“Avengers: Infinity War” Movie Review


WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS

     Something I’ve often mentioned when we see film franchises reach the number of installments where the character development starts to rival that of a television series, is we begin to see these films benefit  from this development in earlier chapters, thus meaning you look at a singular entry of that franchise in a completely different way than you would any other stand alone non franchise film.  This notion is an important one when you consider Anthony and Joe Russo’s “Avengers: Infinity War” brings forth the talents of a reported 76 featured characters from the 18 previous Marvel Cinematic Universe entries to date.  Given such an impossibly high number of characters to somehow include in the story, “Infinity War” benefits greatly from what we already know before entering the theater, resulting in a narrative that feels even amongst the various superhero’s, giving each of them the moments they deserve without becoming overstuffed.  

     “Infinity War” is the first half of a story being told over the course of two films, with the yet to be titled “Avengers 4” scheduled to unspool in May, 2019.  It requires the viewer to be up to date on the various plot threads established from nearly every Marvel film, but especially those incorporated into 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”, 2016’s  “Captain America: Civil War”, 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok”, and 2018’s “Black Panther”.  And while there are already grumblings that certain characters within this massive team up are left with but a few notable moments, the Russo brothers have certainly done an admirable job in creating the set up that allows many of these characters to function within sub groups, inserting them into adventures taking place all over the galaxy.

     If any Marvel film is most represented, it’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”, given the fact most of the action takes place in worlds other than our own, but also because the baddy in question is none other than Thanos (Josh Brolin), the evil father of Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan).  And as has been teased and hinted at throughout the MCU and many of the post credit scenes, Thanos is on a mission to find and possess each of the six Infinity Stones which now function as the story’s central MacGuffin.  If you have faithfully followed the significance of each stone as they were introduced throughout the MCU films (the Space Stone, Reality Stone, Power Stone, Mind Stone, Soul Stone, and Time Stone), than you know the reason Thanos seeks to acquire each of them.  It is said, put simply, that he would then have the power to wipe out half of all life in the galaxy with one snap of his finger.

     As a villain, Thanos was first teased for the MCU audience during a post credits scene following 2011’s “Thor”, indicating everything that came after would eventually lead to the “Infinity War” storyline and the supposed finality that accompanies it.  The importance of a villain in a film like “Infinity War” can’t be understated, and the fact Thanos is a CGI / Motion Capture character means the filmmakers needed to ensure the various themes that make up his motives and personality are able to carry their own weight.  Emotions based on his actions within the story must resonate with the audience just as they do the other characters on screen.  If not, all we have is another Steppenwolf from “Justice League” barking out angry diatribe devoid of any kind of true meaning.  The Russo brothers certainly were aware of this, and it is clear from the very first scene that not only does Thanos represent one of the finest villains ever committed to the screen, but also one who allows the audience to be a part of his thought process and the emotional baggage created by each of his decisions.

     With so many filmmakers’ finger prints on the various projects that preceded “Infinity War”, you have to applaud screenwriters Christoper Markus and Stephen McFeely for their ability to write these characters in a way that allow them to maintain continuity with their appearances in the various MCU standalone films.  Present as ever are the wise cracking non stop antics of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” crew (Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), & Drax (Dave Bautista) but here they are ultimately combined together with the wit and sarcasm of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), making for some of the most entertaining banter of the film.  That is until Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has his chance to interact with the Guardians crew, providing the kind of laugh out loud moments you’d expect from a well done comedy.  Of course, there’s so much more.  When Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) returns to Earth in order to warn the Avengers of Thanos’ pending arrival, Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) resurface to join the fight along with Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and the rest of Wakanda in an effort to save humanity.

     Above all, the Russo brothers succeed in raising the stakes high enough to warrant the kind of response that immediately comes from the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as a host of others who will definitely surprise you (the juxtaposition of a certain actor is genius).  They have also created a number of can’t miss crowd pleasing moments that are sure to have you (and the audience you view it with) clapping and cheering as we finally see the battle we always knew was coming, but didn’t know exactly when to expect it.  “Infinity War” is the kind of film we will still be talking about years from now, and will likely be called upon as an example of pop culture reference in much the same way Spider-Man (Tom Holland) does in an early scene where he conjures up a plan based on “an old movie called Aliens”.  

     But it’s not all popcorn and fun.  “Infinity War” has a certain gravitas that elevates the experience far beyond a film whose source material resides in a  comic book.  The Russo brothers have created a film where the emotional resonance between the characters feels as though it has been earned through years of well thought out relationships established in previous MCU material , thus creating that ache in your stomach when you see them in situations of authentic peril and their ability to survive is in question.  All of this culminates in what is likely the finest Marvel film to date and will certainly be considered one of the best films of the year.  GRADE: A