Avengers: Infinity War may not break new ground, but it certainly polishes it.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I cannot account for your feelings towards the Marvel Cinematic Universe, nor anyone else’s. I can only account for my own, and my feelings have decided that the Universe is something special. To see each new Marvel movie is to add a chapter to a saga. As reviewers, we are perhaps encouraged to distance ourselves a little from every film we see, but make no mistake, to enter into Avengers: Infinity War is to enter a stream that’s been flowing for ten years. We may try to combat the current but it will inevitably wash us away.
This is a thunderous superhero movie that hurtles along at breakneck speed. It is about the end of humanity, the heartbreak of sacrifice, the will to bring about change, the pratfalls and jubilations of the human spirit. And, of course, it brings together a cast large enough to populate a small moon. Credit must be given to directors Anthony and Joe Russo for not going utterly bonkers from their logistics, but then, are they perhaps merely binding knots left loose by the countless instalments before them?
In many ways, yes. Infinity War begins with the simplest of premises: an oversized purple alien called Thanos (an utterly bewitching Josh Brolin in motion-capture) wishes to eliminate half the universe’s population by seizing cosmic weapons known as Infinity Stones. The movie plays out his quest and charts the ways in which all the good guys attempt to resist him.
If you’ve been keeping up with the movies, you’d know them all by now. The smart thing about Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s screenplay is that instead of bottlenecking the cast into one room, several throwaway subplots are created to micromanage the Avengers.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) zips off with a few Guardians of the Galaxy to rendezvous with a rather unexpected cameo. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) venture into space. Captain America (Chris Evans) and his friends take a trip to Wakanda, domain of the fearful Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). And so on. Everyone’s spread around like mah-jong tiles, which, while clever, can be a little jarring to keep up with.
Much criticism has already been targeted at the movie’s 149-minute runtime, which is actually about fifteen minutes too short. Infinity War dashes from one scene to the next, occasionally pausing for comedic interludes, but hardly ever for any meaningful interactions. I guess it comes with the territory of trying to cram a bloated cast into a runtime that must pacify today’s audiences. The movie needs to breathe a little, not necessarily for exposition, but to give us, the viewers, a chance to process all the whizzing and frenetic images, because there are a lot of them.
And yet, Infinity War is a tremendous achievement, not atop the Marvel greats, but perhaps more valuable than many of the weaker ones. There are fantastic action sequences, a boatload of one-liners, heroic reveals, shattering developments. And Thanos, enlarged in the middle of everything, is a surprisingly complex figure, not so much an antagonist as a lonely crusader whose journey threatens to undo even himself.
It’s quite a feat to make us care so much about a bunch of goofy superheroes. This cinematic universe feels like an extended TV series; we’ve grown along with these characters through the years to the point where their superpowers are no longer as interesting as their stakes. And in Avengers: Infinity War, their stakes have never been more desperate.
Avengers: Infinity War is available in Australian cinemas from April 26
Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures