Movie Review - Avengers: Infinity War
By Felix Quinonez
May 8, 2018
Avengers: Infinity War, the thrillingly action-packed new chapter in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will leave audiences breathless, stunned and ready for a second viewing. The movie, directed by fan favorites the Russo Brothers, perfectly balances action and spectacle with humor and pathos, although a less generous viewer might describe this precision as machine like.
Infinity War hits the ground running and immediately subverts fan expectations. And it quickly sets up the fittingly high stakes by making it clear to audiences that, this time, no one is safe.
It also establishes the threat and power of Thanos right away. He’s been teased for years as the real villain in the MCU but up until now, the movies hadn’t done a very good job at convincing audiences that Thanos should be feared. But Infinity War erases any doubt in its opening scene.
Another reason the movie gets right down to business is because there is so much ground to cover. Because of this, the movie never lets up, challenging audiences to keep up. A second viewing is practically required to fully absorb everything that happens in this movie.
It’s hard to imagine that when Iron Man kick-started the MCU in 2008, merely hinting that other super heroes existed in the same universe was enough to thrill audiences. Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) after credit scene cameo in Iron Man was genuinely thrilling but now it wouldn’t get much of a reaction.
And The Avengers (2012) was a watershed moment for super hero movies because it brought together six different superheroes in one movie for the first time. At the time it really felt like the movie was bursting-at-the seams but it seems quaint by today’s standards.
10 years ago, the MCU was a gamble that was so unheard of that it was hard to even take seriously. In fact, even when Nick Fury told Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) about something called the Avengers initiative it felt more like fan service than anything else. Although it was thrilling to a lot of fans there were also others who met the teaser with an “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude. And casual fans, if they even stuck around till the end of the credits, reacted with a collective shrug.
But even then, Marvel understood what none of its imitators seem to grasp, patience pays off. The MCU was meticulously planned every step of the way. They slowly introduced their main characters with their own movies. And they peppered each outing with supporting characters while hinting at future events. So, each movie was not only a chapter in the series but also a building block for their emerging universe, for better or worse. Unfortunately, that sometimes meant that the individual movies suffered a little to build the bigger picture.
But even when the movies didn’t fully come together, they still satisfied audiences because they were building up to something bigger that they already felt invested in.
And by the time The Avengers came out, it wasn’t just a movie but the payoff to the entire “phase one” of the MCU. The movie was a moment of cinematic synergy that had never been seen before. And it was a genuinely thrilling event, a first of its kind.
And it was that slow but constant progress that has been so instrumental to the success of the MCU. Each chapter seems to raise the scope of the MCU. So, when you look back on it, it almost seems like every movie is practice for the next one.
In 2012 The Avengers was mind blowing but now it seems like a dress rehearsal for the marvel movie melee of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. And Civil War, itself, seems very low key compared to Infinity War. It’s hard to imagine how Marvel will top themselves next but they always seem to find a way.
Although the movie doesn’t require audiences to have seen all 18 previous entries in the MCU catalogue, a certain level of familiarity does help. Infinity War picks up where Thor: Ragnarok left off. As seen at the end of that film, the ship carrying Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the remaining Asgardians got ambushed by Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) and his forces. After being disappointed by others trying to attain the infinity stones for him, Thanos decided to take matters into his own hand.
The infinity stones, each contain great power and Thanos hopes to collect all six so that he can pull off his goal of wiping off half the universe. In other words, the stones are the MacGuffin that set things in motion. The bad guy wants them, the good guys have to stop him from getting them.
And back on earth Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is tasked with warning the others of Thanos’ impending arrival and his quest for the stones. Unfortunately, Bruce’s been away since the events in Age of Ultron and only now learns that the Avengers have gone their separate ways. But before he and Tony can catch up, Thanos’ heralds arrive and quickly demonstrate how serious of a threat Thanos is. But more importantly it becomes clear that all differences will have to be put aside and the avengers have to get the band back together if they hope to save the universe.
From there, the heroes break off into different factions that send them to different corners of the galaxy scrambling to stop Thanos from collecting all six Infinity Stones. If the plot seems bare, it’s because the story itself is relatively simple. But as always, it’s the execution that matters and the Russo brothers knocked it out of the park. And it’s also difficult to talk too much about it without getting into spoilers. The less you know going into the movie, the better.
Much has been said about how many characters Infinity War crams onto the screen. In fact, it has been one of its main selling points. And while there certainly are a lot of characters, it doesn’t really feel like any of them get lost in the shuffle. Most characters get at least a couple small moments that remind audiences why they care about them in the first place. In fact, it quickly becomes clear that the movie is really only ostensibly about an alien superpower trying to destroy half the universe. Infinity War is really about the characters. And the choice to split the heroes up into various groups quickly proves to be a wise one. The various teams are made up of members that are not only the right choice for the mission but also from a narrative perspective. The pairings also allow for emotional character moments that make the move so rich and rewarding.
But even in an all-around strong there are some stand outs. Tony Stark is great as always and he encapsulates the best of the MCU. Robert Downey Jr. reminds us why he was the very foundation all of this was built on. Audiences haven’t just watched him play Iron Man for 10 years, but had the privilege to witness him grow and develop as a character.
In Iron Man, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) framed his first arc reactor as a gift that read “proof that Tony has a heart.” But now, Tony no longer needs to prove that because he is all heart. He doesn’t hesitate, even for a second, to put himself in danger for others.
He shows genuine concern and care for his teammates and bends over backwards to protect Peter Parker. (Tom Holland) In The Avengers, Captain America wrote him off and claimed that Tony isn’t the guy “to lay down on the wire.” But that has clearly changed since he constantly does that.
But although pairing him with Dr. Strange, (Benedict Cumberbatch) his magical counterpart, does provide some entertaining moments, it doesn’t do Dr. Strange any favors. It instead highlights that, in contrast, to Tony, Dr. Strange hasn’t really developed much as a character. He is still basically the same arrogant prick we first met.
Another stand out of the cast is Chris Hemsworth as Thor, who seems to have gotten a more confident grasp on the character. He really sells the performance and manages to steal almost every scene he’s in. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Hemsworth seems to be having a blast playing the character.
After the events of Thor: Ragnarok, Thor is seen in a way that audiences are not necessarily used to seeing him. He feels defeated and as if he’s got nothing to lose. But there’s nothing like a good hero’s journey to get someone out of a rut. And luckily the movie pairs Thor with a couple of members from the Guardians of the Galaxy and they provide some of the movie’s most enjoyable moments. And seeing Thor regain his confidence is undeniably great. He also has one of the single best moments of the movie that causes audiences to erupt into applause.
There is certainly no shortage of action but the movie is wise enough to interject that with intimate character moments. Because of this, the movie feels balanced. It also allows you to catch your breath and the movie doesn’t get lost in a barrage of CGI heavy set pieces. It’s the quieter moments that remind you that there are people at the center of all the chaos. It allows viewers to care about them and it makes the stakes feel real. And although the movie is very downbeat and has more than its share of dour moments, levity is interjected to keep the movie from feeling like a chore to get through. But it never strays into slapstick or parody. Instead it adds just the right amount of humor at the correct time.
But none of that would have mattered if Thanos was a disappointing villain. It’s no secret that MCU movies haven’t had the most stand out rogues gallery. And for the most part, the movies haven’t really suffered from it but it seems like in order for such an epic crossover to work, the villain really needed to be memorable.
And thanks to, a powerful voice performance by Josh Brolin, and great CGI, Thanos delivers. His plan seems really thought out, which is not something one can say about all of the MCU villains. But more importantly, it’s clear that he doesn’t take this decision lightly and the emotional toll it takes on him is palpable. And because of this, Thanos is a surprisingly sympathetic character even if he is trying to destroy half the universe. He is a tragic villain worthy of the earth’s mightiest heroes.
Whether or not, Infinity War is the best MCU movie is obviously up for debates. An argument could be made for either side. But it’s definitely a worthy addition to the MCU library. Audiences that feel invested in these characters will be genuinely moved. The Russo brothers assume that audiences are familiar enough with the characters and trust them to keep up. And that’s quite refreshing from a blockbuster. This also allows the movie to spend more of its efforts making Thanos a multi-dimensional, interesting character.
However, it’s not hard to imagine that some audiences might feel a little cheated by the ending or, arguably, lack thereof. But a lot of people already knew that this was basically the first of two parts. The final moments of the movie are a testament to the fact that Marvel is willing to take chances. And it also shows how confident they are that audiences will follow them into the unknown. The movie takes a dark turn but it also leaves the door open for an even more explosive next chapter.
Infinity War definitely ends on a cliffhanger but can still stand on its own. And more importantly, it leaves audiences wanting more. Suddenly, a year seems really far away.
Felix Quinonez Jr. is an independent comic book creator living in Brooklyn, NY.
His self-published comic books and graphic novel have been sold in stores in NYC and online. He is the co-editor and contributor of a comic book Anthology called Emanata. That book features the work of many other talented creators from all around the country. You can check out his comic books and read more of his writing at The Neon Bulletin.