This is a spoiler-free review. Tread carefully, nonetheless.
This is it mafakas! THIS. IS. IT! The culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Avengers: Infinity War babyyyy!
We may have gotten some great comic book movies before the dawn of the MCU, like Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight or even Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United. And we have been treated to great comic book movies outside of the MCU, since its launch, like Deadpool and Logan. But the MCU is a different beast altogether. Under the guidance of Kevin Feige — who will now until the end of time be known as Kevin “Most Badass Person In The Universe” Feige — Marvel Studios took what many considered to be a B-grade comic book character in Iron Man and launched a shared universe with engaging long-form storytelling. It forever changed the landscape of popular culture.
And since its launch a decade ago, the MCU has given us 18 movies; Some of which I love, most of which I like, few of which I do not care for and one of which I absolutely loathe (sorry Age of Ultron). But it all boils down to this. It’s 19th movie. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a TV series, then Avengers: Infinity War is the series finale, or at least part I of a two-part finale. I know it technically isn’t, but it sure as hell feels like it. I don’t think it needs mentioning, but I’m going to anyway: I was PUMPED OUT OF MY FREAKING MIND heading into this movie. But I was also anxious, so much so that I couldn’t even sleep soundly last night.
But perhaps I shouldn’t have been nervous. After all, this isn’t directors, the Russo brothers, and screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s, first rodeo. This phenomenal writer-director pairing has proven themselves twice now, first with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and then again with Captain America: Civil War, both of which are not just great comic book movies, but great movies, period. After two phenomenal outings, the pairing now had the burden on their shoulders to deliver what is arguably the biggest movie event of this generation (outside of The Force Awakens). Forget the Russo brothers, you could be the love child of Alfred Hitchcock and Kurosawa, that is still an enormous burden to bear. So, I was nervous. Eager and excited, sure, but nervous nonetheless.
And boy did they deliver… when it mattered most. I left Civil War feeling emotionally overwhelmed. In Infinity War, as the end credits whizzed, I felt empty. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t hollow. But I was paralyzed in my seat, unsure if I should clap or not. No, clapping didn’t feel right. Instead, I sat quietly, gathering my thoughts.
My thoughts have been gathered (though, I’ll definitely be catching this one again).
Guys, I do not LOOOVEEE Infinity War. I wanted to run back home after the movie, whip my laptop open and start whacking my keyboard: YEAH BITCHES! THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. I want to tell you that the Russo brothers delivered greatness once again. I want to, but I can’t. Infinity War is everything I ever dreamed of when it’s good, but a good chunk of the movie is also terribly underwhelming. I will discuss what’s underwhelming first. That way I can gush about the goods and end this review on a high note.
Picking up after the events of Civil War, Black Panther, Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok, the Russo brothers take a no-nonsense approach, cutting straight to death and destruction in the cosmic side of the universe, with the introduction of Thanos. What exactly happens, I will not spoil. Let’s just say Mr. purple giant is pissed and he ain’t f**king around. When we meet him, he already possesses one of the Infinity stones and is hellbent on retrieving the other five. Once all six stones are brought together, Thanos will possess unlimited power and will be capable of wiping out the entire universe with a snap of his fingers. TL;DR: Thanos + Infinity Stones = Shit.
That is pretty much the essence of this film. We cut from planet to planet, Earth included, as Thanos and his minions, the Black Order, hunt for the Infinity Stones, while our heroes try and stop him. Which brings us to my biggest issue with this movie: It is all over the place (literally). We hop from planet to planet to planet to planet — and occasionally large space vehicles — and at each of these locations, there are action sequences that look awesome but feel empty (for the most part). A lot of it is fluff.
As the movie continues to marinate at the back of my head, I can’t help but wonder if it would’ve worked better had Thanos already obtained more of the Infinity Stones prior to this. It’s safe to say that most of us assumed from the trailers and previous movies that Thanos will ultimately retrieve all the Infinity Stones, if not in this movie, then the next movie. Riding on that assumption, it is neither surprising nor interesting to see Thanos and his minions hop from planet to planet doing exactly that. It just is. Especially when they sometimes fail to retrieve the stone only to circle back, this time in a different location and then actually acquire it.
In fact, the Infinity Stones largely feel like MacGuffins to keep the Avengers spread out across the galaxy in random groups just because it might be fun to see character A and character Z talk to each other. In one scene, Thor and Rocket team up and fly off to another planet together because they have a similar sense of humour or something. It’s kind of annoying. The Russo brothers are unable to find their footing in the first half of the film, struggling to keep every set piece engaging. The film suffers because there is so much going on in various parts of the galaxy that the Russo brothers do not know what to focus on.
Not to mention, these planets or giant ships that we keep hoping on, simply look bland. The planets lack personality nor do they look lived in, but rather like every CGI heavy Michael Bay ejaculation after the explosion fest battle sequences. One of the planets looks dope, though (the one where Thanos himself goes to collect the stone and does the thing and we see holyshitIwillstop).
Infinity War is supposed to be the movie to end all movies. I know it isn’t the case in reality (Marvel has already announced Spider-Man: Homecoming 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp will be hitting the big screen really soon, yada yada yada). But within the confines of the story, this is the end game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always feel that way. I’m not talking about characters constantly SAYING that the world’s booty is getting penetrated pretty hardcore. I’m talking about actually feeling it; Sitting at the edge of your seats, worrying and praying for the characters that we have grown to love, and the innocent people that are caught in this mess. The kind where you feel the time on the proverbial clock running out and grip your armrest in nervousness. That level of scares is present in verbiage but absent in ambiance for a good chunk of this movie. And that’s because Infinity War is so action heavy, we hardly have sequences where characters are allowed to feel the damage and wallow in their emotions. Even when something heartbreaking (in concept) happens, we do not feel the full force of the gut punch because the movie just zooms past to the next action sequence — for the most part.
I know some people are going to REALLY dig this all out, balls to the wall punch fest. I wanted a little more room to breathe. Infinity War would’ve worked better had the Russo brothers slowed things down to build its drama and conflict, and allow it to gradually escalate. There are moments sprinkled throughout the first half of the film, where it does pump the brakes and those are the best parts of the movie.
Civil War is a story of responsibility and a clash of ideologies; Infinity War is mostly a boxing match. It is also a bummer that besides Team Captain America fighting Thanos in one place and Team Iron Man fighting Thanos in another place, we hardly feel the ramifications of whatever happened in Civil War, not on an emotional level anyway. Heck, besides influencing all the characters’ whereabouts, none of the movies that come before this truly matter. Infinity War is both a good prequel and a lousy sequel.
But perhaps this is more my problem than it is the movie’s problem. After slowly planting the seeds for the past 10 years, this has all the rights in the world to be an action-heavy slugfest. I believe a lot of people are going to love this approach.
Note my constant usage “for the most part.” Because even in the largely substanceless and dare I say, slightly boring first half of the film, there are sprinkles of greatness. At the centre of that is character-driven drama revolving Thanos and Gamora. As we first learned in Guardians of the Galaxy, Gamora is Thanos’ adopted daughter. Here, we discover how that came to be in some emotionally harrowing sequences. It is in these sequences that the Russo brothers and their writing partners truly shine. Their handling of these characters cannot be understated.
The exploration of Thanos’ backstory, his motivations as well as his relationship with Gamora are some of the best, if not the absolute best sequences in the movie. I’ll have to give it a second viewing, but Thanos may have just upstaged Killmonger as the best villain in the MCU. I know that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but considering how great of a villain Killmonger is, this is saying something. Like most great villains, Thanos truly believes that his actions aren’t vile. In his own twisted way, he is convinced that his genocidal tendencies are for the greater good. Imagine getting a peek into PG-13 Hitler’s brain. I may not agree with Thanos, but I understand him and I feel his tenacity and conviction, and that’s what makes a great villain. Zoe Saldana and Josh Brolin, who play Gamora and Thanos, put everything they have on the table in some incredibly raw performances.
Since there are approximately 7952 characters in this movie, instead of taking a deep dive, I’ll just list my quick thoughts:
- The dynamic between Tony Stark and Peter Parker is gold as usual.
- The Guardians, led by Star-Lord are funny, but they do not undercut the serious moments.
- Doctor Strange fits in perfectly with the rest of the gang.
- Captain America is in the movie. Err… he has a cool beard.
- I’m very sure Vision and Scarlett Witch had sexy time. Is it odd that I find that hot? Maybe I need a sex robot.
- Hulk smash? More like Hulk trash. This director-writer pairing rarely shit the bed, but Hulk is diarrhea after spicy Indian food.
- The Wakandans got the short end of the stick in terms of character moments, but the longest redwood branch when it comes to ass-kicking.
Once we’ve gotten the fluff out of the way and the movie shifts to Wakanda and one other planet, with only a couple of stones remaining, Infinity War goes from sometimes-awesome-mostly-disappointing to BUCKLE-YOUR-SEATBELTS-MOFOS-SHIT-JUST-GOT REAL. Here, the action sequences feel weighted and the feeling of danger finally begins to creep out of the screen and grab you by your throat. I loved every single second of it. Heck, the only downside is that it should have been longer. The battle at Wakanda could have been as long as the Battle of Helm’s Deep, as thousands of Wakandan warriors and the ENTIRE Avengers — the whole band should’ve gotten back together after the first 40 minutes or so — desperately try to fend off Thanos who’s inching closer and closer towards procuring the remaining stone(s). Kind of like a reverse The Lord of the Rings. Regardless, what we do get is pretty damn riveting as it is.
When compared to the blockbuster masterpiece that is Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War is a slight letdown. Good thing is, all the disappointing parts take place in the first half of the film. As the movie chugs along, the Russo brothers find their footing and deliver the goods when it mattered most. The first half is a mess, but the final act is P O E T R Y.
Ps: About the ending of Infinity War… OH MY GOD!!!!!!!
*Note: After multiple viewings of the movie, I found myself liking it more and more. My problems with the movie still remain, but the entire second half of the movie is absolute brilliance. As a result, I’ve bumped up my score by a bit.
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