Release: April 27, 2018
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Screenplay: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and Josh Brolin as Thanos
Running time: 149 minutes
Potential Spoilers Ahead
Here it is folks, part one of the big one. The event that Marvel Films has been building to since the 2008 release of Iron Man: a film adaptation of Jim Starlin’s Infinity Gauntlet. Thanos is on a mission to acquire the last few infinity gems so that he can seize control over existence. This so that he can save sentient beings from themselves by blinking half of them out of existence. The task of averting disaster once again falls to Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Avengers. That is to say what is left of them after the events of the last couple of films.
If I said I went into Avengers: Infinity War with incredibly low expectations, that would be a very big understatement. If there is one superhero film franchise that has been a complete dud to me, it is this one. I absolutely hated the first Avengers film. It was, at least until the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, in the opinion of this not so humble reviewer, the biggest steaming pile of feculence that Marvel had ever dropped on the cinema going public. Its sequel wasn’t much better. Much of that, of course, is down to the godawful dialogue courtesy of one Mr. Joss Whedon. With Whedon being essentially metoo’ed out of personhood, his stink doesn’t really pervade this film too much. Sure, there are some moments of inappropriate humour, like when Iron Man, Strange, and Hulk encounter Thanos’ herald for the first time, and some of Spider-Man’s dialogue, but on the whole it doesn’t come across like a trashed Buffy script. Refreshingly, writers Markus and McFeely and directors the Russos decided to stay closer to the tone of the source material. So rather than having tense moments constantly broken by attempts at humour that rarely (read: never) hit, Infinity War is a mostly dark and tense affair.
The writers clearly took some creative license with many things. The most glaring of which is Thanos’ motivation. Whereas in the original Infinity Gauntlet comic the mad titan was motivated by his love for the female personification of death, the film version is a psychopath who is driven by a Malthusian desire to bring shared prosperity throughout the universe by blinking half of its sentient population out of existence. He’s less a megalomaniac bent on galactic domination than he is a paternalistic offspring of Bernie Sanders and Napoleon raised on a steady diet of Paul Ehrlich and Thomas Malthus, and it works. Seeing the main antagonist go all soy boy emo kid on a disinterested goth chick wouldn’t have been very entertaining. Especially not at this juncture, what with late night media’s recent discovery of and harping on about “incels.” The performances are good, some of the best I’ve ever seen in this franchise. One exception, of course, is Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. It’s fortunate that he is a very small role in this film as Ruffalo’s Banner is simply a droning bore who drags down every scene he’s in for longer than ten seconds. I don’t care what your opinion of Mr. Ruffalo is as an actor, he is just a poor fit for a big budget action sci-fi franchise, even if his character is essentially playing second fiddle to a big, green CGI golem. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is also another point of criticism. He makes too many pop culture references. I spent a great number of years reading The Amazing Spider-Man (and its various spin-offs when it was necessary) and I don’t recall so many pop culture references. Between him and Star Lord, it can get to be a bit much.
Infinity War is a visually crisp film. There have been issues with weak CGI with the past couple of MCU films I’ve reviewed. Black Panther’s climactic battle sequence suffered from quite a lot of wonky CGI, as did the car chase sequence that was run on television ad infinitum as the film’s trailer. Spider-Man: Homecoming was lousy with sequences where the titular character was replaced by a digital stand in that more often resembled one of those over articulated Spider-Man action figures from the 90s than anything remotely human. That was not the case with Infinity War. After all, this is the big one, so obviously Marvel Studios and papa Disney didn’t want any shaky pixels in this. I would even go so far as to say that Wakanda looks better in Infinity War than it did in Black Panther. The action sequences are framed well, and look great even when you have instances of real life performers engaging in combat with computer generated opponents. Audio, however, well, there we have a problem. This is not something exclusive to Disney or even the Marvel franchise, but just a general bad phenomenon across all of Hollywood. There are moments in this film where the background music gets so loud that you can not hear anything else. This is something that needs to stop. None of the current crop of film composers is so good that you want to hear their score blasting in your ear. Even if they were, you still wouldn’t want the music to drown out the dialogue.
I’ve heard and read other reviewers say that Marvel and Disney obviously spared no expense with this film, and it definitely shows. It was an enjoyable viewing and I’ll definitely watch it again at some point. Where was this level of quality when they were rebooting Spider-Man for the tenth time? The best part of seeing this in the theater, however, was not the film itself. Rather it was listening to the reactions of the audience whenever a hero would meet an untimely end, as well as the dead silence when it ended on a down note.