Review | Avengers: Infinity War | 2018
The Marvel crossover of Avengers: Infinity War is an event 10 years in the making, a massive culmination of a series of 19 films spanning the last decade. Beginning with 2008's IRON MAN, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has redefined genre filmmaking and sent rival studios scrambling to create their own shared universes, to little avail.So to say that Infinity War is a big deal, especially for fans, is an understatement. The film marks the long-awaited arrival of the MCU's ultimate big bad, Thanos (Josh Brolin), whose appearance was first teased in the end credit stinger at the end of 2012's The Avengers. Thanos is every bit as formidable as the franchise has promised, killing off beloved characters and laying to waste entire planets in his quest to acquire the six Infinity Stones that have provided the backbone of many of the plot threads that have made up the MCU thus far. Once the six stones are brought together, it gives the holder the power to end life at will. Thanos, obsessed with balance, wants to wipe out half of all life in the universe in an attempt to stop inevitable overpopulation from bringing about the complete end of all life.
Infinity War mostly manages to avoid many of the pitfalls of its predecessor, Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), an overstuffed spectacle that remains a low-point in an otherwise mostly successful series. Directing team Joe and Anthony Russo, who provided one of the series highlights in the form of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) as well as its sequel, Captain America: Civil War (2016), make an admirable effort to connect a massive cast of heroes in a cohesive and satisfying way, making sure each gets their moment to shine while serving a purpose in the greater narrative. They even allow for some nice character moments, especially with Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson), Thanos and Gomora, Star Lord (Chris Pratt) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). The Russos faced a daunting task of mixing together so many iconic heroes and their distinctive styles, and the tonal shifts are handled with a surprising amount of grace, even as the film races on to its next battle.
The problem is that there's just so much going on, and so many plot threads being woven together, that it just doesn't have the time to have the same creative and stylistic verve that have distinguished Marvel's more recent films like Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Black Panther (2018). The film moves at a breakneck pace, rushing from one apocalyptic set-piece after another, to the point that it becomes something of a test of patience in the final act. Characters travel long-distances instantaneously, arriving just where they need to be without much explanation, causing the film to lose all sense of time and place. After spending two hours at full throttle, the climax almost has nowhere to go. Instead, it builds to a surprisingly quiet denouement that allows the weight of what we've just seen to settle in, setting up the as-yet-untitled 2019 sequel that promises to wrap up all the loose ends.
Fans will no doubt be pleased by the epic spectacle, and as a culmination of a decade's worth of adventures it's an undeniably entertaining mash-up. But there's something much less satisfying about Infinity War's "more is more" aesthetic than the more personal brand of pop exuberance evident in some of the more recent individual Marvel outings. It's a fun but exhausting superhero extravaganza that pulls out all the stops in delivering the spectacular showdown fans have been waiting for, but the tantalizing potential for how Marvel might deal with the consequences of Thanos' apocalypse prove to be more interesting than the large-scale CGI destruction on display here.