Avengers: Infinity War.
There’s a reason the makers of Avengers: Infinity War have been shoving Thanos down our throats through every promo, teaser, poster and trailer over the last year. The big, purple dude, whom they also call the Mad Titan, turns out to be the ultimate villain, the only intergalactic, deity-like creature who can raise the stakes high enough to bring the mighty Avengers down to their knees.
Josh Brolin’s Thanos, so far derided and ridiculed for being purple and his almost comical computer-generated features, comes into his own on the big screen. Even through all the CGI make-up, the actor and his character shine through, and this is, hands down, directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s biggest achievement, finally rewarding fans with the Marvel Cinematic Universe villain they deserve.
Thanos’ goal is to find six Infinity Stones that will fit snugly into his shiny new Infinity Gauntlet, the result of which will help him wield the kind of power that will allow him to destroy half the universe with a simple snap of his fingers.
The film is essentially a long Infinity Stone hunt, and as Thanos goes about plucking them out one after the other, superhero factions turn up to try and stop him. Beginning in New York and ending up on the flip side of Saturn are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are canoodling it up in a European country. Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) returns to team up with Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who then journey to Wakanda, Black Panther’s (Chadwick Boseman) home country, our most recent pit stop in the last 10 years of the MCU. And the Guardians of the Galaxy meet with almost everyone as they hurtle through space and give Thanos 101 lectures to whomever will stop long enough to listen.
As you may have noticed, that’s a disportioncate amount of superheroes to villains, so we also get the Black Order, Thanos’ four cronies, who split up to look for the Infinity Stones. And while not all them are super impressive, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor’s Ebony Maw is particularly intriguing and forms a formidable threat to the Avengers.
We have had some time to get used to Marvel humour, have come to expect and demand it even, but Infinity War dials it up to 11, mostly to counter Thanos’ grim villainy. Some of the best scenes involve watching the central force of films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Spiderman: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok come together and watching them go at it each other. Unusual team-ups like Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Iron Man and Doctor Strange offer some of the best moments of the film.
And this works for the somber moments, too. While Infinity War, from the outside, looks like an overwhelmingly giant mash-up of superheroes, with one face blurring into the next, in reality, the movie works out to be more than the sum of its parts. As the heroes move from one world to the next, tracking Infinity Stones or chasing after Thanos, they retain the personality of their own worlds, their own comic book universes, and their own solo film trajectories, and all this without harming this film’s central and unique narrative.
For instance, it’s remarkable to be able to watch Peter Quill/Star Lord (Chris Pratt) lead his team of misfit Guardians, and immediately feel like you’ve been transported into James Gunn’s Guardian of the Galaxy films, or return to Wakanda, and feel director Ryan Coogler’s pulse soaked in the imagery and the soundscapes. The Russos, while tipping their hat to these individual filmmakers who put their unique stamp on each of their own films, elevate their own art and skilfully weave a story that seems cohesive and resonant, physically and emotionally.
The only character who seems to have been given the shorter end of the stick is Johansson’s Black Widow. The charismatic spy is given little to do in a film that sees even Danai Gurira’s Okoye deliver nifty lines. For a character that’s loomed large on the MCU for almost it’s entire 10-year-long legacy, to so sorely shortchange her is a large disservice, and one that will hopefully be corrected through awarding her a solo film, and soon.
And while you can plainly see the plot falter under the weight of its stars in rare moments, the Russos let the characters do the heavy lifting. And Thanos does most of that work. Every scene with the Mad Titan resonates with a devastating impact, and for all facts and purposes, Infinity War is his story, from beginning to end. It may seem almost criminal to feel so much for a character hell bent on genocide, but the moments that tug at your heart the most are the ones where Thanos taps into himself the most.
The movie’s biggest failing is that it is unable to capitalise on the emotional weight of some of the losses the Avengers incur, because it’s so easy to tell that none of this is permanent. Devastating and heart-wrenching events can and will be reversed in the yet-untitled Avengers 4 movie, so it’s only a matter of time until they get to smash our hearts all over again. So see you all in 2019, folks! Until then, we always have Deadpool 2!
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