Should I Watch..? 'Avengers: Infinity War'
What's the big deal?
Avengers: Infinity War is an epic action superhero film released in 2018 and is the nineteenth film of Marvel's Cinematic Universe, the MCU. Based on the Marvel comics of the same name created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the film sees the mighty Thanos attempting to retrieve all six Infinity Stones that have been scattered across the galaxy in order to bring balance to the universe. In his path are the assorted heroes from many previous MCU films, many of whom are crossing paths for the very first time. The film's huge ensemble cast includes Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Don Cheadle and Tom Holland. Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo, the film was made back-to-back with its sequel Avengers: Endgame at an estimated budget of between $316-400 million, making it one of the most expensive films ever made. Released to a warm reception from critics, the film smashed box office records all over the world - becoming just the fourth film in history to make more than $2 billion (and the second fastest film to earn that amount ever). It was followed by Avengers: Endgame in 2019 which enjoyed even more success at the box office.
What's it about?
Having acquired the Power Stone - one of six Infinity Stones - from the planet Xandar, Thanos and his minions of the Black Order set off in search of the others in order for Thanos to wield them in his custom-made Infinity Gauntlet. Intercepting the refugee Asgardians, Thanos reclaims the Space Stone from the Tesseract before beating Hulk and Thor and killing Loki. A dying Heimdall sends Hulk to Earth via the Bifrost before Thanos sets off in pursuit and destroying Thor's ship.
Crash-landing through the roof of the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York, Hulk reverts back to Bruce Banner and tells Doctor Strange of the impeding danger of Thanos. Recruiting Tony Stark and Peter Parker, they initially fend off an attack by the Black Order but Strange is transported to their spaceship. As Iron Man and Spider-Man set off to rescue him, Banner contacts the fugitive Steve Rogers who also brings Black Widow and Falcon with him. As the various members of the Avengers slowly reform and alliances are made with new allies, can they really stand a chance against the increasingly powerful Thanos?
Robert Downey Jr
Tony Stark / Iron Man
Dr Bruce Banner / Hulk
Steve Rogers / Captain America
Natasha Romanov / Black Widow
Dr Stephen Strange
James Rhodes / War Machine
Peter Parker / Spider-Man
T'Challa / Black Panther
Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
Sam Wilson / Falcon
James "Bucky" Barnes / Winter Soldier
Drax The Destroyer
Peter Quill / Star-Lord
Thanos (voice & motion capture)
Rocket Raccoon (voice)
Anthony & Joe Russo
Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely*
Release Date (UK)
26th April, 2018
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Superhero
Academy Award Nominations
Best Visual Effects
What's to like?
While it's easy to complain about the relentless tide of films released for the MCU or how Marvel might have been resting on their laurels lately, it's just as easy to get hyped for an Avengers film. The first one, Avengers Assemble, was a blast-a-minute, thrill ride bringing all the MCU characters (at that point) together for an impossibly entertaining slice of comic-book escapism. Of course, now that the MCU has expanded exponentially since then, this film has the difficult job of making sure everyone gets their fair amount of screen time. Thankfully, Avengers: Infinity War somehow gets the balance right with each character playing their part in his hugely ambitious epic film. And with the ultimate villain Thanos providing an almost unbeatable foe, the stakes have never been higher - if you thought the Battle Of New York was too much, you haven't seen anything yet!
Fittingly, the film belongs to Brolin as Thanos who finally emerges from the shadows to seriously tear stuff up. But he gives the character an unexpected level of pathos, making this maniacal murderer almost sympathetic. The movie, on the whole, manages much more emotion than previously seen - instead of one-dimensional heroes doing heroic deeds, these are flawed and conflicted individuals with their own backstories and it elevates this movie into one of the best films Marvel have produced so far. Erasing the memory of the underwhelming Age Of Ultron, the film is lifted by expert performances from Downey Jr, Holland, Saldana and Pratt as well as that amusing chemistry of characters from opposite sides of the galaxy finding themselves having to work together.
What I also enjoyed was the film's vast canvas of which this catalogue-spanning epic is spread over. Revisiting locations from Guardians Of The Galaxy as well as other worlds never seen before as well as the still-amazing sight of Wakanda for the final showdown helps bring all the loose threads together and despite the amount of films to link up, the Russo brothers have amazingly managed it. Aside from actor's salaries, the film looks like it's had the millions of dollars spent on the effects. From characters literally being pulled apart or sliced and diced to the mind-bending magic by Dr Strange, the film really delivers on a visual level that no MCU film has managed for a long time. The narrative might be utterly baffling if you haven't seen the rest of the films (making catching up a necessity) but it makes sense if you are a committed fan. Truly, this film does feel like the pay-off we've been waiting for since Tony Stark first suited up in 2008.
- Due to their habit of accidentally revealing spoilers, neither Tom Holland or Mark Ruffalo were given the real script until filming began to prevent any story leaks. Ruffalo jokingly claimed that the fake script he received was better than the actual one.
- The film-makers were taken by surprise by the Wakandan war chants as they had not yet seen Black Panther. The chant was started by the actors of that film (as filming for that film had not long wrapped so getting into character wasn't a problem) and it was kept in the final edit.
- Brolin based his performance as Thanos on Marlon Brando's appearance as Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. However, he did have to wear a giant foam head and limbs in order to retain his size advantage during fight scenes.
- This became the fastest movie in history to make more than $1 billion, achieving the feat in just eight days - one day quicker than the previous record holder Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. The record would be beaten again by Avengers: Endgame which crossed the $1 billion mark after just five days.
What's not to like?
OK, here's my list.
Bautista's always amusing Drax isn't given enough screen time because I love his comedic interruptions and performance. Come to think of it, the overall tone of the film is much more serious than before which makes the reduced amount of comic banter between characters all the more refreshing and welcome. There is barely a mention of permanently-overlooked Hawkeye and Ant-Man and I feel both characters deserved to be included, however tricky it might have been to find space for them. There is a massive presumption on the part of the film-makers that we intimately know these characters and their foibles so character development isn't allowed as much room as, say, Thanos collapsing a planet and hurling the remnants at his foes. And I wasn't so keen on the story-line involving Thor, Rocket and their quest to replace Thor's hammer with a new weapon - it felt isolated and somewhat out-of-kilter with the rest of the picture.
However, none of these things stopped me from enjoying the film overall. For a while, I was worried that this third Avengers film would be too bloated and filled with action for the sake of it. As I said, I wasn't too impressed with Age Of Ultron which definitely lacked some of the fun of Avengers Assemble. But thankfully, the fun is back - this is possibly the most enjoyable MCU effort I've watched since Guardians Of The Galaxy, which I adored and still do (awesome soundtrack too!). This is Marvel getting their head back in the game and delivering fantastic comic-book adaptations with a real dose of escapism. Don't be surprised, however, to find this straying into deeper and much darker territory.
Should I watch it?
Even non-Marvel fans can't help but be impressed with this cinematic slice of comic hokum. Bigger, bolder, darker and more emotive than you might expect, Avengers: Infinity War is the blockbusting mega-picture the MCU has been craving since the first Avengers movie. It's a bombastic, greatest-hits collection of a variety of characters having their moment in the sun but if you have missed any MCU film before this point, you might be better to wait until you've fully caught up.
Great For: Marvel's profits, Disney's profits, cinema chains all over the world, fans of the MCU
Not So Great For: anyone expecting a happy ending, people bored of superhero films already, anybody whose favourite character dies...
What else should I watch?
Somehow, Marvel still managed to squeeze out two movies between this film and its sequel, Endgame. Ant-Man And The Wasp is a much more light-hearted affair than Infinity War and sees Paul Rudd's Scott Lang team up with Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne. While it didn't match the numbers of this movie, it seems to be a decent follow-up to an underwhelming first film. Then earlier this year, Captain Marvel appeared and acted like a massive ret-con by taking the MCU back to the mid 1990's. Sadly, it was still showing in some cinemas near me when Endgame cracked the box office open like a coconut and I can't afford that many trips to the pictures. Pity - if only Marvel left enough time between films to allow fans to catch-up, they would not only keep folks like me happy but also stave off a burnt out audience sick of seeing formulaic superhero fodder.
So where does Infinity War stack up against the rest of the MCU so far? Frankly, it's up there with Avengers Assemble as the best of the lot - Assemble is a more enjoyable film with a definite sense of fun and Hiddleston's riotous Loki serving as principal villain. It's also more streamlined than this film which, to be honest, does have to get so many characters on screen that it does miss a couple out. But not far behind are Guardians Of The Galaxy and the quasi-reboot Thor: Ragnarok which finally gave the God Of Thunder a decent solo outing. Well, when I say 'solo'...
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© 2019 Benjamin Cox