2010s, 3/4, Action, Fantasy, Marvel, Review

Avengers: Infinity War

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#6 in my Ranking of The MCU Phases 1-3.

With so many characters, the Russo brothers made an intelligent choice to center the emotional core of the film within a new character and the only one large enough within the narrative space to justify it: the antagonist. Outside of him, the movie’s essentially the biggest episode of a serial ever. It does that quite well, but it ends up squeezing out Thanos a bit. He’s good and enough to anchor a movie around, but everything else around him is pure spectacle and little else.

I say little else because all of our heroes get their moments. Thor talking about everything he’s lost. Vision and Scarlet Witch’s little romance taking shape. Peter Quill’s grief at the loss of a loved one. It’s all there, but it almost all depends on things outside this movie to work. Not that anyone would ever come into this movie without having at least some knowledge of the myriad of franchises that precedes it, but I think it deadens the impact of the moments since the emotional workload isn’t held within this movie itself. This isn’t like the final moments of a three-part movie like The Lord of the Rings, this is the culmination of more than twenty films, each with their own adventures and main characters, that end up tying together here.

So what you do have is a well-produced series of epic fights and events in the vein of a man on a mission type story, peppered with small character moments, revolving around the character of Thanos.

Thanos is the biggest threat the Avengers have faced (other than Dormmamu who was going to wipe out the entire universe in Doctor Strange, I guess), and he’s one of the better antagonists. I don’t think he’s miles better than Hela, Loki, or Vulture, but he’s definitely in that league. He’s a titan driven by an ideal, and he’s pure psychopath. Some people put forward the idea that Thanos could use the power of the Infinity Stones to double the universe’s resources, but that misses the point of the character. He’s a Malthusian through and through. He sees intelligent life as a cancer, infecting the universe, and that’s what must be wiped out. He’s so psychotic that to even dream of reasoning with him is asinine. He’s committed, and he demonstrate that commitment to his vision by sacrificing his beloved adopted daughter to gain one of the stones (the Soul Stone).

Meanwhile, our heroes take on several different related goals. There’s the attempt to remove and destroy the Mind Stone from Vision’s forehead. There’s Thor trying to replace Mjolnir. There’s Iron Man leading Dr. Strange and Spider-Man (joined by most of the Guardians of the Galaxy) to fight Thanos before he gains full strength on the titan’s destroyed home planet. The story is structured around these different tasks, each told with the Marvel brand of quippy humor, seasoned with just enough emotion borrowed from the franchise’s history, and built to all crescendo at the same time.

That crescendo, which really takes up the last hour or so of the film, is something to admire. There are so many pieces moving and so many parts flying in so many different locations that the fact that it’s easy to understand who is involved in what and why on a consistent basis is kind of remarkable. The Russo Brothers have evolved a lot in terms of action cinematography since The Winter Soldier. They still have a preference for shallow depth of field, handheld camera, and close up photography, but they edit it a bit less frantically and pull back more than enough to firmly establish geography.

One thing they haven’t really grown on, though, is visuals in general. It’s an interesting contrast to watch so many of these movies in a row. Just a few movies back was Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. In it, everything with brightly colored with array of beautiful things. When Thor shows up in the Guardian’s ship, the same location that was so easily bathed in color in the previous movie has been dialed back to almost complete darkness. The movie as a whole isn’t dark (the fight in Wakanda is very brightly lit), but it’s fascinating to see some of the same locations and costumes that had been so colorful drained of it all in this. I think it’s an incorrect visual choice for the franchise, especially as it embraces its cosmic side. It needs to be crazier visually instead of dark and “grounded”.

Still, I find Thanos a good villain, the ride overall fun and engaging, and just wish that it didn’t rely so much on the previous movies and looked brighter and more colorful. For a movie that I could not see as being anything other than an expensive mess, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Netflix Rating: 4/5

Quality Rating: 3/4

6 thoughts on “Avengers: Infinity War”

  1. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Iron Man, Dr Strange and Spider-Man; that was the most enjoyable part of the film for me. But they really, really de-emphasized Strange’s abilities in this film; watch the YouTube channel How It Should Have Ended episode for this film–Strange could have eliminated Thanos all by himself.

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    1. Well, that’s kind of how it is in most fantasy. “Why doesn’t he just,” is a bane of a writer’s existence, but when you create people with fantastic abilities you’re inviting that sort of nitpicking.

      I’ve just learned to go with it, most of the time. The writers could bog down the storytelling with explanations for every little lapse in logic. “Well, Tony, I woulda done it, but Thanos’ reality stone interfered with my ability to use the Time Stone for gobbledygook reasons.”

      “Oh, that makes sense,” says the fan in the seat as he listens to absolute garbage explanations. It’s the same thing in Star Trek. “We undid the phase inducer with a tacheon field built of ham sandwiches.” “So sciency!” the fans shout.

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  2. Ah, the real ending of the first (and possibly only successful) arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

    This movie is like a miracle. There has been so much build up and so many characters involved it could have been a bloated mess. By focusing on three story arcs, the Russos managed to keep the story moving while building to a climax.

    When I look back on this movie, and I’ve seen it more than any other Marvel movie except for GOTG, what amazes me is that:
    1.This happens all in one-ish day of ‘real time’.
    2. Thanos is both a terrible threat and yet identifiable and ALMOST sympathetic. This is not the fake Thanos cardboard cutout of Endgame. This is a real person, props to the writing and performance by Josh Brolin
    3. Thanos 4 ‘children’ are introduced, built up and dealt with all in one film. All four were interesting, though the goblin and the chick sorta blend together in my head.
    4. They basically slipped in a 3rd Guardians of the Galaxy movie into Infinity War

    I loved the combat, I loved the conflicts, I loved the callbacks (Red Skull was really cool to me in his cameo, transformed and humbled), I loved the weight of it.

    It doesn’t work as a standalone movie. But neither does Empire Strikes Back or the Return of the King. It’s a monumental achievement, movie magic. And, of course, the ending to the Infinity Saga. It would have been a shame if a follow up movie would have pissed all over the heights of this film. Good thing that didn’t happen. It would be like making sub par sequels to The Matrix…

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    1. I would argue that Empire works great as a standalone movie (and Return of the King is merely the third part of a 10 hour movie all produced at once).

      This kind of works on its own. It’s a huge man on a mission movie where the only character that could be defined as a character is the antagonist. It was probably the only way to make a movie this big work. Give your heroes stuff to do (tasks to take them from here to there) and lay all of your character work on the one big new addition (Thanos).

      It works better than it has any right to work. I kinda wish the cosmos stuff was as brightly colorful as actual GOTG movies, though.

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