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Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Directed by: Anthony Ruso and Joe Ruso

Premise: The third Avengers team up movie. Intergalactic conqueror Thanos (Josh Brolin) seeks out the six infinity stones that will give him godlike powers. The Avengers team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop Thanos.

What Works: Avengers: Infinity War caps the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in spectacular fashion. This film is the apotheosis of a decade of comic book movies and it is a big, fun, and entertaining work of spectacle. In some ways it plays as a highlight reel of the MCU as it features most of the characters and showcases the signature qualities that audiences have grown to enjoy about the series. Infinity War brings together the various superheroes of The Avengers including Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Spider-Man as well as Doctor Strange and The Guardians of the Galaxy. One of the strengths of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been its humor and the playful banter between the characters. Infinity War does that and early on there are some fun comic bits between Iron Man and Doctor Strange as well as between Thor and Star Lord. The filmmakers realize that it isn’t possible to put everyone together in the same room and so they pair off the characters into smaller groups and send them out in different directions. The heroes are mixed and matched in interesting ways so that their different personalities bounce off one another. This offers opportunities for humor and keeps the material fresh. While assembling all of the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Infinity War brings forward Thanos. The villain has been lurking in the background of this series for some time and his reveal is worth the wait. Played by Josh Brolin in a motion capture performance, Thanos is one of the best villains in the comic book genre, worthy of comparison to Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor and Heath Ledger’s Joker. Thanos is motivated by more than destruction or domination and he’s even conflicted about it which makes him more complex than the average super villain. And that leads to one of the most impressive things about Infinity War—its shift in tone. The movie begins with the lighthearted adventure that has defined the MCU and then gradually shifts toward darker territory. The story consistently sets up audience expectations and then thwarts them in ways that create a growing sense of peril and uncertainty. The filmmakers commit to the gravitas and give their movie dramatic stakes that pay off in a bold cliffhanger ending that is executed perfectly.

What Doesn’t: The third Avengers film is considerably better than Age of Ultron but it isn’t as satisfying as the first team up film and it exacerbates the flaws of that picture. The 2012 Avengers movie was about superheroes coming together to form a cohesive unit; Infinity War doesn’t have that. If fact, the movie is strangely disinterested in a lot of what’s come before either in terms of character development or narrative; the rivalries and relationships that came to a head in Captain America: Civil War are just brushed aside. It’s a strange flaw. The selling point of Infinity War is the way it pulls together a decade worth of characters into a single story and yet most of them are incidental. No one develops individually nor do they cohere as a team. That’s partly due to a story that is so sprawling and packed with so many characters that it becomes unwieldy. The plot literally yanks its characters all over the galaxy and they show up in places without a reason. Infinity War also struggles with its pacing. The movie feels clumsy. The transitions between locations are sometimes abrupt and the movie has the feel of a lot of set pieces cobbled together rather than a unified narrative that is working toward a conclusion.

Bottom Line: Avengers: Infinity War is an event film with everything that implies both positive and negative. The sheer size and scope of the production and its commitment to the stakes makes it an impressive work even through a closer look at the details reveals its flaws. 

Episode: #697 (May 6, 2018)