Published on April 27th, 2018 | by Craig Silliphant1
Avengers: Infinity War
If you hate these movies, then you’ll really hate this one, but Avengers: Infinity War is a surprisingly enjoyable movie that isn’t a bloated mess.
Most Marvel movies riff on specific genres to give each movie a distinct personality; the first Captain America is a war movie, Winter Soldier is their paranoid 70’s thriller, Ant-Man is a heist movie, Spider-man: Homecoming the John Hughesy high school movie, and so forth. If this thinking holds true, then Avengers: Infinity War, is their Lord of the Rings-style epic. Not in terms of swords and sandals, but just in the scope of the story, the time and space journeys, and of course, the CGI hordes at the gates.
Infinity War is the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while some people might complain of their homogenous, assembly-line nature, Marvel has done a remarkable job committing to and creating a franchise — a universe — of characters and stories. Infinity War feels like the culmination of this huge story, bringing together almost all of the separate characters we’ve watched unfurl over the last decade or so.
In Infinity War, Thanos, the living piece of purple Hubba Bubba who has been skirting around the edges of our Marvel Universe ominously, finally appears in full force. He’s got the patented crazy guy plan of murdering half of the universe in order to bring harmony to those left over. To do so more easily, he needs the Maguffin Stones…er…the Infinity Stones, which are scattered about. Our heroes must band together, and potentially sacrifice everything in their own version of the Kobayashi Maru to stop Thanos.
Up front, I will admit that I wasn’t really looking forward this movie. I think the solo stories (or pairings like Thor: Ragnarok and Captain America: Winter Solder) work much better than the group outings, with the exception of the first Avengers movie, which had good balance. But the solo stories generally are able to focus on telling one succinct story, where as Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War were more bloated and hollow. Sometimes they became mere vehicles for CGI washing machine destruction porn, sometimes commercials for movies that were upcoming in the franchise.
If you already don’t like Marvel movies, you’re probably not going to find anything new in Infinity War. In fact, it’s all that stuff, turned up to 11. But for all of its loud posturing, Infinity War works (surprisingly) better than Ultron and Civil War. The movie has human stories that manage to make themselves heard above the noise. There are even a few emotional moments that land well.
The movie itself plays like a grunge song, or like Radio Free Vestibule’s parody of every Pixies song, ‘The Grunge Song.’ “This is the part of the song that’s really quiet…we play very soft, it sounds like a ballad/AND THIS IS THE PART OF THE SONG WHERE WE PLAY REAL HARD…IT’S MUCH LOUDER THAN AT THE BEGINNING/then we go back to the quiet part,” and so forth. You get some dialogue and story, then you get a battle, then you get some dialogue and story, then a battle, etc. This actually works well enough — there were very few lulls in this 2½ hour movie. The pacing is Hulk-strong and kudos to the editor for keeping all these plates spinning.
Aside from his distracting bubble gum head, scrotum chin, and obviously CGI pants, Thanos won me over. I’m pretty turned off by a lot of these lame otherworldly space god demons like Ares in Wonder Woman and Steppenwolf in Justice League. But Thanos is more than the stock, overly powerful but ultimately hollow bad guy; he has motivations behind his madness. There is more than one point in the movie where you are sympathetic to him, which is actually pretty amazing. He manages to be quite interesting not only as a villain, but as a character in his own right. Props go to Josh Brolin as well for bringing a certain human gravitas to the role.
If someone were to dislike this movie, it would be because it becomes an exhaustive assault on the senses. I saw more than five people bail during the screening (some of them older folks) and I heard some people complaining after, “I don’t get it — it was just a bunch of fighting.” Of course, if you’re in the pocket for this movie, a lot of this is why you want to see it in the first place. But it’s definitely one of those epic journeys where the audience is worn out in the end. Some are worn out with a big question mark cloud over their heads, some with a big, fat, satisfied grin on their faces. Sure, some characters get lost in the shuffle, but I am just happy that it managed to tell a story and didn’t feel like the narrative mess a lot of these group superhero movies can become. To be clear, I liked it.
And no spoilers here — but just to weigh in, I loved the ending. Some people have called it cheap and it is obviously meant to lead into a part two that they’ll want us to shell out for, but the stories being told came to a satisfactory close while also opening it up for part two.
My big question is, after part two — where can they go to top themselves? I don’t mean in terms of the next phase of characters in the Marvel Universe, which are already coming — I mean in terms of the big super hero team ups. Perhaps you just build a new stable of characters up again and you have a whole new generation of moviegoers in 10 years when you go to do something like Infinity War again. But they should be careful they aren’t painting themselves into a corner; after a movie this ambitious (and successful), anything else could feel like diminishing returns.