"Avengers: Infinity War" (2018) - Rated PG-13 / Runtime: 156 minutes
Directed by Joe Russo & Anthony Russo
Written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin, Zoe Saldana, Tom Holland, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Chadwick Boseman, Scarlett Johansson, Dave Bautista, Sebastian Stan + 97 other superhero performers
Review by JJ Mortimer
After a few years of the Marvel cinematic product become a bit stale and predictable, along comes Infinity War, an exciting culmination of culmination films that ups the stakes to the nth degree, while maintaining the expected humor for its first two acts and delving into a dramatic pathos in its final act that has, as of yet, been unseen and unexpected in the Avengers franchise.
*I WILL NOT VENTURE INTO SPOILER TERRITORY, SO NO WARNING IS REQUIRED.
I will cut right to the nitty-gritty: For the past four or five years (maybe more), the Marvel films have been getting a bit stale. While maintaining a semblance of quality in their filmmaking tactics, the franchise of films was becoming predictable and slightly repetitive. They'd release, we'd see them in herds, and then mostly forget about them a day later. Some moments would stick out, but overall, only little bits would progress the overall narrative arc that seemingly was leading to Infinity War over the past six years since the release of the first Avengers film (along with that film's credit-scene introduction of the super-villain, Thanos). I was losing a bit of taste in the event of a Marvel film being released.
Then along comes Infinity War, a film that puts what feels like 97 superheroes from all the films since the release of Iron Man in 2008 and throws them all together in a smorgasbord that, if you were to read it on paper, would seemingly be impossible to balance screen time and importance of them all inside of a two-and-a-half hour motion picture. What we get in return is a LOT to digest at first, and with a mostly-required prior viewing of the "stale-ish" films mentioned over the past few years.
But, what we also get in return is THE film that has me excited about the Marvel films again.
I'm sure upon future viewings (and with a fine comb of criticism) I will find little narrative misses and inconsistencies, and little script errors or issues here and there, but with this film I found myself not really wanting to find error (even though one or two things stuck out to me that are completely inconsequential to the overall quality of the film's entertainment) and it honestly has helped me release myself from my jaded skepticism upon the product that Disney and Hollywood have been producing lately. Regardless of where the Marvel films go from here, this Avengers: Infinity War is a game-changer.
For me, what made this film work so well was that the writers and the directing team of the Russo Brothers made this "the Thanos film," and spent the majority of its run time developing what can be considered the Marvel franchise's first real three-dimensional villain, rather than that of the characters we already know and mostly love. Infinity War feels like a nightmare - all the safe feelings we got from the hero origin films come crashing into a super power that not only decimates everything he sees, but decimates our expectations and breaks the sweet, motherly hand that's been dragging the Marvel fans along for the better part of a decade.
Infinity War has a hell of a start, and sets a fine tone for the later parts of the film. What it also does is stay true to the light-hearted humor that we've come to expect from a Marvel film. While some might find it a bit jarring at times in the Marvel films to have occasional small jokes juxtapose a dramatic moment here and there (to alleviate some of the light tension they've presented to us in the past), what finally makes it work in the early parts of Infinity War is that the stakes with which our main protagonists face is greater than anything they've ever faced. It's almost as though the characters themselves have become just as jaded and "safe" as we've become and joke around like nothing is out of the ordinary, and almost expect a victory as they've experienced a countless number of times in the past. Tony Stark, for instance, would quip his common quip, but standing unbeknownst before him this time is an eminent death-bringer.
I will go on record now and add that not only is Thanos the best villain in the Marvel franchise, he rivals any villain that comic book movies have ever presented. The biggest argument between the DC Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that Marvel can write and present heroes, but DC has the gold medal in the villain category. Thanos feels almost out of place here, bringing a three-dimensional quality to his persona - an almost tragic, relatable understanding - and an actual internal, personal purpose to his need to conquer and destroy. You know, qualities mostly uncommon in most of Marvel's paper villains.
I am also going to go on record and say that Infinity War's portrayal of Thanos may very well be one of the great movie villains of all time. I found myself studying him, and giving his character the same credence I gave other great CGI-created characters such as Gollum from The Lord of the Rings or Caesar from The Planet of the Apes films. Josh Brolin, underneath the very effective visual effects, gives an outstanding, frightening performance here.
Avengers: Infinity War shows how good a movie can be when its CGI is used well. There is literally no way this movie could have existed without its computer-generated effects, and for that I can't fault the film's insistence on its use. Marvel put their money where their mouth is and gave us a nearly flawless extravaganza in its visual department, all head-lined by their confidence in Brolin's performance underneath one of the finest CGI characters ever put to film.
With the film's stakes being raised to levels as-of-yet unseen in Marvel's past decade, we are presented with an often highly-emotional film with a couple tragic moments to spare. One particular tragic scene I will admit was almost ruined by what felt like the writers' lack of confidence in the audience's ability at understanding unspoken subtlety, but luckily when the characters spoke their words, they were good words, and the scene played out pretty much as emotional as it would have been otherwise.
After ten years of building, experimenting, planning, fist-fighting, space-battling, hammer-swinging, laser-blasting, and shield-throwing, I was surprised I was as emotionally effected as I was by this film after the credits rolled and after having experienced one of the most surprising, game-changing third acts in a major, big-budget Hollywood popcorn flick in many years.
Avengers: Infinity War is a true blockbuster, and despite having the arduous task of trying to balance an unfathomable amount of characters in even a decent amount of run time, it mostly succeeds in giving important moments to all of its characters with quite a few of them shining in more than one scene. The keen fan and viewer will also find Easter eggs and foreshadowing abound in the film's dialogue and script as they watch it, portending to events that take place later in the film and also in future films.
Infinity War is truly, in my opinion, the comic-book film game-changer, and the shot of fresh air that not only Marvel needed for their franchise, but also to this jaded viewer of the trash Hollywood has released to the masses over the past handful of years. This is the first of these kinds of films I immediately wanted to watch again (most of which was from missed dialogue from the applause and laughter from the surprisingly well-behaved and excited audience I had the pleasure of viewing with), and literally had me saying, out loud, "Holy shit" as the credits rolled.
Fucking loved it.
*With a refreshed viewing of Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor Ragnarok, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Panther, and Captain America: Civil War