Avengers | Infinity War
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Shaw, Dania Gurira, Letitia Wright, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff & Tom Vaughan-Lawlor
Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Studio: Marvel Studios
Fear not, for I’m endeavouring to omit spoilers (to the best of my ability).
Avengers: Infinity War is epic, it’s funny and it’s surprisingly well balanced, given all of the moving parts included from 10 years of flicks from Marvel Studios. It’s a good movie — not a great one, but a good one — and the real reason for that isn’t the iconic nature of the characters or actors, the action, the jokes or the effects. The reason is the writing, and specifically, the skeleton that holds the parts of this pop-culture Frankenstein monster together. The underlying theme here — one of sacrifice — recurs throughout the movie, even for Thanos, and it belies a thoughtfulness that was prioritized ahead of action and goofiness and sheer coolness.
A brutal warlord named Thanos has been searching the cosmos for the impossibly powerful Infinity Stones, dispatching his warrior servants to retrieve them for him, and he’s decided the time has come for him to take a more active role in the hunt. Thanos aims to bring his vision of a more sustainable universe to pass sooner rather than later, determined that wiping out half of sentient life everywhere is in the best interest of all thinking creatures. The heroes of Earth and the Guardians of the Galaxy learn of his devastating plans, and in factions operating independently (and unaware) of one another, they work to thwart him.
A big part of the fun here was the pairing of characters that just don’t belong in each other’s worlds. Thor with Rocket and Groot. Iron Man with Drax and Mantis. Bruce Banner with Okoye. The juxtaposition of such different characters made for a lot of interesting dynamics and no shortage of amusing dialogue. There are a lot of unexpected surprises to be found here. Peter Dinklage’s role isn’t at all what people expect it to be, and another character that hasn’t been seen for years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe turns up in a capacity that’s unlike anything we’ve seen of the character in any medium. Given how radically different his movie is from the trailers that got everyone excited about it, I’m fairly confident the filmmakers planned to mislead everyone from the start. The movie you think you’re seeing in the trailers is completely unlike what actually plays out on the big screen, and that added to my enjoyment of it.
There are a lot of great laughs to be had in the movie, but the directors really ought to have paced them better. Several times, the audience’s reaction to the gags stepped over subsequent dialogue. One also has to be well versed on the past decade of Marvel movies to follow the plotlines; given the popularity of the brand, it’s likely not a major concern for the studio, but more casual moviegoers might find themselves a little out of the loop at times. I also watched the movie with the potential of bringing my kid (who’s in Grade 2) to see it on the big screen, but that’s definitely not in the cards in the immediate future. He hasn’t seen most of the Marvel movies, but more importantly, there are some intense scenes (notably ones depicting torture) that I don’t feel would be all that good for him to see at this early point in his life.
Given the enormous cast of characters being accommodated here, I figured the running time, just short of an 2½ hours, was understandable, but the film felt a little bloated, with a handful of characters that could have lifted out of it and some of the action scenes shortened. I found the Wakandan warfield scenes (as depicted in the marketing campaign) to be particularly dizzying and repetitive, and they really don’t contribute much to the overall plot.
There are characters who get short shrift due to the expansive cast and intertwining plot threads, and they are Thanos’s underlings. Hardly any of the quartet are named (that I noticed) in the film, and their power levels are depicted as incredibly inconsistent, especially when it comes to Proxima Midnight and Cull Obsidian. Presumably, they’re as powerful as their compatriots, yet non-powered heroes such as Black Widow, Falcon and Okoye appear able to hold their own against them. However, I have to admit I loved every moment that Ebony Maw was on the screen. He was so deliciously evil, and his usual calm in light of the devastating and cruelty he wrought made for wonderfully creepy moments. But more interesting was that he also doesn’t see himself as a villain. He’s a zealot, fiercely devoted to serving Thanos, but he’s also a survivor who fears his master.
You’d think this would be something of an Iron Man movie or a Captain America movie, but surprisingly, they’re secondary characters as part as the plot and action are concerned (in fact, Cap is more like a tertiary character). One might see this as a Thor movie, but really, it belongs to members of the peripheral cast. The Scarlet Witch and Vision plotline is a vital one and reflects the aforementioned notion of sacrifice, and there is no plot without Gamora. This might be as close as one would ever come to a solo Gamora movie, which is something no one would have thought necessary or plausible a few years ago. Some of the bigger stars actually take a back seat to the lesser known characters here, and I found that refreshing.
Given just how many actors spend time in the spotlight in this flick, the quality of the performances vary to a great degree. There’s apparently no end to Tom Holland’s charm, and Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen do a great job of selling the Vision/Scarlet Witch relationship. Chris Evans, as always conveys Cap’s drive and determination perfectly, but other stars — such as Mark Ruffalo and Benedict Cumberbatch — aren’t nearly as convincing in their roles as one would expect of actors of their calibre. Probably the best performance in the movie comes from Josh Brolin, whose voice really has to carry his work farther, given the CGI nature of his character. Of course, that artificial image is quite effective at being emotive — often subtly so.
The story arc that really drives this movie, the character whose arc is more important than any others, is that of Thanos. He’s not just depicted as a generic but near-omnipotent bad guy (as was the case with Steppenwolf in Justice League). Who Thanos is and why he does what he does is important and interesting. Like all truly great villains, Thanos doesn’t see himself as a villain. Ruthless, yes, and perhaps cruel, but he believes his purpose is a noble one. The filmmakers humanize him, give him a soul here, and it’s one of the more unexpected developments in the plot. Thanos in reflection is far more captivating than Thanos in action, and that’s ultimately why the movie works. 7/10