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Avengers: Infinity War Review

April 27, 2018 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Avengers: Infinity War Image Credit: Marvel Studios
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Avengers: Infinity War Review  

Directed By: Anthony and Joe Russo
Written By: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; Based on the Marvel comics and characters
Runtime: 149 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Josh Brolin – Thanos
Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man/Tony Stark
Chris Evans – Captain America/Steve Rogers
Tom Holland – Spider-Man/Peter Parker
Benedict Cumberbatch – Doctor Strange
Chris Hemsworth – Thor
Mark Ruffalo – Bruce Banner/Hulk
Chris Pratt – Star-Lord/Peter Quill
Zoe Saldana – Gamora
Dave Bautista – Drax the Destroyer
Bradley Cooper – Rocket
Vin Diesel – Groot
Pom Klementieff – Mantis
Karen Gillan – Nebula
Sebastian Stan – Winter Soldier/James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes
Paul Bettany – Vision
Elizabeth Olsen – Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff
Scarlett Johansson Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff
Anthony Mackie – Falcon/Sam Wilson
Don Cheadle – War Machine/James Rhodes
Chadwick Boseman – Black Panther/T’Challa
Letitia Wright – Shuri
Danai Gurira – Okoye
Winston Duke – M’Baku
Carrie Coon – Proxima Midnight
Tom Vaughan-Lawlor – Ebony Maw
Terry Notary – Obsidian Cull
Michael James Shaw – Corvus Glaive
Benedict Wong – Wong
Gwyneth Paltrow – Pepper Potts
Kerry Kondon – Friday
Tom Hiddleston – Loki

Author’s Note: This is a spoiler-free review.

“Look well, Earthman, and you Mar-vell of the Kree. For you shall soon learn the meaning of fear at the mere sightings of your future monarch: Thanos, King of Titan. By the might of the legions I command, and recognizing Death as my only comrade, I seized power on my home world, Titan. And with the hidden knowledge, whose door Mar-vell shall open, Earth and the very stars shall follow suit!”

– Thanos, from Marvel Comics’ Captain Marvel Vol. 1 Issue 25, “A Taste of Madness,” by Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin

Nothing has prepared you for this. At long last, Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War arrives in theaters this week, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe might never be the same again.

When The Avengers was released in 2012, Marvel Studios changed the game in comic book superhero films. Finally, comic book films could achieve a level of parity comparable to what fans had previously experienced in the comics and animation in terms of narrative size and scope. But the film left audiences with a major tease by revealing Thanos at the end, which presented another ambitious leap to realize in a live-action feature film setting.

Infinity War is the biggest and most ambitious entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. It’s quite possibly the biggest comic book superhero film in cinematic history. It almost goes without saying, directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who previously helmed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, are great at managing a film with many characters and subplots. That style pays off here as almost all hands of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in terms of the film side, are on deck for Avengers: Infinity War.

In the culmination of the last 10 years of Marvel films, the disparate and fragmented heroes, whose exploits have been documented across the last three MCU phases, are keyed into the threat of Thanos (Brolin). Three years after picking up a gauntlet in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thanos and his minions of the Black Order have finally made their move to collect the Infinity Stones.

For viewers that have been paying attention to the previous films, each of the Infinity Stones represents a different aspect of existence. Once Thanos has all of them in his possession, he could destroy the entire universe with the snap of his fingers. Unfortunately, the Avengers are in tatters after the events of Civil War, and major heroes are MIA. But on Earth and across the universe, heroes and guardians are ready to answer the call to stop Thanos from completing his Infinity Gauntlet. But with each stone, Thanos becomes more powerful, and the heroes are running out of cards to play.

For those who have been yearning for a more present, significant villain to pull his weight in the MCU, Thanos definitely appears to satiate that particular desire. Large swaths of the narrative are presented from his perspective and focus on his emotional arc. Thanos is essentially treated as the film’s central protagonist. The heroes such as Iron Man (Downey), Spider-Man (Holland), Captain America (Evans), Thor (Hemsworth), Black Panther (Boseman), among others, are basically the supporting players this time around. This is basically The Thanos Show.

It’s incredibly satisfying to finally have Thanos in action and wrecking shop. The only problem? A major part of Thanos’ backstory has been changed. The Russos present Thanos as a cold, almost frighteningly rational pragmatist. It’s a very different take on the character. The trailers and marketing material have already hinted at his motivations. However, some of his other major motivations have been lost, which is a bit disheartening.

Regardless, Thanos does create an entertaining spectacle and presence as the film’s central character. His agency and characterization have been fully realized, where MCU villains in the past are paper-thin and fail to leave an impression. The reinforcement of Thanos’ place as the central character of Infinity War comes through in another trivial, almost insignificant, detail that’s been used by past Marvel films that’s incredibly amusing. Keen-eyed MCU fans will notice it when they see it.

The massive nature of this film cannot be understated. The above cast list isn’t even complete for the sake of keeping certain details close to the vest . Infinity War has an enormous cast and juggles an equally massive number of subplots and relationships that it must pay homage to in order to deliver an impactful story. This is basically filmmaking equivalent to the Wheel of Death from Cirque du Soleil’s KÀ.

Thankfully, the Russo Bros. do a tremendous job juggling all these characters and their various places in the story without a sudden, tremendous crash. The film skillfully acknowledges the characters’ current circumstances, subplots and relationships, but doesn’t spend a huge amount of time dwelling on them. More important matters are presently at stake.

The film produces many satisfying moments with MCU heroes reuniting, and some of the more recent additions meeting each other for the first time. Those scenes usually produce the biggest moments of mirth. Yes, the film does have jokes and humor, but all the stakes are incredibly serious and grave. The humor never undercuts the consequences of what is happening onscreen. This is quite possibly the darkest and most emotional MCU film to date. That means something because these are genuinely likable and beloved characters. Due to Thanos’ presence, the jokes almost have a type of gallows humor effect.

The Russos also have the enviable job of putting together some of the most satisfying action set pieces the MCU has ever seen. But the best and most elaborate action scenes in the world wouldn’t mean spit unless audiences genuinely cared about the characters and what happens to them. That’s why other major comic book movies have failed to hit the mark. The characters are genuinely horrible or unlikable. Audiences have spent almost a decade with many of these characters, making the impact of the action even greater.

But the film is not just about the action. The Russos also excel in providing some of those first-time hero meetings, but also fulfilling the buildup of major subplots that have been brewing throughout the MCU for years. There are numerous payoffs here to events and subplots that have come up in the past, and some that have even been left to the side without mention for a considerable amount of time. Infinity War really takes nothing for granted. There are more than a few emotional gut punches in Avengers: Infinity War fans will not be prepared for, and the Russos do not pull a single one. Those gut punches mean everything because this is the culmination of the last 10 years of Marvel Studios.

Besides the ambivalent feelings of the major changes to Thanos, the other major issue is mostly a minor nitpick. The MCU convention of attempting to have a new film take place in the same year it’s released has become increasingly problematic and convoluted. It basically started when Spider-Man: Homecoming put The Battle of New York in The Avengers eight years ago. That moment already left some fans scratching their heads.

There are additional moments throughout the film that cause greater confusion of the MCU timeline. Maybe one can chalk it up to comic book time or simply the meddling of cosmic forces greater than even the Infinity Gauntlet. Instead, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and MCU architect Kevin Feige simply should have kept those year marks more vague, but again, that’s really more of a minor nitpick.

Avengers: Infinity War is very much an emotional roller coaster with the fate of the universe and the beloved heroes of the MCU hanging in the balance. Tissues are recommended for viewing. This film isn’t just a culmination of the last 10 years of Marvel films, but an example of why Marvel does the superhero film better than the rest. These are some of the greatest characters ever seen and the greatest stories ever told.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Avengers: Infinity War is one of the most emotional and darkest films to come out of the MCU to date. It's a moving, impactful comic book superhero extravaganza. There are major payoffs to the last 10 years of films and the fulfillment of subplots that have been building for years. A few changes to Thanos are a bit underwhelming, but Josh Brolin puts in a strong performance as the film's central character. It's incredibly satisfying to see all these heroes in the same movie interacting with each other. The stakes of all the action are incredibly important because of how effective Marvel has been at making audiences care about these characters for the last 18 movies. Stay after the credits. Bring a tissue. And until next time, Make Mine Marvel.