him complete control over time and space, life, death and reality. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes the Avengers, bolstered by the Guardians of the Galaxy, the nation of Wakanda and the planet’s magical defenders, finally unite and make their stand.
“You’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards!” I worried that so many different tones and styles from the individual films wouldn’t fit together, but I needn’t have. Like the previous Avengers movies it’s big personalities butting heads that provides the most levity (Stark and Star-Lord, Stark and Strange, basically Tony brings out the worst in everybody) and from the off the veritable army of characters are split off into smaller groups with their own unique mission to accomplish. These team configurations are sometimes unexpected but usually engaging and, because the story spans the Galaxy, many Avengers never share the screen with each other.
Here’s what I’ll say about the deaths: there are some.
I know we like to rib Cumberbatch for his unconvincing New Yoik accent, but Doctor Strange almost completely steals the show here, boasting the most rounded performance among some truly imposing competition, becoming unexpectedly central to the plot (not unlike Adam Warlock’s role in the comic) and boasting about three times as many cool displays of power as anyone else. If Marvel really go to town on his weird, psychedelic corner of the universe in future movies then we’re in for a treat. A close second comes Brolin’s surprisingly nuanced vocals, somehow managing to get across that the big purple dude who wants to wipe out half the population of the universe still has a beating (but very twisted) heart. Most heroes get their time to shine (notably Thor, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch and Gamora) and fit as comfortably back in to these roles as you’d expect from an ensemble of many years. Obviously characters have got to fit in where they naturally can in the given story, but some (Black Widow, Black Panther and his supporting cast) do feel inevitably hard done by.
The Russo brothers have blended the style from their Captain America films with what Joss Whedon previously established for THE AVENGERS. The word of the day is “epic” and as such everything is made to look as imposing as possible with grandly staged, cleaner and less crunchy action. It’s perhaps why characters like Doctor Strange and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) tend to have less trouble standing out against the Armageddon, their powers being bigger and flashier than most of their teammates’. A few smaller moments stand out as well, like disastrous mistakes heroes make when their hearts overtake their heads and especially when we see the most disturbing image from the comic rejigged and brought to distressing life.
It can’t help but be conventional at times. The set pieces in the first two acts (the inventive and globe-spanning skirmishes with the very nasty “Children of Thanos”) are a lot more interesting and different than those in the third (pretty standard boss fight and big battle between armies) and are we really still not past “girl fights” as an action movie cliché? Oh look, they’ve got a woman on their team (a woman, one hastens to add, who is fully capable of tearing your spine out) better send our team’s ladies in!
It’s nigh-on impossible to dig into what works and what doesn’t in the plot without talking about, y’know, the plot. But people don’t want to know what happens so soon after release, so I’ll leave it at this: while a fair few moments carry weight due to how many movies we’ve spent with these characters, it does seem like there’s an all-too-easy out for what should be the gut punch of the movie. I’ve seen comparisons to EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and, yes, it’s tonally similar, but I get the feeling the fallout from Infinity War’s apocalyptic events will end up being far from permanent. We’ll find out next year exactly what tricksy ways they get around it, but for now sit back and enjoy the dazzling spectacle and partial payoff, because this was just the overture. SSP