Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Dirs: Anthony & Joe Russo
NOTE: I’m keeping this shorter and simpler to ensure a SPOILER-FREE review.
Since the inclusion of the first infinity stone and Thanos’ post-credit appearance in ‘Avengers’ it’s all been leading to this… But does the decade-long build up pay off?
Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin with the aid of mo-cap) comes to Earth in pursuit of the Infinity Stones, as collecting them all will give him unfathomable power. Standing in his way are Earth’s mightiest heroes as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy and others, uniting essentially all the characters of the MCU to try to stop him.
It’s three years to the week since I saw ‘Age of Ultron’ as the culmination of a 24-hour marathon, a film that I really enjoyed on first viewing, though now I find it doesn’t hold up nearly as well alongside others, especially some of the films that followed. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve rewatched a handful of the MCU movies, including the ‘Avengers’ and ‘Civil War’, finding a new appreciation for the first Avengers movie, partly as I recently visited New York so I enjoyed watching the locations getting destroyed but also I had half-forgotten how well it’s written, with tonnes of little lines and nods that I now appreciate even more than when I first saw it. Those films were epic, they felt like they had high stakes and good reasons for the joining of forces. ‘Infinity War’ redefines high stakes.
The threat posed by Thanos doesn’t just affect Earth, and it’s clearly stated that his power will grow if he gets his hands on more Infinity stones (or gets more Infinity stones on his hand to be precise). Going into this there was a feeling that if the MCU was ever going to actually kill off a character or change things in a major way, this would be the film in which they would do it.
I’ve not read the comics that deal with this storyline but I had solid theories in my mind based on preceding films and things from the trailers, I also knew a bit of Thanos’ backstory, so I thought I knew a little of what to expect. While some ideas proved right, there’s so much that I didn’t foresee and the film kept surprising me throughout. From the start there’s immediate peril, Thanos doesn’t warm up, he’s a formidable threat from the first scene.
Almost everyone gets a moment or two in which to shine, whether it be a heroic turn or just a memorable line. There’s also some nice carry-over from the various properties, for instance, the scenes with the Guardians, especially their very first, has a lot of the humour and tone we’re used to and have come to love from them. When the film is not full of action, almost all the moments in between are heavy on emotion, so not a scene feels wasted or inconsequential.
There are so many characters and things happening in multiple places at the same time. I’m an avid fan of the MCU and recently renewed my memory of important events, so following who was who and where they were and why wasn’t too hard for me, though I can imagine if someone hadn’t seen ‘Black Panther’ or ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ for example they might be at some disadvantage as characters and plot points from those films lead directly into this.
Thanos is brilliantly played by Josh Brolin. For the most part he looks great. Some scenes have such extensive CGI that it’s noticeable, one critic suggested at times Thanos looks like he was lifted from ‘Warcraft’, and while I don’t think it’s that bad, there’s an undeniable similarity, especially for some members of his Black Order. One of those, a female warrior called Proxima Midnight, seemed to be complete CGI through motion capture, frustratingly I spent a lot of the time she was on screen wondering why. She’s no huge TItan like Thanos, nor massively biologically different to a human, so I kept thinking her character could have been made to look exactly the same with some make-up work instead of entering the CGI character realm and all the issues that often brings with it, especially when they talk. It wasn’t terrible by any means but when a character like that is in the same film as Gamora, Drax, Nebula and others who are at least partly rendered with practical effects, then the over-reliance on CGI comes into question.
‘Epic’ in the true meaning of the word, I think this is a great ‘Avengers’ movie. While it’s heavy on plot and action, there’s enough deeper themes and character development to add needed emotional weight to the already overwhelming physical destruction. There’s no getting around the vast impact this will have on the MCU, so by the end, you’ll wish that the next part of this storyline was in a few months not a whole year away as it’s almost impossible to fathom where we go from here.