Review: Avengers: Infinity War

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Marvel Studios

Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephan McFeely

Composer: Alan Silvestri

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating: PG-13

Avengers: Infinity War is the full culmination of all the events built up over the course of the nineteen films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just about every member of the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and assorted heroes running around the edges of the universe make an appearance in this nearly conclusive chapter of the long story that these movies have been playing out since Iron Man in 2008.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Multiple characters die and dead bodies are depicted on screen at a distance. Characters are stabbed, shot, and bleed slightly. Several characters dissolve into dust.

Language/Crude Humor: Course language throughout including d***, h***, and taking the lords name in vain. Als,o a character gives the middle finger at one point.

Drug/Alcohol References: None.

Sexual Content: Several characters are depicted in love. Nothing beyond kissing is depicted.

Spiritual Content: A character attempts to gain god-like omnipotent power.

Other Negative Content: Significant potentially unsettling or upsetting content including widespread destruction and death.

Positive Content: Themes of preserving life, justice, and fighting evil.

Review

I was a part of the generation that grew up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I recall fervently a Saturday in the fall of 2008 as a thirteen-year-old when my dad sat me down with a DVD copy of Iron Man and finding myself falling in love with a character I had assumed was either merely a gimmick or the subject of a Black Sabbath song. Who even was Tony Stark? From then on I would tell you Tony Stark was one of the coolest superheroes ever. Just two years later I would find myself waiting in line desperately eager to see Iron Man 2 in theaters.

Summer 2011 was the first time I ever realized that I could actually go to the movie theaters by myself without my family. Thus I sat down to enjoy a number of that summer’s best moves for a sixteen-year-old boy like Deathly Hallows Part 2Transformers 3, and Captain America: The First Avenger. Little did I know that Cap’s debut film would go on to become one of my favorite movies ever.

Then out of the blue came this bizarreness that was The Avengers. I hadn’t seen Thor or The Incredible Hulk but I found myself seeing this weird superhero movie that had everyone hyped on opening weekend. The Avengers has since become one of my most frequently rewatched movies. For me, it felt like what I thought it must’ve felt like for people watching Star Wars for the first time. I felt as though I was staring down the barrel of something incredibly unique and special. Somehow Marvel Studios had managed to meld four wildly disparate Sci-Fi and fantasy franchises into something seamless, exciting, and new. I remember rushing out to grab a copy of the movie on DVD the day it came out, doing movie marathons of it with my friends from church and speculating what the next movie was going to be like.

From then on I was absolutely hooked on Marvel. I became one of Iron Man 3‘s most defiant defenders, sang the praises of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, fell in love with The Guardians of the Galaxy out of nowhere, marathoned the first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones in a weekend, mourned the tragic failings of Age of Ultron, and joined the choir praising Marvel’s recent successes with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther.

With my bonafide (and blatant bias) out in the open, I recall that I’ve become far more reflective of the state of superheroes as I’ve aged a decade alongside the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel now has nineteen movies and nearly a dozen television shows under its belt and the cracks in the proverbial machine become more evident with age. The same me that grew up waiting excitedly to that magical point in my life as an adult where I’d get to have an entire shelf lined up with all these movies finds myself now with all those movies wondering where the future of this is going.

The phrase “superhero fatigue” has been brought up a great deal in recent discourse over the past five years with many people being unsure when exactly it was going to start setting in. Momentarily despite continual references to the phenomena, there have been some absolutely huge success stories with the genre as Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Logan, and Deadpool all scratched itches that hadn’t been hit before. Most recently however major figures in the industry like James Cameron have talked out about superhero fatigue and to some degree it feels inevitable that the genre is going to start hitting financial limitations soon.

Last fall I wrote a blog post on my personal website about the impending approach of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. My point then was that the continual release of Star Wars movies that were pretty good but not as good as their predecessors were going to destroy Disney if they didn’t deliver something above average to alleviate the zeitgeist of fans wanting to see movies that brought back the good memories of being a young fan. While I, Geek’s Under Grace’s own Julianna, and many other critics came on the general consensus that the movies are terribly mixed to the point where a ton of Star Wars fans are fed up with Disney.

Now as I’m staring down the massive undertaking that ten years of hype and character build up have created for Avengers: Infinity War I’m afraid of the same thing. This movie has the weight of an entire franchise’s fiscal future on its shoulders. If this movie fails then there isn’t going to be any public patience left for another decade of these movies. Fans may go to see Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Spiderman 2, or Iron Man 4 should they be made but the general consensus necessary to keep these films afloat will be gone. Consider how much that would affect Disney’s one time plans to implement the Fantastic Four and X-Men into the MCU after the multimillion dollar 20th Century Fox aquisition, let alone what it will do to Warner Brothers and DC as they keep desperately trying to launch their own superhero universe.

So with the wait of a decade of anticipation, the future of multiple major corporations on its back, and an entire genre potentially on the line, how does Avengers: Infinity War hold up? Does it live up to the hopes and dreams of an adolescent fan?

Personally speaking, I’d call it a tepid success. The movie’s fine and excels in delivering a finely-tuned shock to the expectations of longterm fans of the MCU but it also suffers some issues. The movie is almost entirely focused on delivering huge opening weekend surprises through a series of well set up gut punches. Long-term, however, I think we’re looking at something of a Captain America: Civil War or Star Wars: The Force Awakenstype situation where everyone enjoys the movie during opening weekend. Then the secondary reviews start dropping in and fans start giving a sharper eye to the movie and see the cracks a little more clearly.

Infinity War’s greatest strength is truly is unpredictability. Everyone was expecting that an Avengers 3 would have the license to take some bolder risks than Age of Ultron and Civil War but the movie starts as it means to go on by immediately setting an extremely dour tone in just the first scene. This is probably the quickesI’veve ever seen a movie go from zero to fifty. Most fans are going into this expecting multiple characters to die and in that regard, they won’t be disappointed. The question really ends up being which of the characters will end up being the ones to have their head on the chopping block and the movie’s best scenes are all about this question of whether they will or won’t die.

Because there are so many characters the movie blasts through emotional character beats at a breakneck pace desperately trying to make room. Multiple major characters have next to nothing to do beyond waiting for their turn for the action scenes to start. Much of this is obvious set up for Avengers 4 next year where a great deal of unfulfilled character beats by the end of the film are implied to be waiting in the wings. As excellent as the Russo Brothers have proven to be up to this point it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that a significant portion of the film is slightly beyond what even they can chew. That it works at all is a minor miracle.

The movie’s most fascinating immediate feature is its structure. With three to four subplots ongoing at anytime the movie does occasionally get bogged down but the wait to get back to an interesting subplot is rarely too far off and you ultimately never go more than ten to fifteen minutes without catching up to what your preferred story is. I’ve read a great deal about how Thanos functions as the story’s lynchpin, holding all the pieces together and driving the plot forward but I don’t think that’s entirely true.

The Thanos presented here is a wildly different interpretation than in the comics. The nihilistic and death-worshipping Mad Titan of the comics is here replaced by a more melancholy interpretation with a much murkier character motivation that only comes into focus late into the film. While it’s fascinating to consider that his role in future films isn’t going to be predictable since they aren’t running off the comics version of the story it does create the problem that I honestly have no idea where you take his character after the movie.

If I have one major overarching criticism of the Infinity War, I’d say it’s that the film is trying way too hard to satiate its flaws by falling back into fan service. Dramatically speaking the movie alternately rushes or under-develops several of its major characters. The film lacks the catharsis, fun, or thematic coherence of recent solo entries like the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor Ragnarok, or Black Panther and as a result feels like a film feeding off of your love for the work the other movies did than one capable of standing up on its own strengths. Still, to some degree, it’s hard not to argue that Marvel hasn’t earned that right at this point.

I appreciate just how much the film really does understand that people love these characters. It doesn’t chicken out with a weak happy ending at the last possible moment. The movie could’ve fallen back on its laurels and actually gotten away with a cheap happy ending and it doesn’t do that. Whatever can be said about the film Marvel really does take the responsibility of trying to please the fans very seriously. I think the reaction to the film is going to sour a bit over time as other fans start noticing issues but I can’t argue against the full breadth of the undertaking Marvel has taken upon itself. Avengers: Infinity War might actually be one of the largest movies ever made in scope alone. I don’t know if that earns Marvel Studios another decade of these movies but they’ve gotten this far. As with the ending of this movie, we don’t know what the future holds.

Positives

+ Tense Unpredictable Plot + Some Fun Fanservice + Great Production Design/Production Values

Negatives

- Rushed/Underdeveloped Characters and Villain - Too Much Overcompensating Fanservice at Other Times - Incomplete Storylines

The Bottom Line

Avengers: Infinity War is a fun, tense, emotional if messy action movie that delivers on big moments of suspense and fan service but cracks under the pressure of its own weight. Overall though it's still fun and most fans will be pleased.

 

7.2

Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

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