- 24 Apr 18
The most highly anticipated superhero event of the decade has landed - and it doesn't disappoint.
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Josh Brolin, Chadwick Boseman, Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dave Bautista, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Karen Gillan, Peter Dinklage, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vin Diesel, Benicio del Toro. 149 mins
In cinemas April 26
TEN YEARS OF ANTICIPATION COME TO AN EXHILIRATING CLIMAX IN THE HIGHLY ANTICIPATED SUPERHERO EXTRAVAGANZA
The first Iron Man film was released in 2008, which means that Marvel fans have officially sat through a decade of character development and world building waiting for this; waiting for the Avengers old and new to assemble, waiting for worlds and agendas to collide, waiting for the Marvel universe to truly feel like, well, a universe. And like any relationship that’s lasted for ten years, the relationship between Avengers fans and Infinity War comes with expectations; expectations that there’s a mutual understanding, a respect and appreciation for the fans’ conscious and unconscious needs, and a willingness to fulfil their desires.
And Infinity War delivers. Not always perfectly, but its combination of jam-packed action, wry humour, Easter eggs and serious emotional heft hits all the right notes. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have been paying attention to both the films and the fans, and they want to push both; elevating standards and challenging expectations so that this relationship evolves, progresses and matures.
The powerful villain Thanos (Josh Brolin, in a great motion-capture performance) is hunting down the six Infinity Stones scattered across the universe. The stones, which each represent a different aspect of the universe - Time, Space, Mind, Reality, Power, Soul – can be harnessed to create unlimited power, and Thanos plans to use them to eliminate half the universe, in a genocidal form of resource conservation. While many of the Avengers’ enemies have been one-dimensional, Thanos is an intriguing character; a brawny, eerily soft-spoken sociopath who describes his heinous plans in philosophical and even humanitarian terms. He’s a dangerous, hyper-powerful ego-maniac convinced that only he understands how to maintain order in the universe - and is willing to watch people die to see his plans come to fruition. (Insert jokes about certain Leaders of the Free World here, except Thanos is articulate.)
To have even a chance of stopping him, the Avengers must combine forces, except, as fans who saw Captain America: Civil War and other instalments know, the Avengers have essentially disbanded following internal conflicts and clashing ideals. Each of the Avengers is feeling this loss, as well as the cumulative effect of their decade of world-saving. Scenes that show the bombastic Thor is rendered speechless thinking of the trauma he has endured, or linger in Vision’s tender desire for some joy in his life, are beautifully observed, and we feel their pain deeply.
But as for the Avengers’ falling out with each other? Some members missed this action, being somewhat occupied on different planets, and can recognise the absurdity of holding on to old hurts while facing the end of the world. “You broke up?” says Bruce Banner incredulously, as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) catches him up on all the drama. “Like a band? Like The Beatles?”
But elsewhere, characters are meeting for the first time, like when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) literally bumps in the Guardians of the Galaxy crew, resulting in a delightful meeting of minds between the mourning Asgardian God and the kleptomaniac Rocket – who Thor delightfully describes as a “noble rabbit.” Along with a now angsty teenage Groot, this new combo provides quips aplenty, as does the war of pride and creepy facial hair that unfolds between Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Stark.
As various quests take place across various galaxies – Stark hijacks a spaceship, Thor searches out a new weapon, Captain America visits Wakanda, Banner and the Hulk need couples’ counselling – the multiple storylines broach the line of overload. But writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely deftly weave the various threads together, switching focus before any start to drag. Allowing the characters’ humour to shine whenever possible also lifts the occasional energy slump.
Some emotional threads are left underdeveloped however, in particular the relationship between Thanos, his daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her relationship with the quippy half-human Star-Lord (Chris Pratt.) As one of the only characters capable of truly understanding Thanos, Gamora plays a huge role in progressing both the plot and emotional heft of the film. However, despite Saldana’s committed performance, Gamora remains hugely underdeveloped, while Pratt doesn’t display the the dramatic chops necessary to elevate high-stakes scenes.
Not to worry, however, for there are plenty of other high-stakes scenes to go around, but the beats of these begin to feel familiar. Several of the Avengers are confronted with the choice of sacrificing a friend or loved one in order to stop Thanos, and all falter. The faltering is of course understandable in some instances, as the writers understand that even heroes are human, too (sometimes figuratively), and are as invested in protecting their faves as we are. But as the situation arises again and again, the universe-endangering hesitation from these trained assassins – assassins who took countless films to care about the countless innocent citizens killed in all their city-levelling escapades – begins to feel frustrating and emotionally manipulative.
It’s when Infinity War embraces silence, and the unspoken, where the film becomes truly powerful – and then uses that power to punch you in the gut. This is demonstrated in small moments, like the tiny, meaningful glances exchanged between Avengers reunited after long periods and unresolved tensions. But it’s also harnessed to stunning effect in the huge developments that will leave audiences gasping, as beloved characters that are extinguished not in slow, speech-filled death-rattles but a jolting, unforgiving blinks that are all the more devastating for their suddenness. It’s in these moments, where our heroes confront huge losses that they don’t have time to process, let alone prevent, that Infinity War nails the anchorless terror of war.
An exciting, exhilarating, audacious and blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War is the end of the world as we know it - you mightn’t feel fine, but dammit you’ll feel entertained.