As a Marvel movie, the latest installment of the Avengers, Infinity War, is an exciting, non-stop action, thrill ride. And it’s a lot of fun. As a film in and of itself, it doesn’t really work. Taking for granted you have intimate knowledge of the characters and plot points of the previous movies (which I do), the movie doesn’t do anything to establish characters or even give any of them time to breath. It’s essentially one big action sequence divided amongst five different set pieces.
There’s a lot that works for the movie. If you are a fan of the MCU, you’re no doubt already fully prepared and the payoffs that do happen throughout the movie are certainly fun. Seeing characters from the different franchises match up together works really well, most notably the pairing of Thor and Rocket from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, as well as Thor and Star-Lord’s antagonistic relationship. Dr. Strange and Tony Stark’s frenemy-ship, with Spider-Man along for the ride is also a highlight. But what gets short shrift in this Avengers movie with fifty some main characters is most of the original Avengers. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Chris Evans’ Captain America, two of the central figures of the previous films are mostly sidelined. And despite all the pre-promotional footage suggesting otherwise, Hulk is barely a factor.
The story is easy enough. After a few movies of being teased, the universe’s big-bad Thanos (Josh Brolin) wants to bring the six all-powerful infinity stones (five of which made appearances in previous MCU movies) together and destroy half the universe. The heroes try to stop him. That’s it. That’s really all there is to the movie. Brolin’s villain is actually the central figure of the movie and is certainly the only character that gets enough screen time to qualify as a lead character. There are complex emotional stories at play – mostly with Thanos’ adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and the romantic relationship between Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen). Unfortunately, the Vision/Wanda story is trading on the comic book history as we never saw them become a thing in any of the prior films, which lessens the emotional impact of their story a bit.
The ending is a bit as expected if you have any knowledge of the source material, which isn’t a dig. I’m actually impressed directors Anthony and Joe Russo were able to find an ending with such impact that sets the stage for next year’s still untitled fourth film. I get that this is a part one of a two-parter, but I still think if you’re going to command someone’s attention for two and a half hours, you should at least have a story with a beginning, middle and end, and not just rest on being all set up, as exciting visually as that set up may be.
Also, this is as much a Guardians part 2.5 as it is an Avengers part 4 (since Captain America: Civil War was clearly part 3). I do wonder how the MCU recovers from this. Not in how they will escape the bleak ending they’ve established, that’ll be theory fodder for the next year. But more so how will they go back to telling smaller stories focusing on less characters (which they need to do), when they’ve spent ten years building to the biggest, most-massive HUGEST epic fight with huge stakes for the entire universe.
I am looking forward to the next one. The post-credits scene teases one of my favorite characters from the comics. It appears next year’s film could focus on some characters that didn’t get the spotlight this go around. And given the non-stop action in this first installment, it might be able to delve into some quieter character moments, which is desperately needed.
My Grade – C+