Since the first Avengers movie, everything has led up to Avengers: Infinity War with Thanos coming into town and challenging Earth’s mightiest heroes. First briefly appearing in Avengers, making a much larger in presence in Guardians of the Galaxy, and having a quick credit scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thanos is a larger-than-life villain Marvel teased over a long span of time. And, thankfully, after all the waiting, they give us a great payoff with the villain, quality time with the heroes, and a brutal and bizarre story that defies expectations.
Look, there’s no other way to say it, Avengers: Infinity War is a ballsy movie. Make no mistake, it will be a divisive and brutal pill to swallow. There could be gnashing and wailing of teeth, many tears, and tons of nerd anguish heard around the world. It’s unlikely everyone will love it and some might downright hate it. But, I think it earned the narrative steps it took.
Following in the footsteps of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, this movie defies expectations, thumbs its nose at narrative norms, and drops the mic like a boss about to walk off the stage, unconcerned with the fallout or the consequences. In a way, it’s a megalomaniac storyteller’s fever dream, both tackling problems with many Marvel films while also shaking up the plot formula prior films have casually taken for granted.
Much of the movie’s theme is about balance and it’s hard not to applaud The Russo Brothers for finding an almost perfect story balance with so many characters, plot, and threads to weave without fumbling one or sacrificing the other. With a run time of two hours and twenty-nine minutes, it’s pacing doesn’t get boring, sluggish, or overstay its welcome and they don’t fall into the trap of inserting too many setup scenes for future movies. Also, as a side, they clearly went all out on the special effects and visuals, making it look even more beautiful than any Avengers film before it.
It’s difficult to think of a movie that has juggled this many characters in one movie alone. With so many threads, it’s almost like several movies within one movie all working together to create a cohesive whole. And, though we’ve all been somewhat conditioned by it at this point, it’s probably a good thing to take a step back and really sit in awe of the achievement.
What started out as a single Iron Man movie has turned into this: a massive, never-before-accomplished epic tying up old storylines, following characters with many different motivations, and taking on a wildly powerful villain who has a philosophy and motivation of his own. It’s easy to see people becoming overwhelmed by the experience, and yet, despite the magnitude of the adventure, the storytellers rarely falter.
In comparison, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has a runtime of two hours and thirty-one minutes. It doesn’t come close to the number of characters and plots it has to juggle and yet it feels overlong, bloated, and lacked the deft hand necessary to keep the story interesting.
Avengers: Infinity War somehow combines tons of characters into a seamless narrative in a slightly shorter run-time and makes it emotional, compelling, and exciting. Much of this is thanks to the Russo Brothers strong understanding of narrative and pacing. They cut from a scene just when it’s about to lose momentum or when the arc wraps, keeping your attention and making you want to see what happens within that plotline later.
With so many characters, it’s nigh-impossible to have any kind of internal struggle with the heroes. If this film has any flaw, it’s that. The abundance of characters with a short run time will kill character arcs and growth. At the same time, with so many movies showcasing our heroes, the Avengers franchise has earned a little latitude in this area.
Still, to counter this potential problem, the Russos focus mostly on Thanos’ motivation, philosophy, and internal struggle. Since Marvel has had a spotty history with villains, this is the right choice. Understanding Thanos more made him less of a mysterious big bad sitting in a seat and more up close and personal, in your face, and a serious and intimidating threat. And, unlike the travesty of Justice League’s Steppenwolf, Thanos isn’t a rock’em sock’em monster that bashes and smashes at every turn. His actions are slow, calculated, and especially brutal.
The acting and humor is everything you might expect from an Avengers movie. Robert Downey Jr. is sarcastic as ever as Iron Man. Tom Holland is the adolescent teen we’ve come to expect as Spider-Man. And Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange is a nice and welcome addition to the team. Even with Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Star-Lord all filling up the same screen space, it is hard to imagine them all together and yet it is like they had been together this whole time. Their chemistry is magical. I have not been too impressed with Chris Pratt’s recent films and performances, but he slips into Star-Lord like a glove. Even more so, he provides some surprising range here.
On the Captain America, Winter Soldier, Black Panther, Hulk, and Black Widow side of things, there’s not a whole lot given to you other than them forming an army and fighting against a large scale invasion. In it, the bad guys are trying to get the infinity stone from Vision and they have to protect him. The connection between Scarlet Witch and Vision is the only real character story we get here, and it’s just about enough t keep it interesting. Other than that hook, their scenes feel a little shoe-horned in, like they needed another battle scene to sell the epic scale of the movie. Still, it’s hard to deny they sell the battle scene well, doing a good job of making the struggle intimate and intense.
Of the Avengers movies, this one had by far the best special effects and perhaps the best effects and visuals of any Marvel movie to date. I wasn’t super impressed by the special effects in Black Panther. Which makes me wonder if they saved their special effects budget for Avengers: Infinity War, instead. I especially think they made the right decision to make Josh Brolin do motion capture rather than make-up and a funny costume, ala Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse. Thanos’ superhuman height and body mass permeated intimidation and fear and that wouldn’t have been accomplished any other way.
The craziest and most daring part of the movie is at the end. In order to address it fully, I’ll do a spoiler-filled review to tackle something that easily could become a nerd war over its implications. Though I’m positive tons of people will hate it. I think they made a surprisingly good call.
All in all, Avengers: Infinity War is the best Avengers movie yet and one of the better Marvel movies to date. It does a great job intertwining a plethora of plot lines, keeping a good pace, and somehow finds a way to make the heroes’ struggle with an all-powerful villain not yawn-inducing. While it would have been good to see more character development, they tackled so many obstacles and accomplished so much with this film that a tiny flaw like that is easily drowned out. I applaud the gutsy narrative choices the Russo brothers made and think more formula breaking needs to happen in the future. Definitely go see Avengers: Infinity War. But, I probably don’t need to tell you that.
Avengers: Infinity War accomplishes what it set out to do and provides plenty of spectacle, humor, and action Marvel fans have come to love and then some. Though some of its unconventional narrative choices will likely ruffle a few feathers, its easily earned the right to go against the grain.