First off, I must apologize for the lateness of this review. The whole point of this blog is to get reviews out as quickly as possible, so you the consumer can decide the best use of your movie-going dollars. That said, there are two major reasons for the delay, which I think excuse it. For one, I’ve been bingeing the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last month, as I had previously only seen three of the films (or 1/6 of the franchise), in anticipation of the film’s May 11 release date. Then they moved it up two weeks, seemingly just to spite me. Literally I just watched Thor: Ragnarok on Tuesday night before seeing Infinity War last night. Had Marvel/Disney stuck to the original date, I’d have been fine (and just for fun I’ll grade the MCU in a “Back Row Thoughts” column soon). Second, as stated, the point of this blog is to give you options for your money, but let’s be honest – if you even have the slightest inkling, you’re going to see this movie regardless of what I say. It had a record-breaking opening weekend, and it is likely to be the highest-grossing film of the year (if not all time) when it’s all said and done. Really, only Solo or maybe Incredibles 2 has a chance to beat it on the year-end list. In essence, I can concede that I would sway no one either way with this review, so I don’t feel bad in taking my time. Anyway, on with the show!
We begin where we left off somewhere in the credits of Thor: Ragnarok, with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Heimdall (Idris Elba), and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) fleeing with the remaining people of Asgard in a small ship that gets overtaken by Thanos’ much, much, MUCH bigly-er ship, and from this moment, the body count starts to pile up. I won’t say who dies and who doesn’t, mostly because I want to avoid spoilers, but also because I have no faith whatsoever that ANY of these deaths will be permanent. We’ve still got a franchise to run here, people. As such, despite all the time we’ve invested into these characters over the last decade, their respective demises have no pathos whatsoever.
So anyway, here’s Thanos (Josh Brolin), a big CGI alien thing who we’ve seen in cameos and teases over the years. He wishes to collect the six Infinity Stones, forged by the Big Bang, which will give him dominion over all life in the universe, which he wants to literally cut in half with a snap of his fingers. He’s already stolen the one that the Guardians of the Galaxy hid on Xandar, literally destroying the planet in the process, and with the raid on the Asgard ship, he gets the Tesseract. Before the title card hits the screen, he’s already 1/3 of the way to his goal.
I’m very conflicted when it comes to Thanos. One the one hand, I give this movie an immense amount of credit for crafting his character’s motivations so precisely as to make him an almost sympathetic villain, despite his desire for the genocide of TRILLIONS. On the other hand, it’s hard to find him imposing or intimidating when he looks fake as shit (his minions leave a lot to be desired as well). If you can get past the fact that he looks like Dormammu’s rippling face settled into a chin scrotum, you can really relate to his mission, even if you don’t agree with it.
With the threat firmly established, the rest of the first two acts are basically spent reuniting various Avengers and splitting them up into groups that maximize comedy as well as awesome fight choreography. A couple of Thanos’ servants head to New York (where Hulk also happens to have landed), and we get a grouping of Hulk, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland), with Wong (Benedict Wong) basically around for a couple of scenes as well. After a cool fight, all but Wong and Banner stow away aboard the invading ship, heading to Titan, Thanos’ home planet.
On the other side of the world, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen, still sporting the greatest corset/bustier in existence) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have gotten more romantic, and as such, the rogue Avengers have to save the Mind Stone in his head. This leads to a mass group of Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle, still being not Terrance Howard), Hulk, and Scarlet Witch taking Vision to Wakanda, and the aid of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) in hopes of safely removing the stone.
Finally, out in space (a hilarious establishing font of “SPACE” hits the screen in case we couldn’t tell), Thor meets up with the Guardians of the Galaxy briefly before splitting off with Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) to go forge a new weapon for himself with the giant dwarf, Eitri (Peter Dinklage). Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) head to Knowhere in hopes of cutting Thanos off before he gets the Reality Stone, as well as save Nebula (Karen Gillan).
I think that’s the most parenthetical cast members I’ve ever written. For the record, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) do not appear, their absence glossed over by one line about how they’re in hiding in exchange for immunity or something for their actions during Captain America: Civil War. Way to have a massive clusterfuck but leave out a) one of your most charismatic members, and b) one of your original members! But hey, gotta sell tickets for Ant-Man and the Wasp somehow, right?
Now, despite all these disparate groupings, they somehow all work. You have a good mix of established core Avengers with the ancillary ones. There’s enough of a rapport between characters to make the interactions seem natural and not at all forced. Most importantly, there are enough witty characters paired with straight ones to elicit some excellent jokes. The best that come to mind are Peter Quill intentionally lowering his voice to sound as tough as Thor, only for everyone to call him on it; Shuri (Letitia Wright – MORE NAMES!) proving she’s smarter than Banner; and Peter Parker introducing himself to Doctor Strange by assuming they’re using their made-up hero names.
The action sequences leave little to be desired as well. Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange make a really good combination, as do Natasha, Wanda, and Okoye (Danai Gurira). Hell, while it might seem a bit racist, Rhodey and Sam are a great duo, almost worthy of a spinoff movie (let’s not go any more nuts than we already have, though).
The film does have some pacing problems thanks to all this, unfortunately. When you spend 10 years fleshing out all these characters, it takes half the movie to effectively put them all together. And that’s almost a good thing, because there’s no time in this jam-packed flick for any more development outside of Thanos. We get the briefest of hints about a conflict with Bruce/Hulk, but that’s mostly to build suspense and make the fights a little more even towards the end.
On the flip side of that, we’ve been at a snail’s pace in establishing the Infinity Stones, but as I said earlier, Thanos has two of them within the first 10 minutes, and he gathers the other four at an alarming rate relative to the rest of the franchise. By the way, that’s not a spoiler. We already knew Infinity War would be part one of a two movie story, so it takes a monumental lack of knowledge of basic plotting to think we wouldn’t get the low point of Thanos collecting all the stones by the end of the first film. The point is, given how long it took for Thanos to get off his ass, it’s amazing how quickly, and relatively easily, he acquires the stones. The fight scenes are pretty awesome, and there’s some genuine pathos to his character along the way, but it’s easy to argue that the speed at which he collects his MacGuffins retroactively renders the rest of the MCU as a huge waste of time, rather than the payoff to a decade-long buildup. I don’t personally agree with that argument, but I understand it.
Because outside of the actual stones, this film really is the culmination of years of world-building, even for someone like me who only saw a small fraction of the franchise before preparing for this. Many of the films take a lot of time to establish and flesh out characters, endlessly exposit, and then have one or two good action sequences. This one says right from the off, “You already know everything, or at least you should, so we’re going to dispense with the talking (except for jokes), and just throw everything at the screen!” Every once in a while it comes off as perfunctory and cartoonish, but for the most part, the dialogue and the action is ever constant, and ever satisfying.
As always, it’s somewhat infuriating to see half a movie, and as previously stated, I had no reaction to the myriad deaths in the film, because I know most likely none of them will stay dead. Also, to repeat, Thanos’ CGI design is more comical than menacing. And even when the film is having so much fun with the beginning of the end, it still can’t help doling out tired tropes, including yet another end credits sequence hinting at the reveal of yet another hero to the mix. It’s like the movie is flat-out saying, “I know we’ve been building to this for 10 years, but we STILL don’t know when enough is enough!” Whatever, the film is decent, and Marvel/Disney will get to keep printing money. Now we just have to wait a year to see how Thanos will be overcome.
Join the conversation in the comments below! What film should I review next? Is anyone really dead for good? Can your Scarlet Witch/Black Widow fanfiction beat mine? Let me know!