Some 10 years in, Marvel’s Avengers series has become a film colossus with the clout to go for the jugular in Infinity War.
The 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the franchise’s ultimate team-up. It assembles together the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy and the likes of Dr Strange, Spider-Man and Black Panther for an all-out assault against a God-like supervillain.
As box office, it was almost certain to be gold. Within two weeks or so, it has raced past the $1billion mark worldwide – a feat you suspect will be matched by the second part, which will come out next year.
It’s safe to say that after the conclusion, the second part of the Infinity War story will have a lot of heavy lifting to do to get the Avengers out of the crisis this film leaves them in.
The story is a fairly straight-forward one, but has been threaded out nicely after being set-up at various points stretching back to the original Avengers Assemble film in 2012. The quest the Avengers face is to stop intergalactic despot Thanos (Josh Brolin), who is attempting to seize the six Infinity Stones.
Scattered throughout the universe, these brightly coloured gems fit neatly into a bronze gauntlet he has had made, and would grant him ultimate power. As his ambition is to erase half the universe, it is the sort of thing a veritable smorgasbord of superheroes may need recruiting for to stop him.
There is certainly an explosive introduction to this, which sees Thanos quickly grab his hands on two – one off screen, one in a raid on the Asgardian refugees from the events of Thor: Ragnarok – and duly begins a pan-universe assault to locate the rest.
During the tussle, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is ejected to Earth, where he duly warns Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) of the forthcoming crisis.
This is a bit problematic as the relationship between the Avengers is still ruptured after the events of Civil War, but when Thanos’ henchman turn up on Earth, the question soon becomes moot as Iron Man, Dr Strange and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) end up being transported off Earth.
The film is essentially divided between four main plotlines, with the bulk of the gargantuan 2 hour 40+ run-time devoted to hopping between them.
One concerns the abducted trio, who are trying to guard an Infinity Stone Dr. Strange wears. One concerns Thor (Chris Hemsworth) teaming up with the Guardians’ Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Teen Groot (Vin Diesel) to build a weapon to take out Thanos.
The third is the primary Earth-based plotline, where Captain America (Chris Evans) resurfaces, accompanied by Black Widow (Scarlett Johannsson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in order to try and protect the Infinity Stone-powered Vision (Paul Bettany), who has been hiding out in Edinburgh with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Their line ultimately leads to Wakanda, where the resources available to Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and the Wakandans are enlisted to destroy the stone while somehow saving Vision.
The fourth, and arguably the main one, is Thanos himself. While the other three make for well done enough strands on their own that play to each respective character’s strengths, its Thanos himself on his quest to locate the stones that gives the film a lot of its dramatic tensions.
Many comic book movies have struggled by not making the villains more than one-note caricatures, so its a definite plus that the film is able to make Thanos an engagingly well-rounded presence. To some extent, it needed to be, as while Thanos has surfaced every now and again – particularly in the Guardians of the Galaxy films – this is his big arrival into the MCU, and the one that does the best to realise him.
It helps the giant purple one is being played by a presence as compelling as Brolin somewhere beneath the make-up and motion capture cinematic work, but Thanos’ mission to restore balance and preserve the universe’s resources is surprisingly well done.
Its also to the film’s credit that despite the film’s stupidly long run-time, it rarely drags. Each individual plot plays to the character’s strengths, and are handled very well. It almost plays the film as a superhero ensemble piece, similar to Arrested Development with superpowers (something the Russo brothers would be familiar with after experience with both). It could’ve hurt the film throwing about 2 dozen main characters and their respective entourages at the picture, but they all blend very well.
There are some issues. Some of the over the top CGI battles in Wakanda at the end are a definite moment where it begins to feel draggy, and as well as this, there a couple of moments – particularly early on – where the film’s jumping between ensembles are a bit head-spinny. It is also worth noting that while the usual Marvel quips are there, and still funny, the tone between these lighter moments and the galaxy-consuming darkness in the wake of this endeavour can jar.
The other potential issue is the ending, but the issue is not because of Infinity War by itself. In isolation, it is a very well handled emotional gut-punch – one that this reviewer did not see coming, and a shocking moment in the MCU lore. However, one issue that does arise comes in the form of checking future films, which works to undermine the ending and spoil the forthcoming sequel.
It also puts a lot of heavy lifting on the realms of Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel, which are due to be released in-between these two films in order to make it stick.
On its own, this is a nevertheless an excellent rendition of the superhero genre. It also cements the highly engaging progression of the universe, which has grown from 2008’s Iron Man into a epic capable both of sprawling expanse and tightly knit drama. It therefore adds up to Infinity War being a very worthy addition to the Marvel cannon.
Where it goes next, however, may already be something someone outside the studio has already figured out 12 months before we get a chance to see where its going.