Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

‘With regards to superhero films, this is unlike anything we’ve seen before

2018 in Cinema:

Avengers: Infinity War

Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, Chris Pratt

 

A decade ago Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) told Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., Spiderman: Homecoming) about the Avengers Initiative; an idea to bring together all the superheroes to protect the world from any threat. Since then there have been a further two Iron Man films, a Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Thor: Ragnarok) film (albeit starring Edward Norton as the titular hero), three Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Thor: Ragnarok) films, three Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) films, two Guardians of the Galaxy films (featuring Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Nebula (Karen Gillan, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle)), an Scott Lang/Ant-Man film (Paul Rudd), a Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, 12 Years a Slave) film, a Peter Parker/Spider-Man film (Tom Holland, Spider-Man: Homecoming), a T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther) and two previous entries in the Avengers team-up films. Incredibly, all 18 films have been designed specifically to fully flesh out the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and end up here. In a giant battle against Thanos (Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men).

Avengers; infinity War revolves around Thanos’ quest to collect all six Infinity Stones (we’ve previously seen five of the stones, appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: The Dark World, Marvel’s the Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Doctor Strange) and unite the in the Infinity Gauntlet, where his plan is to then wipe out half of the world in order to create balance. Knowing that two of the stones are housed on earth and one floating just outside of it, Thanos’ quest soon sees him battling out heroes, both on earth and in space, as nearly anyone who has faced off against a villain before in an MCU film is brought to this fight.

As an avid lover of the MCU I came into this film with one major fear: Thanos’ character. As much as the MCU deserve credit for creating this giant universe of films and an Infinity War storyline stretching across multiple films (however directly or indirectly), one thing they have failed to do successfully is tell the character of Thanos. Only seen briefly in a couple of films in the past, Avengers: Infinity War is busy enough with all the characters needing screen time that it would have been beneficial to have explored Thanos’ character a lot more beforehand, rather than risk him appearing as a bland evil villain, much like the MCU’s rival did with their main villain in Justice League. Thanos wanted these stones some four earth years ago (when Guardians of the Galaxy was released) and I don’t think it’s done a great job at explaining what has taken him so long in attempting to hunt them down. But, thankfully, Thanos was fantastic.

The best villains, in my opinion, are those who see themselves as the heroes of their own story. Black Panther tried this, with the back-story behind N’Jadaka/Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens (Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther), and it works beautifully here. Thanos’ plan to rid half the universe of its population is a notion spoken about in our world today. EO Wilson has called for a Half-Earth plan (to kill half the planet), because our population of over 8billion is stretching resources extremely thin. As horrible as it would appear, imagine a world with half the people in it. We’d all have more money, more land, more space to move, more houses to live in which in turn would make fewer people homeless, more hospital space, more doctor’s appointments, more jobs. All that sounds amazing, right? So, while initially the survivors would mourn the action, in a decade we’d all be slightly more grateful for a better life, thus making the man who implemented than plan a hero: and who is this hero in the MCU’s case: Thanos. Thanos even explains he’s done this by fore to another planet and they now live peacefully and in perfect balance. And to further cement his place as a hero in his own mind, he is rarely shown to kill people in this film. Allowing Star-Lord, Iron Man and Thor to survive when he could so easily have killed them; the film really portrays Thanos as a character, rather than an evil killer, and that helped this film so much.

He was also given a great back-story, further exploring the history between him and Gamora, who was a child on the aforementioned planet that lost half of its population (again Thanos isn’t shown as an executioner during the attack), and Nebula. And there are two beautiful moments between Thanos and Gamora which place emphasis on this father-daughter relationship, despite how strained their relationship is now.

Another fear I had was character deaths: in a film with ‘War’ in the title you expect deaths (if everyone lives it’s not much of war), and this film satisfied that blood-lust I seemed to have for the MCU’s heroes well. Very early on we lose a major and a minor character from the MCU and it really sets off the tone that with regards to superhero films, this is unlike anything we’ve seen before. The problem with previous Avengers films is that we knew there would be more films afterwards. Obviously Iron man won’t die as there’s an Iron Man 3, same with Thor as Thor: The Dark World was released after Marvel’s The Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok after Avengers: Age of Ultron. We also knew the planned destination for the Infinity War, and that knowledge allows us not to really worry for the heroes’ survival. In this film we don’t have that. There are no more Iron Man films (is he going to die?), there are no more Thor films (is he going to die?), there is no official Black Panther sequel (is he going to die?). This genuine fear of who is going to die and who will live really has you on the edge of your seat from the get-go. I completely understood the first two deaths (as they’d ran their course in the MCU), but it still shocked me, and then every scene thereafter with Thanos fighting against a hero I was genuinely excited and afraid to see who lived and who survived. It also created this extra worry about Vision (Paul Bettany) and the Mind Gem in his forehead. If characters are expendable, will he survive?

Avengers: Infinity War also manages to beautifully team up the right people; Thor spends most of the film with the Guardians (meshing their two comedic films together) while Tony Stark spends most of the film with Doctor Strange and Spider-Man (Tony and Stephen being two sarcastic, mature personalities with the youthful Peter there with them), Tony, possibly seen as the leader of the Avengers, also has a few good scenes with Peter, possibly seen as the leader of the Guardians. In a film with a cast of thousands, they manage to keep the right people together, and avoided having every superhero fight together in what would have been a mess of a fight-scene. It also did a decent job of maintaining the characters established in their own films; for example, the comedic elements of Thor/Loki from Thor: Ragnarok and the Guardians, while allowing Captain America and Black Panther a more serious look at the danger.

In terms of negatives, I felt the middle part of the film wasn’t as entertaining as I would have liked. Thanos’ storyline was fantastic, but it took him away from the main fight leaving the Black Order, a group of Thanos’ adopted children, to fight and retrieve the stones. The Black Order fell into the category I was worrying Thanos would be: devoid of personality and killing for the sake of killing. They’re also bested in combat without much trouble which doesn’t allow for the same fear of them as we have for Thanos. There is an extra element to this point that ruined their performance in this film but I will not go into that as it is a major spoiler. The music also disappointed me somewhat, too. It was grand and epic but it repeated itself so often to signify something dramatic was happening but they should have been able to tell the story of drama better than simply adding dramatic music (much like in a horror film when a stereotypical piece of horror music plays to signify a frightening scene is coming).

But for a film with a cast as big as this, it was still a fantastic film. Thanos was brilliant and had not only motivation for his actions but a deep history that made him borderline likeable, the heroes were teamed up perfectly and, for the most part, the characters stuck to those which were established in their own films. It jumps straight into the action which means the dip is in the middle of the film, so it could have been paced better (perhaps an extra 10 minutes before Thanos arrives setting up things on earth or setting up characters to avoid the dip in the middle). But, overall, a fantastic spectacle of a film and one that satisfies the anticipation for it. With an ending that will make the next year drag.

 

Personal: * * * *     Acting: * * * *     Writing: * * * *     Presentation: * * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * *

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