It has, somehow, already been ten years since director Jon Favreau, actor Robert Downey Jr. and producer extraordinaire Kevin Feige delivered what would be the first big step in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And what a decade it has been. If you liken the eighteen MCU films pre-Infinity War to a television season… it’s been one hell of a show. We’ve had phenomenal episodes, some decent episodes, and some that are towards the, let’s say lower end of the Marvel quality scale. But it’s been a very fun ride so far, one that’s been escalating to a two-part season finale; the first of which, ladies and gents, is the hugely anticipated Avengers: Infinity War, which finds filmmaking brothers Joe and Anthony Russo back at the helm of a Marvel film for the third time following Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War.
Now, before we get into it, let me reassure you that there will be no spoilers here. I’ll only be touching on general plot elements, such as those that we’ve all gathered from the marketing machine.
With Infinity War, Marvel has been putting in a lot of work to ensure spoilers are at least a little less rampant, and with big reason. Suffice it to say: there are some truly jaw-dropping developments here, kicking things off in eyebrow-raising fashion from the get-go. If the studio’s been accused of softening their blows a little, well…
Thanos has been teased and drip-fed to audiences since his first appearance in a mid-credits scene in 2012’s The Avengers, driving up our impatience over the years with small appearances here and there while Marvel provided a mixed bag of villains. Thankfully, he’s worth the wait. Infinity War is Thanos’ film, from his point of view, as our heroes attempt to play catch up and find themselves in panic mode as this unstoppable force tackles his long-gestating plan. Thanos is no power-hungry caricature. His mission, as horrifying as it is, comes from a place that we can understand. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have ensured that there is strong, emotional motivation behind the villain’s actions, and that there are emotional stakes for him as well – not just the fate of our heroes.
The importance of Josh Brolin’s powerful performance as Thanos cannot be overstated. The mo-cap technology brings the giant supervillain to life beautifully and Brolin provides the troubled soul, the actor’s physical nuances and emotive traits coming through with surprising detail. It’s great to see both the actor and the character given such a spotlight, given how their roles in the MCU have been mostly on the outskirts until now.
Of course, we’re also here for our heroes, and boy, there are many of them. A tonne of Marvel characters populate this epic chapter, from the veterans – Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) among them – to the newer recruits, such as T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Not wanting to turn this review into a character and cast list, just know that you’re getting a smorgasbord and that, yes, they’re balanced out nicely… well, as nicely as you can with so many characters to juggle.
We’ve been waiting for years to witness certain heroes meet and the gathering of characters here doesn’t disappoint. Whether it’s the various ego clashes or the amusing introductions to one another’s abilities, there’s a real joy that comes with seeing these personas we’ve come to love finally coming together and just conversing. Personally, I would have happily welcomed another 20 or so minutes in this already 2-and-a-half-hour film to simply relish more of the banter.
The Russos and co. keep the narrative rolling along at breakneck speed, naturally jumping from group to group and, impressively, finding a way to keep various tones by essentially finding an amalgamated tone for the overall film. That being said, and this just comes with the territory of managing so many, some characters obviously don’t have much to do, relegated to simply being minor parts of the overall conflict. Also, having so many plot beats to take care of – and a surprising number of dramatic ones at that – means that some (and only some) moments don’t quite get enough time to breathe to truly deliver that wallop. Again, these are but very slight creases in an overall masterful management of countless moving parts.
In terms of spectacle, the film delivers in spades. The bigger the screen, the better, as the Russos put the IMAX cameras to work and deliver truly spectacular-looking visual effects and set pieces. This is big, big, big stuff, and it’s easy to see the care that the Russos and their team have put into every element, from the motion capture, to the sound design, to the crisp editing; it appears every department has clearly been given the time and resources to deliver the goods.
It’s a meaty film to dissect. I could go on about individual character moments, the film’s emotional urgency, certain kick-ass action sequences; there’s a lot here, perhaps exhaustingly so, but that points to it being more a film in need of various viewings than one that’s overly crammed. This is the type of pay-off film aimed at a specific audience (arguably, this is one Marvel film that could be a little more confusing than most for those without at least some basic knowledge of the universe so far), and they won’t be disappointed. Yes, Avengers: Infinity War truly is a grand chapter in the MCU. And if you thought the anticipation for this film was hard to deal with, it’s nothing compared to how you’ll feel after witnessing the film’s stunning, audacious finale. Avengers 4 can’t come soon enough.