Avengers: Infinity War (aka The Avengers 3: Part 1) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Ten years ago, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) was building himself a robot suit in a cave. Ten years later, he’s suited up to do battle with intergalactic warlords alongside wizards, mutants, robots, and raccoons. It is quite the legacy for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Avengers: Infinity War aims to be their ultimate annual of a crossover to end all crossovers. Is it Marvel’s strongest film featuring such a huge cast that all comes together for an apocalyptic conclusion? Not quite, but the fact that directors Anthony and Joe Russo could make a film with over 70 characters and make it shine with character and combat is pretty miraculous on its own.
Marvel and the Russo brothers are counting on audiences to be all studied up on their films as Infinity War won’t slow down for any of them. We’ve heard all there is to know about the tragic backstory of Drax (Dave Bautista), the chipper rebelliousness of Peter “Spiderman” Parker (Tom Holland) or the stoic-breeding pathos of Thor (Chris Hemsworth). We know enough about these characters that they need no introduction. That being said, their initial meet and greet for the next big-bad that threatens the planet never felt expository to make sure everyone is up to speed. Their chemistry makes this film a blast, listening to Iron Man compare Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to a children’s entertainer, Drax call Thor the lovechild of a pirate and an angel, and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) bargaining with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) for his artificial arm. Yes, their team-up battles are fun as well, but nowhere near as exciting considering we know they will look great.
The most common complaint among the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies is one that is quickly being rectified: the villain problem. Most Marvel villains fall into the same camp of the growling madman that wants to control the world, usually with a doomsday device. Thanos (Josh Brolin) could have easily fallen into this camp as the big purple giant that will crush anyone who gets in the way of his intergalactic jewel heist. He not only has a purpose and a plan for what he wants past mere destruction, but also a personality and guilt for the path he has chosen. There’s a fragile side to the golden-armored monster that occasionally breaks out of the usual CGI punch-fest to create a fully realized villain who doesn’t get lost in the sea of superheroes. Considering the past films have revealed everything about the heroes and little of Thanos, Brolin is able to dominate the screen for being coated in computer graphics, showcasing much more than how hard he can smash Hulk. For the record, pretty damn hard.
The pacing of Infinity War is furious, splintering and speeding storylines towards the next hilarious quip or flashy fight scene. It’s the same vibe of witty fun and brutal showdowns the Russo’s have become masters of with The Winter Soldier and Civil War. The combat is clever with collaboration, where Bucky can launch Rocket and Strange can create magical platforms for Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) to skip across with blasters blazing. And if you’re hoping for that one eye-popper moment that makes the whole movie worth a watch, there’s about 2-3 wow moments, one, in particular, utilizing an entire moon as a weapon.
Of course, as the most ambitious of Marvel movies, it’s not without flaws. While the breakneck pace of keeping the audience invested works for this sort of film, the skipping of settings and juggling of heroes creates an exhaustion. The central theme of anti-utilitarianism is a strong one, but it leads to a few too many standoffs of handing over a MacGuffin in exchange for a life. Still, I commend the Russos for taking a mighty risk with their $300 million blockbuster that is sure to send the fans into a tizzy for the ultimate cliffhanger. Doesn’t that cheapen the film by making it feel like a half a movie? Not really; this is more akin to ordering an everything casserole, gorging to the point of nearly exploding and saving the rest for leftovers. I look forward to the second chapter, but I’m so winded I need to take a breather after all that action.