Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of ten years of story telling and character building. Disney was right, it really is the most ambitious crossover that we have ever seen on the big screen in our lives. With dozens of characters crammed into a two and a half hour movie, there was every opportunity for this to go wrong. Yet, Infinity War does a lot right and at its best it is easily one of the most entertaining movies I’ve ever seen. But it’s not perfect so there’s a lot to complain about as well.
This review contains spoilers.
But before I get into the complaining, here’s the good stuff. For years, we have been complaining about rather weak, cookie-cutter villains from Marvel movies. There have been some redeemable ones recently, such as Killmonger, Hela and maybe even Vulture, but none of them compare to Thanos. It seems they were saving the best for the last because not only is Thanos the most interesting of the villains we have seen so far, his character is also incredibly well fleshed out, considering this is the only real screen time he has ever received. In the span of one movie we find out everything we really need to know about him, from his past, his motivations and the different layers to his personality. He could have just been a big, bad guy who wants to destroy everything (*cough* Steppenwolf *cough*) but he has very believable motivations, which, in his head, are perfectly justifiable and even necessary for the greater good. As far as he’s concerned, he’s doing the universe a favor by killing off half of its occupants and thinks of himself as the good guy. He was even willing to kill his own daughter, who he surprisingly actually loved and cared for despite her not actually being his daughter and even hating him for all of her life.
Indeed, if you look at the story from his perspective and all the screen time he gets in the movie, it’s almost like one of those solo movies that all the other heroes in this movie have gotten before, except this one is a solo Thanos movie. I thought that was pretty neat and necessary really if you were bringing together all of the galaxy’s mightiest heroes to fight against him. He needed to be just insane and powerful enough to warrant such extreme measures against him and Thanos as a character actually brings that to the table. And props to Josh Brolin too for bringing this surprisingly complex character to life through all the CGI.
One of my main fears before going into this movie was how they were going to handle so many characters and if the movie will have more to offer than the novelty value of simply having all of them come together for the first time. And while it does, the charm of seeing all these different characters come together cannot be understated. Whether it’s Iron Man working alongside Doctor Strange and Star Lord, or Thor and Rocket going on their own adventure, or Black Widow, Okoye and Scarlet Witch fighting together, the movie managed to entertain without even trying hard. And while most of the movie works in silos, with the aforementioned groups having their own separate adventures and never quite really being together outside of the poster, the individual adventures were all well-fleshed out and interesting enough on their own that even when the movie switched back and forth between them, it didn’t come to a grinding halt because one of them wasn’t as interesting as the others. The pacing of the movie overall was excellent and there was always something exciting or interesting happening on the screen regardless of which part of the galaxy you were in at the moment. And if there were any slow moments, they were far from boring and only helped relieve some tension between fights. And yes, most of the movie is fighting; it’s kinda in the title.
The movie is also very well written and well directed. Returning directors Anthony and Joe Russo have done a tremendous job of bringing this assortment of characters together while maintaining their personalities from their solo movies. Tony Stark is the Tony Stark we all know and love. Thor maintains his fierce yet lovable personality. Peter Parker is the exact same nerdy kid we saw in Spider-Man: Homecoming. When the Guardians appear on screen, we are immediately presented with this burst of color matched by a great soundtrack so reminiscent of their solo movies. It would have been so easy for them to all meld into this one superhero personality but the movie avoids this pitfall like a champ.
And it’s an absolute blast of a movie to watch. The action sequences are so well choreographed I don’t think I’ll ever get over them. The entire fight sequence on Titan was enthralling from start to finish. And when Thor finally dropped on Earth with the Stormbreaker in hand, the entire theater erupted in applause every time. The movie fully understood what the audience had been waiting for for ten years and what was expected of it, and boy did it deliver.
It’s also really funny. Most of the Marvel movie humor has been hit or miss for me and even the much celebrated Thor: Ragnarok wasn’t really all that funny, if I’m being really honest. But this one really lands all of its jokes. Most importantly, it knows when to be funny and picks its moments well so you never end up with a mistimed joke in the middle of a serious scene. The humor is also very finely tuned to each character and once again the writers deserve credit for handling so many different personalities so well.
Infinity War is also a really good looking movie. I watched it in both, IMAX and standard 3D, and it looked great in both, with the IMAX version having a much larger field of view that resulted in better immersion. Still, regardless of which version you watch, it’s a great looking film from beginning to end with stunning CGI work and none of the shoddy, fake-looking shit we saw in Black Panther.
Speaking of end, you can’t finish a review of this movie without talking about the ending. The movie actually went there; it threatened to kill off half the universe’s population throughout the runtime and actually had the balls to do it. This meant that many of the Avengers across the universe are also now dead. The shift in tone at that point was possibly the darkest any MCU movie has ever dared to be. You can feel the loss of life in the eyes of the characters left behind. When Tony Stark watches a young Peter Parker die before him, you feel his regret for failing to protect those he cared for. You feel Wanda watching Vision die not once but twice in the span of a few minutes, once having killed him herself. Rocket had to watch Groot die a second time and you know the rest of his friends are dead too, meaning he did lose everything after all. Bucky’s death, T’Challa’s death, Strange’s death, they all leave a mark, especially after everything they did to prevent this. There’s no somber music playing here to convey how sad the scene is. In fact, there is no music playing at all. All you hear are the last words of those slowly fading away and the growing whispers of the people in the theater as each of their favorite character is ticked off the list.
It’s a hard hitting scene and seriously, props to the movie again for going there. But here’s the thing (and this is where the complaints start), none of it matters. We are in a world where deaths don’t really mean all that much. We all saw Vision come back to life just before being killed again. The Infinity Gauntlet still exists with all the stones, which means anything is possible. But more than that, the real reason we know none of it matters is because we know how movies work these days. There is a part 2 coming next year. Many of the characters in this movie have standalone movies coming over the years. It’s not realistically possible for them to be permanently dead, unless you think Disney is just going to be like “yeah, cool, we didn’t want to make another Black Panther movie anyway like who even needs all that money really”.
Basically, the biggest moment in the movie ends up becoming one of its weakest when you start thinking about it. In fact, the deaths that matter happened earlier on in the movie, with Loki, Gamora, and Heimdall all dying by Thanos’ hand rather than the gauntlet. That’s not to say they can’t be made to come back either, just that it seems far less likely, making their deaths more meaningful. I wish I could just turn off my brain and enjoy the movie for what it is in the moment, but that’s not how I operate.
I also had issues with the way some of the characters were treated. The Hulk gets put out of commission very early on in the movie and we don’t see him come out again after that at all (the trailer lied, by the way). It felt like a cop out to prevent Thanos being overpowered in the end and we will likely see him make an appearance in the next part when there are fewer characters left in the fight. Also, I love you Mark Ruffalo but there’s only so much of Bruce Banner in the Hulkbuster one can tolerate. Black Panther also got the short end of the stick this time around, and since he’s dead he won’t be around much in the next one either; I’m pretty sure he had a meatier role in Civil War than this. Not having Hawkeye and Ant-Man also felt like a cop out, although one has to wonder how much could Hawkeye realistically contribute to this fight.
The characters also make consistently poor decisions with regards to the Infinity Stones and in general. Everyone seems to value the stones themselves over the life of half the universe’s population. Not half of America, or half of the Earth but half the universe. Was the Time Stone really worth more than that? Was Vision? Both were lost in the end so what did that achieve? Besides that, why did Loki have to pull a fucking knife like a thug in front of Thanos with two Infinity Stones and four henchmen? What positive outcome was going to come out of that? How did Strange protect the Time Stone by not using it in a crucial fight? And if the answer is that he saw this while looking into the future and it was the only possible outcome, why not just give Thanos the stone outright instead of trying to fight? Why did Star-Lord lose his shit when they were this close to getting the gauntlet away from Thanos, especially when he told Drax not to do the exact same thing earlier on in the movie?
Actually, I have even more questions. Are the Asgardians truly all dead now save for Thor? They were all on that ship and now it’s destroyed so I guess they are all dead. That too after all we heard about how ‘Asgard is not a place, it is the people’ rhetoric in Ragnarok. Did Valkyrie die too? What was Hulk doing when everyone on the ship was getting slaughtered? Also, for someone who likes to kill people, Thanos sure just avoids killing the Avengers every chance he gets. He could have killed Thor on the ship. He could have killed Star-Lord, Drax and Mantis at Knowhere. He could have even killed everyone in Wakanda if he wanted to. But he lets them live so… they could get in his way again? And regarding the end-credit scene, why are we still being introduced to new characters this late in the series? What do you think Captain Marvel was doing when all the shit was going down in all the past movies?
Fortunately, this is really just nitpicking on my part and in no way detracted from my movie watching experience, nor should it realistically for anybody else. Avengers: Infinity War is still a fantastically entertaining movie, the one that was worth the wait and build-up, and the one that sets the stage for a possibly even more exciting sequel. Even if I know that the characters who died in this one will come back, I really want to know how they come back. But that is then. For now, this is easily my favorite Marvel movie to date and I think I’m going to watch it maybe a couple more times before it goes out of theaters.