Avengers: Infinity War (Cert 12A)
US (2018) Dir. Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
You knew it was coming. After years of crossing over into each other’s solo films and the two collective outings as The Avengers, we finally reached the point where most of the major franchises of the Marvel universe come together for one massive action-packed cinematic schmooze.
I say most of the major names – there is no Ant-Man, Deadpool, Fantastic Four, X-Men or Hawkeye in this film. But, if you have been paying attention to the MCU films over the past seven years then you’ll know that The Avengers (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Captain America) have been a steady butt kicking superhero unit, but this time joined by a few new faces.
So what almighty catastrophe could be so great that it warrants the formation of this comic book coalition? The film opens in media res with Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) standing tall over a battered Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) on a space ship fleeing the destroyed Asgard. Having forced Loki to hand over the Power Stone, Thanos and his Children leave, destroying the ship.
Meanwhile on Earth, Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) are brought together when Hulk crashes into Strange’s home having been saved from the exploding star ship. At the same time, two of Thanos’ children arrive to take the Reality Stone from Strange, forcing an impromptu battle involving Iron Man and Doctor Strange and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) who just happened to be nearby on a school trip.
Elsewhere The Guardians Of The Galaxy – Star Lord Pete Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and teenage Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) – answer a distress call from Asgard arriving just as Thor’s body is blasted from the ship. Realising they have a mutual enemy in Thanos, Thor recruits Rocket and Groot to help him prevent Thanos from getting another stone.
Back on Earth, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are attacked in Scotland by Thanos’ children seeking the Mind Stone implanted in Vision’s head. Luckily, help is at hand from Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie). With Thanos getting closer to collecting all six of the Infinity Stones and achieving his dream of “rebalancing” the universe, it will take a concerted collected effort from all of these heroes to stop him.
Possibly the longest plot synopsis I’ve ever written for a review but given the multiple strands of the story and extensive cast list – the names listed above only scratches the surface of this veritable Who’s Who of the MCU and I haven’t even mentioned Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and his cohorts yet – it is rather unavoidable.
At 2 ½ hours long there is understandably a lot of ground to be covered in establishing the story and introducing the various teams and individuals, finding a way for them to converge in a manner that isn’t contrived and lazily cobbled together. This mantle was placed in the hands of the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and for the most part it is fair to say they achieve this given the fantasy nature of the superhero genre.
It helps that some of the players are already connected by being part of The Avengers, but introducing the outliers and solo players like Doctor Strange or the Guardians requires a lot more leeway from the audience to accept this happening. Since most of them already have a common link in Thanos it might seem like a simple case of the heroes pooling their resources to defeat him, but the script doesn’t take such an easy route.
Without spoiling too much, there is no mass union of ALL the separate fighting teams, even for the breathtaking multi-person finale, but that can be forgiven since there are more than enough heroes to go around to afford concurrent life threatening battles to take place and remain a star-studded attraction in their own right and not losing their individual gravity and importance to the plot.
Despite the overcrowding of super-powered talent, everyone gets at least one moment to shine, be it on the big stage or in isolated instances, with the bigger personalities given a chance to bring their own flavour to the mix – The Guardians for instance, provide plenty of humour (Drax’s invisibility gimmick is a hoot) yet they have arguably the most tragic subplot in the film.
Pretty much everything you would expect from an MCU film is present and correct here but turned up to eleven due to the wealth of talent involved. One could argue that maybe there are too many heroes for one film and certainly there are times where the focus stays in one area too long when another has a more pressing issue you want to see resolved.
Visually this is an SFX spectacle on a mammoth scale and it is remarkable that the film was made so quickly when there have been other films made and still being made at the same time utilising the same cast and crew. Yet, the most memorable thing about this film its sheer boldness in some of the decisions it takes with regard to the casualty count involving key players. I won’t name names or spoil anything but suffice to say, Markus and McFeely must have balls the size of watermelons!
As ever with an MCU film you need to stay until the very end for the now obligatory post-credits scene and this one is possibly the most provocative one yet, in keeping with the brazen approach of the main film. For all its moxie, Avengers: Infinity War isn’t quite the paradigm shifter some might expect it to be but it has raised the bar in terms of emotional investment among the bombast and visual splendour, and that is quite the achievement.
Rating – ****
Man In Black