Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War

Rating


Director

Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Screenplay

Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Length

2h 29m

Starring

Robert Downey 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 Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Sean Gunn, William Hurt, Letitia Wright, Terry Notary, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Carrie Coon, Michael Shaw, Stan Lee, Winston Duke

MPAA Rating

PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.

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Review

It’s all been leading up to this. Sort of. Avengers: Infinity War is the first half of a landmark film event that will culminate with next year’s untitled Avengers team-up. Herein we find out what all the groundwork of the last ten years of world building Marvel and Disney have done and while it has its big moments, it also has its problems.

In 2008, Marvel launched the first of its Avengers films with Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, recruited to the initative by the mysterious Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). From there, we were introduced to the Incredible Hulk (originally played by Edward Norton, thereafter replaced by Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Captain America (Chris Evans). The four heroes and their various supporting characters have banded together four times now, thrice in Avengers-titled films and once hijacking the Captain America film Civil War.

While the Disney/Marvel universe has grown over the years, expanding to include characters like Ant-Man (Paul Rudd, mysteriously absent from this film), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and the Guardians of the Galaxy, these four characters have been the central figures of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) since the beginning and may be coming to their individual conclusions within the broader universe.

For Infinity War, Disney pulls in 28 familiar characters from six individual franchises. It’s filled to the brim with notable actors including eight Oscar nominees, two Oscar winners, and a slew of potential future Oscar nominees. The film certainly tries to avoid feeling overstuffed by splitting them off to various duties and tasks around the universe, but with so many characters, it is incredibly difficult not to feel inundated. If you’ve seen every one of the previous eighteen films, you should be familiar with most of these characters, which will help in not getting lost, but missing any except Ant-Man may leave you confused, especially with characters like Doctor Strange and Black Panther having only one major previous appearance each.

Over the course of the ten-year history, Marvel has been introducing clues and information about the impending arrival of the mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) who is questing across the universe in search of the six Infinity Stones. Once he controls them, he can use his custom-made gauntlet to use their powers simultaneously to eradicate half the population of the universe in order to stave off perceived eventual societal collapses like the one his homeworld experienced.

The Avengers, not seeing this as a necessary evil have lined up to stop him and with their combined might, they hope that they can at least wrest the power of the gauntlet away from him should he inevitably collect the six stones.

These characters have become so ingrained in the public consciousness that the performances of the actors involved are immaterial to how the characters are perceived. Even considering that, some of the actors do their best to bring real emotion to their depictions even if the film around it isn’t the kind that requires much effort.

While the film is filled with rousing action sequences and a decent amount of humor, the film has a few serious problems. Apart from the strange absence of just under a dozen characters that have gone unaccounted for in the film, you don’t have to have read the comics to be able to identify just what has been set up in this film.

Predictability isn’t the most engaging tool for a franchise and while some may not pick up on all of the clues heading into 2019’s follow-up, there are plenty of details that the astute viewer can pick up and most of those details point towards a rather dispiriting finale, one where actions have no consequences. Piecing together what will happen in the next film isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Pondering where things might be going can be quite fun; however, knowing with almost certainty what will happen and recognizing the narrative cheat required to resolve the events depicted in the film’s denouement is what makes the film most aggravating.

Until the final moments of the film, audiences are sure to enjoy the hell out of this overlong feature. At two-and-a-half hours, the production feels bigger and bolder, but also longer than it needs to be. Avengers: Infinity War earns most of what it puts forth in the final moments of the film even if some members of the audience will be frustrated by what they expect to come. That said, once the two films are seen in tandem, everything may feel better about their overall quality, but they might also feel unbelievably worse, especially if the audience feels cheated rather than relieved.

Spoiler Discussion

There’s a lot that can be written about the secrets of Avengers: Infinity War and they could all potentially ruin your enjoyment of the film. As such, I would discourage you from reading further. Skip down to the Oscar Prospects section and come back after you’ve seen the film and given it a thought.

First, let’s look at the individual characters that have died in this film. All of them, such as Black Panther and Peter Quill, are part of undoubtedly profitable franchises of their own and wiping them out of the universe entirely would ruin any future plans. Thus there are only two characters in the film who died that could might fail to return once the events of this film are predictably reversed. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) die early enough in the film that they might not be able to be resurrected. However, with the major success of Thor: Ragnarok, I have to that imagine both will be revived as well.

So, how do you have consequences when you’re actively rewriting everything that happened? It’s a tactic comic books have used for years whether it’s the corny way they turned Captain America into a Hydra agent or killed Wolverine or Jean Grey multiple times only to bring both of them back. Heroes return and it’s often, sadly, in a cheap storyline. Avengers: Infinity War may be different as the carefully crafted script clearly had this planned all along; however, it’s impossible not to feel a bit frustrated or cheated by how it will (potentially) invariably work out.

That said, a promising plot thread presents itself across three specific scenes in the film featuring Tony Stark, Doctor Strange, and Peter Parker (Tom Holland). This idea provides a fascinating bit of foreshadowing. Start with the middle of the three scenes as Strange uses the time stone to view as many potential timelines as possible and declares that in only one of the millions of outcomes do they come out victorious. Follow that up with an earlier scene where Strange declares that he will not hesitate to let Stark and Parker die in order to protect the Eye of Agamotto (the green Time stone) and you probably see where this is going. Late in the film, as Thanos threatens to kill Stark if Strange doesn’t hand over the stone, he uncharacteristically does. That tells us all we need to know about the forthcoming plot line, something Stark will have to come up with on his own now that Strange is out of the picture.

That idea is that the reason Strange said only one outcome would work out for them is that the one timeline in question was the one timeline where Strange betrayed his oath to protect the Eye of Agamotto. Thus, by letting Stark live, he has set in motion a chain of events, laid out in next year’s Avengers film, wherein all that has transpired in this film is reversed and all is set right without a single death…at least of any of the new figures. Stark, Captain America, Hulk, and Thor all remain on the chopping block.

This leads us to a second fascinating plot element, one that’s entirely obvious, but which is completely fitting considering how this whole franchise started: by introducing four specific characters. Each of whom will make a very important contribution to the final Avengers film without much help from the myriad new characters that were introduced along the way, as they are all gone now. However, one of them, not introduced until the film’s post-credits stinger, is sure to play a key part in the next film after her introduction next March in her standalone adventure: Captain Marvel.

Oscar Prospects

Probables: Visual Effects
Potentials: Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

Review Written

May 8, 2018

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