Avengers: Infinity War ***1/2
One Liner Review:
A movie that pulls off the impossible and delivers us a lengthy, smart, fun action movie that is also thought provoking and fast-moving.
Avengers: Infinity War delivers in a way that is truly amazing. The hype for this film has been off the charts. Normally, when a movie is hyped up this much, the result is disappointing. It just can’t live up to the hype. Only here, it actually does. And it does it with the same old characters that we’ve seen every year for the past decade. Despite these factors, however, in this movie we just can’t get enough. It’s two hours and forty minutes long and feels like it goes by at a rapid pace. The Russo brothers, (the directors,) are just that good. They only keep in the funniest or most thrilling or most thought provoking ideas. What we get, as a result, is not only action packed and funny, but also incredibly dramatic. That’s a combination that we don’t see very often. So is the villain bent on mass genocide who is actually sympathetic and rational. This movie has it all and pulls it off remarkably well.
Avengers: Infinity War is an unbelievably awesome film. The unbelievable part comes, not because the movie is so good, but because it actually measures up to the expectations. No movie has ever been built up as much as this. We’re talking about ten years of lead up films, introducing us to new characters and providing us with sequels and trilogies, all headed for this mega-film which features all (or almost all,) of the characters. On top of that, this might be the first two hour and forty minute movie that doesn’t feel even remotely long. That’s a remarkable accomplishment. Credit should go to the Russo Brothers, the directors of this movie, and their impressive gift for cutting off the fat. They know how to keep things quick and relevant. They also know how to blend humor with action and excitement. These guys are responsible for some of the very best films in the Marvel series, (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain American: Civil War, and now this Avengers film.)
There’s so much to consider for why this movie is great, that it’s hard to know where to begin. When comparing it to other superhero films, (sorry DC movies, but the comparisons are inevitable,) and trying to figure out why the Marvel movies seem to work, one key area is the element of surprise. In fact, with Avengers: Infinity War, the trailers have given away very little. We might see the villain, but its brief, and only a tiny taste of what we will get in the actual film. (In the Infinity War trailers, for example, we barely see the creatures who make up The Black Order of Thanos’ four henchmen.)
If there are new inventions and technology in the film, these things are hidden from trailers and left as little surprises mixed in to all different parts of the film. Take Iron Man’s blasters which float up beside him, hovering over his shoulders, before blasting an enemy, or Spider Man’s new getup (which turns into something much different than we could have imagined.) These are fun surprises when they pop up in the movie from out of nowhere and give us another cool visual that we are seeing for the very first time. Compare that to DC, who showed us the climactic fight of Batman Vs Superman, including the surprise villain Doomsday, all in the trailer. Marvel knows how to make the experience of actually viewing the movie the best part, whereas DC just concentrates on the trailer, (Suicide Squad is another example of this.) With Marvel, they know that if it goes in the trailer, fans will analyze it like crazy until it loses its appeal. But if it is saved for the movie, it can work on multiple levels (a surprise, a cool visual, a new twist.)
Nearly everything about Avengers: Infinity War works. Sure, the characters make mistakes and could have done things differently and in more intelligent ways, in hindsight, (not cutting off an arm to get a glove, not taking a character’s head instead of stabbing him in the chest, punching that character in the face when he’s about to lose his glove and is practically unconscious,) but in the moment, it all makes sense. Characters are angry or shocked and make rash decisions, that aren’t always the best. And other than that, the movie is pretty flawless. It opens on the refugee ship of Asgard being destroyed as the members of the Black Order walk over the remnants and bodies of the dying Asgardians. We hear Ebony Maw, (one scary looking dude,) speak to the people on the ship, telling them they should be appreciative of what Thanos is doing. And then we meet Thanos. He’s pretty huge and awesome looking. The purple faced alien creature incredibly menacing, and Josh Brolin really brings him to life. Motion capture has come a long way, and what Brolin does with it here is pretty remarkable.
Thanos doesn’t just look great, he’s also a fantastic character. As a villain, he’s got a clear and intelligent motivation, which he explains pretty well. This is a guy who wants to destroy half of the population of the universe, and he’s got a strong case for why he wants to do it. Over population. We’ve heard the motivation before, (Kingsmen,) but here, we get actual examples and evidence to back it up. First there’s the flashback to little girl Gamora, when Thanos took over her planet and killed half the population. In recounting that situation, Thanos explains to her that the people were starving and in bad shape, and that since he took action (and went on a murdering spree,) the people have plentiful food and have been living happy and peaceful lives. Then, later, we see what happened to Thanos’ own planet, Titan. We see that it was once a beautiful place, flowing with great beauty, wealth, and prosperity. But then the overpopulation grew out of control and it destroyed the planet. Both stories, the one of Gamora’s people and the one of planet Titan, are not just told to us, but actually shown, and that goes a long way. It helps us to really understand, and in some ways maybe even sympathize with this villain’s motivation.
Thanos really is the main character of the movie, since this is a film about him going around collecting the Infinity Stones, one at a time. But there are so many characters here with significant parts that what we really get is a massive ensemble. So Thor’s story about recharging a star in order to build a new weapon, for example, has Thanos nowhere in sight. And that’s a good thing, because it helps the story go in new directions. From very early on, we are with our heroes as they meet up or reunite and we jump in on where they’ve been for the past two years, and what they’ve been up to. The opening scene on the Asgardian ship ends with The Hulk being beamed down to earth by Heimdell, who is able to get Hulk right through the roof of Doctor Strange’s New York Sanctorum. So Hulk leads us to Doctor Strange, and Doctor Strange leads us to Tony Stark. Then Strange and Bruce Banner, (the Hulk’s human alter ego,) convince Stark that he needs to help out, because Thanos is coming.
From there, all hell breaks loose outside of the sanctum door when two of the Black Order members show up to get the time stone. One thing really cool about this movie is that it gives us intelligent ways of avoiding plot holes or ridiculous conveniences. The Hulk didn’t just land in the sanctum by coincidence. Heimdal beamed him there. And the Black Order members don’t just end up outside of Doctor Strange’s door. They are there on purpose, to get the time stone from him. This leads us to a really cool fight in the streets, with the Black Order members, Ebony Maw flying around while fighting and Cole Obsidian smashing things with a giant club weapon that fires out on a chain. We don’t get enough Hulk in this movie, but Cole Obsidian being a giant beast of a creature that shows up to fight in multiple scenes, kind of makes up for it.
Pretty soon our heroes from New York are headed to Planet Titan, but they really only make up one of three stories. There are the Guardians of the Galaxy who come across Thor as another story, and then Captain America and his crew, for the third story. His crew includes a bunch of our heroes from previous films, such as Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Vision, War Machine, and Falcon. What it also does is help us resolve some of the events and aftermath of Captain America: Civil War. This movie shows us that what happened in that film had consequences, and we see that in two places here. First is Tony Stark talking about his falling out with Captain America. And then, even more-so, when Cap and crew arrive at the Avengers compound and a hologram of General Ross tells War Machine to arrest them. Rhodey (War Machine’s) response is pretty great.
Avengers Infinity War connecting to the movie Captain America Civil War is just the start. This movie actually finds ways to connect to all kinds of previous Marvel films. With Thor, he talks to Rocket Racoon about what happened to his entire family, from his mother being killed by a Dark Elf to a sister who he never knew he had, until she showed up, destroyed his planet, and then died. Thor also talks about his father, brother, and best friend, and this dramatic realization scene might be the best moment in the movie. There are also plenty of references to things we have learned in past films about the Guardians of the Galaxy, from a continuation of the Footloose and Kevin Bacon conversation to Rocket’s collection of body parts actually coming in handy, (to help resolve some events from Thor: Ragnorak.) It can’t be easy to juggle all these pieces, but the Russo brothers actually do it. They even give us the long awaited reunion between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanov (although it is a little too brief.)
While the movie delivers on each of its individual stories, it also gives us a fourth story, which is that of Thanos collecting the stones. Of course that story brings him into all of the other ones, crossing paths with our heroes. So when he goes to get the reality stone from the Collector, for example, it brings him face to face with the Guardians. When he goes to get the time stone, it brings him up against Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Spider Man. And for the mind stone, he has to go to Wakanda. All of this is pretty great. So is Thor’s weapon forging situation, which brings us a new character in the form of a giant dwarf. There is so much action and humor here that it simultaneously feels like an overload, and also like something that we can’t get enough of. We know we’re being hit by a lot, but it doesn’t feel like it. Not with the rapid pace at which this thing moves. Let’s put it this way…they couldn’t even find room to fit in Thanos going to Planet Zandar and killing all the people who lived there in order to get the power stone. That scene, which could have been the climax of another movie, was cut out of this one. Talk about making the most of their time. These directors really do give us only the most essential parts. And the way the movie ends, leading us into the next film, is absolutely perfect. Sure, we know that not everything that happens will be permanent, and that some things will be reversed, but we’re okay with that. After all, the comic that this is based on did it too, and did it first. But the way it is handled here, with real drama and emotion, is terrific. This is an all around great film.
ACT BY ACT BREAKDOWN: