Feeling like a review is futile is never the best place to start. It’s futile because if you liked ‘Infinity War’, nothing I can say here would possibly change your mind. On the other hand, there are those who don’t watch Marvel or comic book movies in general so they have little to no reason to go watch the epic culmination of over 15 comic book films. Now both you and I are thinking – so what is this for? Well I think I have a certain obligation here.
As a huge fan of the material and a critic as well, I think I can toe the line that has become increasingly controversy especially in this genre. Rotten Tomatoes scores are monitored and scrutinized; IMDB ratings have become quasi popularity contests and Metacritic is usually forgotten even when it’s usually the most accurate barometer to determine the difference between audience vs critic reaction. Let’s cut to the chase shall we – ‘Infinity War’ was fantastic, a comic book film so stuffed with characters and inter-connected plot lines that as no right to be this massively entertaining. Surpassing the benchmarks they themselves have placed – Marvel Studios had made one of the best comic book adaptations ever put on the big screen.
Ok for the rest of this review, I will attempt to restrain myself from ‘geeking out’ too much but I cannot guarantee that it still won’t happen. Also this is going to be filled with ‘spoilers’. There isn’t much of an option in that department as everything past the five minute mark would be considered a spoiler. If you haven’t seen it yet, turn back! You’ve been warned.
In a film full of subverted expectations, the biggest one has to be the time and effort given to fleshing out ‘Thanos’ as a character. He’s more central to the film than the Avengers themselves and that’s saying a lot as there are an enormous amount of key players present here. Everyone (except for poor Hawkeye and to a lesser extent Ant-Man) is given a variable amount of time to shine and each of these scenes, small as some were, are memorable and play into the plot. But it’s Thanos that truly shines. Coming out of seemingly nowhere simply due to the fact that the films leading up to this barely touched on him, Josh Brolin gives a brilliant mo-cap performance of a being severely weighted by his choices and what he feels his is destiny.
The huge frame and menacing baritone are terrifying enough while starting off the movie with him man-handling the Hulk really kicks his character arc straight to into 11th gear. He then proceeds to choke Loki to death and destroy the last remaining ship of Asgard. It’s a brutal start for our heroes and the Russo brothers (in their third Marvel outing) boldly paint a picture of the stakes at hand. Bruce Banner gets beamed back to Earth and crash lands into the house of Dr. Strange (replacing The Silver Surfer who carries the same message in the same fashion in the comics) with the warning that Thanos is coming and everything is going to get real very quickly. It gets real in 30 seconds in fact when one of Thanos’ second-in-command Ebony Maw shows up to retrieve Strange’s Time Stone (one of the six infinity stones) but even after a pretty even fight, Maw is able to capture Strange while Stark and a stowaway Spider Man are stranded on the same ship.
Justifying the means
Obviously it all sounds a bit convoluted if you haven’t been keeping up with the consistent barrage of Marvel films we’ve been getting over the years but in the likely case you have, then it’s safe to say the movie juggles these multiple storylines extremely well. After the prologue and this intro, the plot is divided into five separated but inter-linked subplots that keep the overall pace quick and no storyline ends up over-shadowing another. Yes of course it is all a bit…too much, but that’s more of a consequence of trying to wrap up so many storylines at once. The overall result isn’t the most polished but it surprisingly ends up working.
Conversely, how well it works may depend on who your favorite or preferred characters are. Loki fans will be upset he died literally in the first five minutes, Captain America and Black Widow both don’t get much screen time or any real dialogue for that matter which was strange and the side plot with Thor, Rocket and Groot was given way more screen time that it deserved. Getting back to Thanos, ‘Infinity War’ has easily elevated him into the highest tiers of comic book rogue galleries. His quest to obtain all the Infinity Stones is possibly the most dramatic end to a storyline in comic book history.
As I said earlier, The Russo brothers puts up the film’s stakes immediately and not once do they back down from them. When Thanos is given a choice to sacrifice a loved one for the Soul Stone, he throws Gamora of a cliff and watches her fall to her death. Later, when told he must spare Tony Stark’s life for the Time Stone he does so even at the end when characters are fading away into dust. In that same fight, he tells Tony -‘you are not the only one burdened with knowledge’ thus basically saying he stills himself equal some request to a mere human. He’s complex for the lack of a better word and driven insane in his mission to wipe out half of the universe, unable to see the futility of his cause but completely willing to bear the consequences of it. No Marvel villain comes even remotely close in terms of power and character depth.
But Like Thanos, ‘Infinity War’ is itself burdened with a little too much on its shoulders. The entire Wakanda plotline, a location we were introduced to just a few months ago, feels more like an afterthought. We travel there solely to remove the Mind Stone from Vision’s head and out of all the third act storylines – it was easily the least exciting. Tony and the Guardians taking on Thanos on Titan is a much more exhilarating and creative fight filled to the brim with teamwork and stunning CGI. Strange is a whirlwind of magic and some of the moves he pulls off left me breathless. I never cared much about him even in his own standalone film but here I was even invested in his cape. It also contained a crucial element setting up the sequel and I loved how subtly they handled it.
By the end though, more than half of our main characters are wiped from existence. Having them dissolve into dust might have sounded like a strange decision on paper but the experience of watching it unfold in a packed cinema will remain one of my most memorable movie-going experiences. There were gasps and hushed whispers, some remained silent but almost everyone was feeling the weight of those on-screen ‘deaths’. I put that word in quotes since it’s hard to seriously be affected by them with ‘Black Panther’, ‘Spider-Man’ and even the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ already slated for sequels in the future. I am sure this particular event will have its own consequences down the line but I’m also confident that it’s not going to be the last time we see the same characters, in some capacity at least, again on the big screen.
There’s a lot to take in and I couldn’t possibly tackle the many things ‘Infinity War’ does right and I can’t make the minor issues I have with it not sound like nitpicks. For instance, I don’t usually like Marvel humor and it remains a bit hit-and-miss here but every scene with any of the Guardians was hilarious. Drax fighting with Strange’s cape calling it a ‘blanket of death’ was maybe my favorite line in the film and the entire scene when they first interact with Thor was great comedy. The film succeeds because it balances so many of its moving parts so well and in keeping with that balance – we are left with a cliff-hanger that will have audiences hungering for more. Thanos is set to return in the next installment and I along with a legion of fans will be dying to see what happens next.
By Aakash Bakaya