Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Josh Brolin, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Danai Gurira, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan
You’re going to see Infinity War irrespective of what I say. So the only way I can add value is by giving you this advice – manage your expectations.
This film is, by its very design, a nearly impossible task. Co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo are bringing together pretty much every major character from the 10 years and 18 films of the MCU. These are heroes with their own movies, their own fan bases and their own signature tonality. Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy belongs metaphorically speaking, in a different universe from the elegant sorcerer Dr. Strange or the noble king of Wakanda, T’Challa. To see these characters plus Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Spiderman and more in the same film is an instant head rush. At two hours and forty minutes, it’s also exhausting.
What the Russos and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely get right is the villain – Thanos, played by Josh Brolin in an effective motion capture performance. Thanos is a purple giant who wants to kill half of the universe to restore balance. He presents this psychotic idea in an understated, eloquent manner. Thanos has a melancholic grandeur – in one scene, he even sheds tears. His formidable presence instantly ups the dramatic stakes – in the first scene itself, it is established that even our mightiest gods don’t stand a chance against this magnificent, evil being.
To achieve his dastardly ambition, Thanos needs all six of the Infinity Stones – you remember those slightly tacky looking gems, which are named Mind, Soul, Time, Power, Space and Reality. Thanos is already unstoppable but with these stuck on his glove, he can kill half the universe with a snap of his fingers. So of course, our heroes must band together and stop him at all costs.
Avengers: Infinity War travels across many lands – Knowhere, Titan, New York and the expansive Wakanda. The grand battles – some against ferocious digital creatures – are interspersed with humor – there is a particularly funny sequence in which Star-Lord tries to match Thor’s masculinity. The Iron Man and Dr. Strange face-off has its own electricity – both have such an imperious, elegant manner. Besides, Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch have both played Sherlock Holmes and that just adds to the fun.
The emotional backbone of the film is provided by Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Thanos’ adopted daughter. There are some unexpectedly moving scenes between the two of them. Of course some characters get shafted – like Black Widow, who barely registers and T’Challa who doesn’t have much to do except kill many lizard-like creatures.
There were moments in the film when I applauded with delight but there were also many moments when my eyes glazed over because the characters and battles seem to blur into one long unending sequence. Like Thanos, the creators also want to keep this universe in balance and it’s a tough task. In places, I forgot what a particular set of characters was doing until the action moved back to them again.
All the mayhem leads to an unexpected and beguiling end note – Avengers: Infinity War goes dark and delicate. In an interview Joe Russo said: If you were to think of the Marvel Universe over the last 10 years as a book, this is the ending of the book. And then there may be new books written but this is certainly the ending of this book. What’s frustrating is that the end certainly isn’t the ending of this book. It’s a marvelous but unsatisfying hook to make sure that we all line up when the next Avengers movie releases in 2019. Which of course we will.
Infinity War didn’t wear me down in the way that Age of Ultron did, it didn’t give me the high of the first Avengers either. Like I said, manage expectations and you’ll be just fine.