Director: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Cast (crikey, here goes): Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, Zoe Saldana, Chadwick Boseman, Don Cheadle, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Josh Brolin
Running time: 149 minutes
Galactical tyrant Thanos (Brolin) continues his hunt for the six all-powerful infinity stones which, if harnessed together, will wreak devastation across the universe. Hot on his heels though are the Guardians of the Galaxy who – along with a handful of Avengers – look to bring the fight to Thanos’ own turf. Meanwhile, the remaining heroes on earth struggle to fend off legions of his army.
There’s hype. Then there’s Avengers: Infinity War hype. A film that has been 18 (yep, 18!) movies in the making, Infinity War finally gives fans of the MCU an infinity stone of their own – you know, the one that has the unparalleled power to transform grown men and women from respectable backgrounds into giddy, giggling pre-teens at the very glimpse of capes, divine DIY tools, and a talking rabb – err umm I mean racoon.
Pretty much everything here is monumental. From the cast, to the budget, to the scope, to the running time, to the stakes, the Russo bros. have put together a film of astronomical proportions, the likes of which have never been attempted before. This generation’s Empire Strikes Back, with shades of Jackson’s Return of the King, very few franchise instalments have been as widely anticipated with such collective excitement. A seemingly insurmountable task for the pair to deliver on then, and an event that even the most die-hard of die-hard fans will have surely been fighting hard to hold back their own inner trepidation about.
Earth – well the entire universe, in fact – is under siege from a hefty purple dude who has spent his time in the MCU up to now kicking back in his big stone chair, like some Martian mob boss, getting cronies to do his dirty work, and not really doing a whole lot else. This time round, however, he’s clocking up the steps on the ol’ FitBit monitor as he struts about the galaxy, equipped with a pair of chunky biceps and a warped sense of purpose that involves bringing balance to the universe by wiping out exactly fifty percent of it. In order to be successful in his endeavours though, big, bad, bald Thanos first needs to seek out the six infinity stones – omnipotent jewels (basically Pandora charms for super-villains) that hold the ability to control a central aspect of existence: mind, space, soul, time, power and reality.
Standing in the way of his genocidal goals however, are a rather large handful of earth’s finest heroes – with the help of an Asgardian and a quintet of space (odd) balls – who must put previous differences aside and rally together to ensure Thanos’ gold gauntlet never glistens with the feared sextet of destructive power. Total annihilation is impending on screen, and total pandemonium happening off it as millions flock to the cinema to catch this supergroup of spandex-wearing Hollywood A-listers uttering space mumbo-jumbo and bickering like teenage siblings in their attempts to save existence from its greatest threat yet. And it really is as wonderful a premise as that sounds; however, with a film of such all-encompassing magnitude, it’s very much a juggling act. The question on everyone’s lips then is whether Infinity War successfully keeps everything in the air?
Well, as a slice of pure franchise pie that is as raucously entertaining and quirkily humorous as it is commendable in its character screen time portioning, then yes, it really does. This is a film that heavily plays to the MCU’s core audience; rewarding the dedication of those who had to sit through The Dark World with a satisfying battle-for-earth-athon ensemble, where the unexpected is played off against the expected. New bonds are formed; old ones are strengthened; others are broken. For some, new paths are laid out; for others, it might just be the end of the road. Hearts will be warmed, strained and, by the end, more than likely weary.
But, perhaps the biggest surprise package of them all is Thanos himself. At first, the traditional, quintessential pantomime villain we might expect, Brolin’s deep, monotone baddie is then patiently given a character confliction that none of us saw coming. Spliced betwixt his extermination musings, and seemingly heartless acts of cruelty, are nifty and telling insights into a past that he’s now haunted by – a suggested guilt he has been unable to wholly shake. And so from the depths of our heroes’ despair, there arises the whiff of a potential chink in the war lord’s bulky, purple armour. The Russo bros. offer up the bait, and we duly chomp.
For those, however, who are far from the MCU fanatics Infinity War is quite evidently tailored to, and have sufficient gaps in their Marvel film watchlist – the previous Avengers films, of course, but also the Captain America films – many of Infinity War’s finer plot points and throwaway references will likely go undetected and underappreciated. It’s the curse that comes with making a film so dedicated to pleasing such a gargantuan fanbase, that will leave those who have not yet been swept along on the Marvel movie marathon feeling emotionally distant and narratively underwhelmed.
There are issues elsewhere, too. With a story so heavily plot-driven, and such efforts to balance character screen time with fist-pumping action, Infinity War fails to capture the same intriguing character development and complex moral dilemmas that the franchise’s pinnacle pieces managed so well. As a result, for large portions, the film feels much more like a box-ticking exercise, where we are hurried from one setting to the next; catapulted from one character to another; and coerced from one set-piece to the next. For all it’s lofty heights then, it’s a shame that Infinity War fails to reach the same depths.
But then again, perhaps this is all waiting in the wings?
Thanos might demand your silence, but Infinity War will be making noise for some time.