As the title suggests, this review of Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ does contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film, and want to go into the movie completely blind, come back and read this later.
‘Infinity War’ is the culmination of the seventeen MCU films that came before, featuring an unprecedented roster of superheroes and our first look at Marvel’s ultimate big bad, the Mad Titan Thanos. But did it live up to its annoying clusterfuck of a marketing campaign that generated hype only Star Wars can match? Or was it so stuffed with character and jarring narrative that it simply baffled audiences?
Well you’ll be pleased to hear that it was, in fact, one of the strongest offerings from the MCU to date, thanks to a number of details.
First and foremost, ‘Infinity War’ instantly gives us something we’ve been lacking over these last ten years and that’s stakes. You can have as many epic third act battle scenes as you like, but ‘Infinity War’ chooses to give us a cold open. A distress call overlays Marvel’s classic titles, before opening onto a decimated Asgardian refugee vessel; bodies are strewn across the ground as the haunting Ebony Maw, one of Thanos’ Black Order, weaves his way among the corpses, proclaiming their salvation. What ensues after this, I’ll keep to myself, but in just two or three shots, Marvel gives us instant stakes, like we’ve never had before. It’s then that I realised this film was going to be a different beast.
There are highlights in every single beat of this film. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and writers Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely expertly balance humour with the severity of the events in the film, allowing characters such as the Guardians of the Galaxy to seamlessly slot into the film’s narrative. It is these interactions that perhaps shone the brightest: Rocket and Groot adventuring with Thor, Star Lord meeting Tony Stark and Peter Parker, even the tiresome Drax and incredibly nerfed Mantis had their own endearing moments. But one aspect of the Guardians’ narrative that didn’t sit well with me was Gamora’s death as Thanos’ sacrifice for the Soul stone; I have no idea why. It struck an emotional note with me, don’t get me wrong, but I would have wanted the Soul stone to have had another story. Perhaps with the original Avengers. I also feel like we had so much to see from Gamora, given that she too, had her powers lowered in the MCU – it irked me that she had to die, and her downright annoying monologue-bot sister, Nebula got to live. As a writer, though, this iteration of how Thanos gets his hands on the Soul stone makes sense; it’s streamlined with minimal detraction from the wider story at hand, and, more importantly, it humanises Thanos and gives him an almost Shakespearian fatal flaw. It would have been far too shallow to portray Thanos as this big, CGI heavy madman, hell bent on wiping out humanity for the fun of it, so having Gamora as his emotional compass really helped to ground him a little bit. It’s going to be interesting to see how his anguish at losing Gamora plays out in Avengers 4.
Another major highlight for me were the film’s Scottish scenes. Not just because I’m Scottish, though, let me make that one clear (although, across the three showings I’ve now been to, this had generated applause from audiences)! These really serve as a dual purpose. The first being that they offer huge character development for Scarlet Witch and Vision, having only featured in two films, and their powers having yet more to explore and understand. They show Vision gaining more humanity, with the time he spends with Wanda and they show Wanda gaining a far greater control over her powers as she goes head to head with Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive – two more of Thanos’ Black Order. Eventually, they’re hurled into Waverley Station, giving way to my absolute favourite part of the film. Steve Rogers, sporting some seriously luscious locks. In the time since ‘Civil War’ it seems that Steve, Natasha and Sam have formed an almost quasi-military group, and it simply gave me chills to see three of my favourite characters, grounded characters with no cosmic abilities, facing off against Proxima and Corvus to the tune of Alan Silvestri’s ‘The Avengers,’ harkening back to The Avengers’ 2012 outing in ‘Avengers Assemble.’ In short, I loved seeing Wanda and Vision’s development, where certain other directors may have sidelined them, and a sort of clandestine iteration of The Avengers kicking ass once more, against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
On a much larger scale, the film’s writing (and editing, to a degree) is the most important aspect of why it just works. With so many characters to juggle, Marcus and McFeely would have had their work cut out for them. It could have been a garbled mess. But it was far from that. One of the things that helped with film be so impactful was the jarring of Steve Rogers’ more grounded faction of The Avengers, juxtaposed with Stark’s space bound ensemble. The film cuts between all the different areas where the team, and Thanos, find themselves, but no one scene ever sees a resolution; the tension builds and builds, keeping you on the edge of your seat. All locations and scenes, weave into this grand tapestry, waiting for their destiny, taking you with them, investing you in each and every characters. In short, ‘Infinity War’ takes Joe and Anthony Russo’s ensemble storytelling ethos to another, grander, dimension, with a monumental payoff.
Of course, it leads to one hell of an anticlimax, with half of our beloved heroes turning to dust (cue Peter Parker dying in Tony Stark’s arms, and Bucky dying right in front of Steve), all in an eerie blanket of silence. It’s anticlimactic, yes, but it certainly makes me eager to see how Marvel plan to wrap up this chapter of the MCU in Avengers 4 (I’m also pretty stoked for some sweet sweet Carol Danvers and Steve Rogers interaction).
All in all, this was some pretty incredible fan service from Marvel, laden with so much golden character interaction that it’d take me an age to tell you about.