Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – Film Review
Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jnr, Josh Brolin, Benedict Cumberbatch
by Roger Crow
There was a time when you knew what you were getting with big summer blockbusters. Explosions, battles, banter, special effects galore. Even a start, a middle and an end. And then the game changed. As box office receipts exploded, Hollywood decided to alter things.
So we had films shot back to back to save money; random cliffhangers like the Saturday morning serials of old, and things that made you wonder ’What just happened?’
Sometimes these things work, and sometimes they don’t, but when you have a multi-million dollar advertising campaign behind it, there’s such a magnetic pull on release day, it creates FOMO (fear of missing out).
Such is the case with Avengers: Infinity War, which originally had a Part One attached. Maybe the marketing people got cold feet on that front, thinking that punters would be disappointed if they realised they were seeing the first of a double bill, and had to pay another £10-£15 for the second part.
So we wound up with what we thought was going to be a standalone adventure. Not the case. The culmination of a decade’s worth of Marvel movies, AIW is one of the most divisive blockbusters since The Last Jedi.
And ‘Star Wars’ would be a good alternate title for this, considering the amount of high profile heroes clashing on an epic scale. It’s remarkable how the screenwriters manage to juggle so many plot ideas, characters and locations and still keep the whole thing relatively coherent and rewarding.
“Vast amount of protagonists”
Within the space of a few minutes, old heroes such as Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy cross paths with the likes of Hulk, Thor and and a few other familiar faces. So while the likes of Robert Downey Jr, Chrises Pratt, Hemsworth and Evans vie for most screen time, if the film belongs to anyone it’s Josh Brolin, as the mad Titan Thanos, a character teased during the end of 2012’s sublime and far superior franchise-launching Avengers Assemble.
Certain characters are left out of the mix, possibly popping up in part two. But given the vast amount of protagonists here, you won’t miss them too much.
The beauty of the story, inspired by Jim Starlin’s comic book, is the simplicity of the villain’s quest. Grab eclectic infinity stones for his gauntlet and he becomes all-powerful. The fact just about every Marvel film of the past six years has teased at this plot device helps enormously.
As ever the cast are terrific. A big dysfunctional family bickering, bantering and then using their special powers and talents to fight the big bad when the time comes. Brolin’s character has far more depth than his thumbprint cartoon face suggests. He’s a giant on a mission which is disturbingly reminiscent of the darkest time of human history, and the last 10 minutes is equally unnerving.
The special effects are wonderful (I can only imagine the thousands of artists who helped craft the biggest movie of the decade), and the pacing is never dull. However, those sucker punch moments that helped make Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man 2 so memorable are sadly absent here. Spectacle overwhelms, but when tragedy strikes, the mood feels strangely inert.
The problem is when you have a character like Doctor Strange, who can reverse time, deaths feel temporary. There’s no finality to a character’s demise because chances are they’ll come back in the next movie, like Phil Coulson’s ‘death’ in the first Avengers.
“Epic and bizarre”
It’s not a bad film. The eye candy is phenomenal, and the battle scenes are well staged, but 140 minutes of heroes clashing with bad guys gets tired when there’s no gravitas. Maybe certain characters will stay dead. Maybe they won’t. But while I never felt short changed by the scale and inventiveness, it felt like buying a book and discovering half the story missing.
Oh, and the fact Iron Man and Spider-Man’s costumes now appear out of thin air thanks to nano technology is another bug bear. Never have costumes looked so CG as when masks vanish and appear with no sense of weight or substance. What’s wrong with actually putting on a real helmet or mask now and then?
Hopefully part two will provide much needed closure and that all-important sense of emotion missing here. And hopefully Adam Warlock, one of Starlin’s greatest creations teased at the end of Guardians Vol 2, will also make an appearance. Given the fact anything can and usually does happen in the MCU these days, that’s more than a possibility.
To be honest, if Jimmy Krankee turned up on a giant penguin humming the theme to Play Your Cards Right, I wouldn’t be surprised. In these movies far stranger things happen. And having grossed $640m in three days, clearly fans are loving the epic and the bizarre.
But that ending. Oh my. What just happened?