Review – ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ pays off a decade of storytelling with a mad action spectacle

Luke Stevenson is one of the hosts of The Popcorn Muncher Podcast. He is only serious about Bee Movie.

Poster for 2018 superhero blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War

Genre: Action
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 27th April 2018
Runtime: 149 minutes
Director: The Russo Brothers
Writer: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Vin Diesel
Synopsis: Genocidal titan Thanos mounts an ambitious plot to travel the universe in order to steal and unite the six Infinity Stones.

 

 

It is difficult to surmise views on Avengers: Infinity War in a pithy way that doesn’t lean too heavily on the context of what this movie is. Ten years and 18 preceding movies went into what you’re seeing on the big screen when you settle in for a two-and-a-half-hour ride, and the viewer isn’t the only one who can be forgiven for being weighed down by this context.

Infinity War is an exercise in raw ambition – a galaxy-sprawling quest that brings together individuals from several disparate franchises into one big team-up. It’s a testimony to its writers and directors that this manages to work at all, especially in the context of having to make groups of people who have never met before work naturally on screen in the face of the planet’s most dangerous threat. This is where that context, that decade of preceding movies, shows its value. We don’t have to spend too much time getting to know each character, because each character is already well fleshed out. Therefore, we get a film built mainly around different sets of spectacle, with the likeable parts of the character drip-fed in between the flying fists.

A question may go through your mind about how much acting some of the people on show here had to do outside of just doing stunt work, but it works because of a universe lovingly crafted with precisely this kind of movie as its end goal. With characters taken care of, this movie is able to throw everything at the screen. Joke line after set piece after joke line flows at you in a truly energising way for most of the film’s duration, which is testimony to the work that has come before and the work currently happening in how effective it is.

However, that context can create problems. Despite a few hiccups – namely Iron Man 2 – the MCU has prided itself on making its films as individual as possible, outside of the team-ups. That means that each individual movie is usually worth seeing, but it also leaves writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely with lots of heavy lifting to do in Infinity War to get each character up to speed and in a position that can make sense for the rest of the story.

Indeed, viewed a second time, the first act of Infinity War might just feel like a game of who’s-who Marvel chess, as each character is flashed on screen and then strategically placed in a way that serves the story. Its second act as well can drag, as some characters are sent off on MacGuffin patrol. With all that is going on, it’s difficult at times not to see the filmmakers behind the story, placing their characters where they need to be to make a thin-feeling central drama work. Narratively, it can be said this film isn’t particularly strong. It abandons the tough conversation element of being a superhero the Russo Brothers themselves brought in with Civil War, and the Avengers’ actions in the movie are thematically thin at best.

However, it is an undeniable success. This is ostensibly not the movie for the more nuanced, sophisticated elements of being a superhero. That element of the story has been told over the past decade of storytelling to allow us this fun free-for-all. It is also not necessarily the Avengers’ film. This movie could easily be called Thanos: Infinity War, and it’s a compliment to the writers and to Josh Brolin that amidst all the chaos, they manage to find a character and performance that intrigues as much as it inspires fear in those around him. While part of his desire can feel half-baked, there’s a depth to this villain that Marvel often struggles for, and it justifies a two-film arc to see how that plays out.

Infinity War is not the perfect superhero team up we so desperately craved. Its narrative will, I’m sure, come under more scrutiny once the glow of the film wears off, in the same way as it did for Avatar and The Dark Knight Rises, and the surprise ending might be a success or failure in the eyes of viewers depending on how cynically they view the MCU project and its future.

Despite this, at the peaks of its storytelling, it’s a rip-roaring success. A decade of storytelling has given the MCU, its stars and its directors the opportunity to throw everything at the screen. When you’re sat there watching it unfold, its impossible to argue that it doesn’t work.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

Infinity War is not the most coherent of action movies, but it works as the culmination of a decade-long project to craft the ultimate superhero story via an enormous, $300m juggling act. Josh Brolin is a compelling villain with surprising depth and a believable foe to bring together all of the heroes the MCU has ever produced, en route to a finale that is sure to divide audiences.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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