By Jack Dignan
What you’re about to read is not a review. Reviewing this movie is an impossible task; one no infinity stone can save me from. There’s too much at stake here, too much to unpack, and too much I wouldn’t dare spoil. What you’re about to read is a rambling of mildly incoherent thoughts and nerd-outs that may not make much sense until after you see the film, but for those who want to nothing more than a ‘go see it’ or not, I’ll leave you with a very strong, very resounding ‘go see it’. This is a cinematic landmark you’re going to want to be a part of.
What started in 2008 with the simplistic superhero origin story Iron Man has rocketed into a galaxy far, far away. Never did little ten-years-younger me believe I’d ever see the day where something as ambitious and as big as Avengers: Infinity War would be released in theatres, but here we are. Eighteen films spanning ten years have all been building towards this. As of this week, all around the globe, Avengers: Infinity War will finally be unleashed. And wow, none of you are ready. This is a big, bold, unrelenting superhero epic that’s truly going to be one for the ages.
For those who need a refresher, The Avengers as we know it are no more. The team’s split around the globe. But Thanos (Josh Brolin), an intergalactic being of immense power, is on the hunt for the six Infinity Stones, sources of great power created at the dawn of the universe that, when put together, could mean the end of civilisation as we know it. Thanos’ quest is underway, and with time running out, and the fate of the galaxy in their hands, The Avengers may need to band together once more to fight the impossible fight.
Never before has a cast this big been brought together for a film so massive in scale. It’s an overwhelmingly brutal, hilarious, unrelenting epic that balances its several tones and several hundred characters perfectly. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (the duo behind the Captain America trilogy) take a very Empire Strikes Back approach to this two-part finale, which, yes, I know is an overused statement to imply a sequel’s darker than previous installments (which this is), but here, it rings true. These characters are tested and broken in ways you won’t see coming, and if you’re hoping for everyone to get a happy ending, you may need to prepare yourself.
I will probably never recover from this film. It broke my heart into a million pieces, shattered and unfixable. As is the case with all Marvel movies, Infinity War brings with it plenty of humour, especially from the Guardians of the Galaxy, who are the film’s secret MVPs. The dynamic between Pom Klementieff’s Mantis and Dave Bautista’s Drax continues to grow, while Chris Pratt gives his best performance yet as Peter Quill, but it’s Zoe Saldana who’s the standout amongst the crowd. Her ties to Thanos lead to shocking, emotional and unexpected scenarios that bring with it real stakes.
A common complaint amongst MCU films are their villains, but at this point I can’t even remember the last time we had a noticeably bad Marvel villain. With Infinity War, we get one of, if not the best villain yet. Brolin’s Thanos is the very definition of brutal. He’s an insane, frightening being with the ominous potential to be so much more of a threat, and as his quest for power unfolds, his insidious nature comes to light, yet he retains a sense of humanness that grounds him in reality. I can’t say I side with him as I did with Black Panther’s Killmonger, but you understand the importance of what he’s doing. He’s a deeply flawed character with endless layers, and unraveling him is part of the fun. Plus, visually, he looks extravagant.
Unfortunately, it isn’t all fun and games. Crowd pleasing moments are aplenty, and every one of the team ups works extraordinarily (Spider-Man, Iron Man and Doctor Strange was definitely a highlight), but one of the sub-plots does lead to a sequence that’s... rather bad. It’s a sub-plot that sees Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) diverging away from the others and embarking on a mission that’s tedious, uneventful and corny. It doesn’t work, especially a new character that gets introduced. What it lacks in substance, however, it makes up for in pay off, and while it’s a sludge to get through, the final payoff had the entire audience bursting into applause.
Winter Solider and Civil War directors Joe and Anthony Russo return to the director’s chair for their third go-around, and they retain their knack for epic superhero showdowns. This whole movie is the Civil War airport scene on steroids. Right from the opening sequence this film let’s you know it means business, and from there, it’s a journey of insanity in which the Russo’s perfectly balance emotional stakes with big, extravagant set pieces. There’s not a mediocre action sequence in sight. Each one finds new, shocking and creative ways to confront these characters, and the Russo’s handle everything with elegance. The battle for Wakanda is particularly impressive, and holy crap, that ending....
Hardcore comic book enthusiasts may have a sense of what’s to come, but nothing will prepare you for the shock and emotional impact the finale has. Getting upset at seeing it coming is like getting upset at a book adaptation for following its source material. It’s a gutsy, unexpected twist unheard of in films as big and as mainstream as this. Not every plot thread gets a resolution, making this feel noticeably the first half of an incomplete story, but it’s one I’m sure will be looked upon with fonder eyes once its conclusion hits theatres early next year.
Avengers: Infinity War has a lot going for it. So much so that I’ve barely scratched the surface in my review here, but Marvel fans need to prepare themselves. It’s everything you’ve dreamed of, yet nothing you could possibly imagine. My rating is what it is. But I did only see the film yesterday. Given time, and perhaps even a second viewing, I can definitely see myself bumping it up half a star. The flaws, while there, aren’t all that degrading. This is a superhero masterpiece of epic proportions.
4 1/2 Stars
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