Thursday 26 April 2018

Film Review: Avengers - Infinity War

It's all been leading to this. Can Marvel's biggest crossover yet live up to expectation or does it suffocate under the weight of its gargantuan cast?

L-R: Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans),
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and White Wolf (Sebastian Stan) in
Avengers: Infinity War.
After 10 years and 19 films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe reaches its endgame in Avengers: Infinity War, a film of vast scope which pits the Avengers – Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-man (Tom Holland) to name a few – and the Guardians of the Galaxy – Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) – against Thanos (Josh Brolin), destroyer of worlds and wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet, a powerful object with the power to unite the six Infinity Stones and unleash untold power.

With our heroes spread across the cosmos after their various solo adventures, Avengers: Infinity War brings everything together in triumphant fashion. Once again, Marvel has succeeded in stitching together its disparate franchises into one cohesive crossover event, one where the stakes (and the bodycount) have never been higher.

Infinity War swings from set piece from set piece, from an opening salvo that features Iron Man and Doctor Strange on the streets of New York to the climactic scuffle that pits [redacted] and [redacted] against [redacted]. It's breathless stuff that splits the ensemble up into smaller groups, with some four or five parallel storylines that traverse the cosmos in ways hitherto unseen in the series before now.

This means two things; that Infinity War is loaded with action and that it is light on character. The former affords plenty of satisfying thrills and spills while the latter is both a flaw and to be expected, given that Infinity War is effectively the culmination of a decade of storytelling featuring some 60 characters. It's like tuning into the season seven finale of Game of Thrones and wondering who and what the hell happened since that one episode you caught several years back.

Naturally, there are going to be characters who get plenty to do and feel – Gamora, Thor, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) – while there are others that are simply there – Steve, Natasha, Bruce. If you're a cinema purist who demands a film be its own complete article, Infinity War won't satisfy – right from the opening scene, the Russo brothers open in medias res, following on from the conclusion of Thor: Ragnorok as if it aired on TV at the same time last week. Ditto for Black Panther or Captain America: Civil War. This is the culmination of 18 other films and it acts as such. Like each of the major crossover films in the series that have come before it, Infinity War works as well as it does because it's part of a longer whole, not in spite of it.

The Russo brothers do as good a job balancing the sprawling cast as can be expected, with even those who aren't blessed in the character arc department at least getting a heroic moment or memorable scene. The undisputed MVP is Thanos himself, the titanic intergalactic warlord who has tasked himself with restoring balance to the universe via manipulation, intimidation and straight-up genocide.

Brolin's performance, brought to life by superb motion-capture work, is sublime. Any concerns you may have about Marvel's biggest villain falling flat can be put to rest, that's for sure – Thanos kicks ass from the get-go, a ferocious combination of monologuing who throws everything from fists to moons. Thanos' entourage – a quartet of gruesome aliens with names like Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon) and Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary) – make for memorable foes also, even if they're wafer thin on defining traits and merely provide an obstacle for our heroes to lock horns with.

Despite Earth's mightiest heroes finding themselves in such a desperate situation, the trademark Marvel humour flows freely throughout. Not once does it overshadow or undercut the emotional stakes. The usual suspects – Rocket, Drax, Thor, Spider-man – deliver the yucks, with a lot of the humour stemming from those eagerly anticipated crossover moments such as Tony Stark and Peter Quill trading barbs or Stephen Strange crossing paths with Peter Parker.

In terms of spectacle, Infinity War doesn't disappoint. It is lacking in character beats, with action being the primary focus, but maybe this will allow for a more introspective and character-driven second instalment this time next year.

The Verdict: 8.5/10

Buckle up, because Avengers: Infinity War doesn't pull its punches. Colourful action aplenty, its third act will leave you desperately yearning for answers – I don't think it's a spoiler to say that everything culminates in a wickedly brutal cliffhanger. With all that said, I can't help but think that the best is still yet to come.

Avengers: Infinity War is in cinemas across Australia now.

1 comment:

  1. "while there are others that are simply there – Steve, Natasha, Bruce. " - this is a disgrace! Why would they just have Cap just there.. it's true, I'm not arguing that, but I just don't like it.

    Russo brothers did as good of a job as they could with such a huge cast. To juggle all of this was a challenge and I think they did the best they could. Is there room to improve? Yes. I think the balance was a bit off, and I don't know, maybe it's the lack of emotional impact it had on me, that makes me say this.



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