Avengers: Infinity War will appease a decade’s worth of fans
In the wake of upbeat and surprisingly complex works Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, audiences have been lulled into a false sense of security for Infinity War.
Warning: There are minimal and vague spoilers ahead for Avengers: Infinity War.
The impending release of Avengers: Infinity War hovers over everything like the specter of death. Fans have questioned which of the beloved characters they’ve spent a decade with will bite the dust. Watching Infinity War is akin to a comic book existential crisis. Is there a grand purpose to everything? Or are some things just random? These questions burrow deep into the roots of the film itself and leave audiences on edge for its near-three-hour runtime.
Its doubtful fans who have popped in and out of the movies will have the same emotional tether. People who just dived into the waters in the wake of Marvel’s latest probably will be left scratching their head. Infinity War is the tidal wave necessary to take the various franchises into the next decade.
The Avengers team, despite being fractured due to the events of Captain America: Civil War, must band together when Thanos (Josh Brolin), destroyer of worlds, pushes to obtain the six Infinity Stones in the hopes of eliminating half of the universe.
This is what fans have been waiting for since Marvel unveiled their master plan: a feature that brings together all the Avengers, as well as all their friends, for one final, knock-down, drag-out brawl. For the most part, all the characters you’d expect to be there are present. There are heavy-hitters like Chris Evans’ Captain America and Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man; the loveable newcomers like Tom Holland’s Spider-Man; and the major money-makers like Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther. Sorry fans of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and the like — they must have been sick that day.
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley have the unenviable task of having to juggle all these heroes personalities in a way that doesn’t feel like an episode of Battle of the Network Stars, and the different tones do mesh together well. Unlike the ’80s synth-infused beginning of Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War introduces the somber, encroaching feeling of dread and melancholia early, with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) trying to save Asgardians in the wake of their previous movie’s events. In just a few minutes the script baldly tells you all bets are off with a tense set-piece that reminds you there’s a reason you’ve been excited and terrified of this for a decade.
The actors are all comfy in their roles and it’s hard to cite their acting when so much of the film is fighting. Downey, Jr. and Tom Holland keep the father/son dynamic going, and it reaches a heartbreaking crescendo by the end. Otherwise, this is a visual showcase for the fans and nothing more.
The thrust of the feature separates the narrative into what passes for bite-size chunks, with Iron Man, Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Spider-Man hiding an Infinity Stone, the Guardians of the Galaxy working alongside Thor, and a ground unit consisting of the remaining Avengers and the Wakandans. The trio of plotlines are meant to create a unified force against Thanos but there are moments in the narrative where the audience will wonder what’s been happening with certain characters.
Iron Man and Strange’s plotline hews somewhat closely to what’s happening to Paul Bettany’s Vision. Both involve the protection of Infinity Stones. Since Iron Man is more ingrained in audiences’ minds than the underdeveloped Vision, it’s no surprise that the latter plotline lacks narrative weight. Furthermore, the Wakandans are a key component of the film’s marketing, yet their third-act arrival gives you far too little of them. The entire thing plays like people you’ve been waiting to meet at a party only to have them walk by you.
When the plots do meld, such as the arrival of the Guardians, things can feel out of joint. Since the Guardians are known for their ’80s music and fun-loving atmosphere, it is hard to hear Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill trademark one-liners in a movie with so much destruction in it. Thankfully the film quickly switches gears after one song that seems ripped from a future Awesome Mix, Vol. 3 collection, and from there it’s all about getting to Thanos’ reign of terror. And it most certainly is a reign of terror.
Despite Thanos being an omnipotent yet presumably static villain, the movie gives audiences’ a reason to fear him. Even Thor, a man who’s revelled in his own strength up till this point, has a moment of fear and hesitation, questioning his own mortality. There aren’t moments of actual existential dread in the feature. But the characters around Thanos sell their terror enough to make the audience buy into it.
In spite of the film’s desire to give Thanos complexity, he’s a fairly stereotypical villain. Josh Brolin’s altered voice and motion-capture performance is nothing to write home about. The film hopes to continue the trend of daddy issues by spotlighting his relationship with Gamora (Zoe Saldana). However, the entire thing comes off as a means of giving Gamora an increased presence in the feature for narrative purposes. You never fully buy that Thanos feels strongly either way about her. Plus, the movie never seeks to question his motives fully, possibly because the feature is already long enough.
The ultimate gut punch that keeps Avengers: Infinity War in people’s heads is its final 10 minutes. For a majority of the runtime, the film is, appropriately, giving audiences the war they’ve been waiting for. Fight scenes come fast and furious. You’d be hard-pressed to say this is a feature that takes time to catch its breath.
But the final minutes will stop your heart. Characters do die, and their deaths are met not with a bang, but with a whimper. This is a double-edged sword because heroes like these require a big send-off, right? But, in the end, the movie wants to remind us they’re real people. They’re not exempt from the randomness of life and death. It’s a haunting way to end this decade of Marvel superstardom.
Avengers: Infinity War will keep true loyalists of the series enthralled and casual observers will be entertained as well, even if the emotional impact is dulled. Be sure to say through the credits, but you knew that, didn’t you?