Synopsis – The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
My Take – The end is here!!! Following the massive success of the their inbuilt shared universe, which all began in 2008, with a little film called Iron Man, as a studio Marvel has been cruising along, introducing little known comic book characters and capitulating them into super stardom status, all with the help of their innovative, humorous and brave films. Although majority of their films, which consist of 18 blockbusters as of now, nothing had really matched the relative scope and ambition of that first Avengers film in 2012, which was followed up a rather disappointing 2015 sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Hence as a fan of the MCU, I was reasonably apprehensive about this Russo brothers directed sequel, mainly as it has been ten years in the making, features almost every important characters introduced over a decade, each with their own complex backstories and motivations, all together to take on one antagonist. In terms of purely cinematic narrative the sheer scale of the film is surely unique, and rather impossible to imagine. Well, in simple words, it was well worth the wait! Without a doubt, this latest installment is truly a terrific film of its kind and a near-perfect culmination of everything the cinematic universe has been building up all this time, of being the most epic film you’ve ever seen. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo have masterfully directed a film that demonstrates on an epic scale what Marvel has known all along: that special effects and tightly choreographed action are there to serve the story and for all its blockbuster spectacle, the film works because it’s anchored by the heart, humor and humanity of its characters.
Taking place two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War and right after the events of Thor: Ragnarok, the story follows the Avengers who remain a fractured group of heroes, with some completely dropping off the radar altogether. However, when Bruce Banner/ Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), transports away from massacre of the last Asgardian vessel, and falls back to earth in the domain of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), with a warning that Thanos (Josh Brolin), the intergalactic purveyor of death and destruction, who has long been on the hunt for the six Infinity Stones which will help in yield all the elements of the universe, is coming to earth to gather the reclaim the remaining two stones, one of which is with Strange himself.
They quickly enlist a reluctant Tony Stark/ Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) to warn Vision (Paul Bettany), who also possesses on the stones. Putting aside their differences, the Avengers consisting of Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Peter Parker / Spider-Man (Tom Holland), James Rhodes / War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Sam Wilson / Falcon (Anthony Mackie), must join forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill / Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), along with King T’Challa / Black Panther(Chadwick Boseman), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) to defeat Thanos, his Black Order and their Outrider army, before everything they know comes to an end.
That’s only part of the ensemble cast this film has to offer and my god the scale of this film is incredible; and it’s basically a full-fledged space opera. Yes, this is one of those rare blockbusters, which exceeds its already high expectations and delivers a crowning achievement for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What the Russo brothers have done here is to overdo themselves. While Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War remain two of the best MCU film to date, you do wonder how these two directors were known only for their work on the sitcom, Community, before Marvel came them their big shot, and without a doubt, with their third film they have just lifted the bar even higher. Less politically relevant than Marvel‘s last blockbuster Black Panther and more hilarious than Thor: Ragnarok, but with ten times more heart and threat level this is the culmination of hours of hard work and devotion from a studio who not only know what they are doing but also clearly love what they do too, and it shows in every beautifully framed shot, every character interaction and every emotional death scene, right up to the cliffhanger ending, big enough to rival that of the The Matrix.
While the film does struggle with some tonal shifts during the first act, its brilliant action scenes and clever dialogue more than make up for these shortcomings. While it may not have the novelty factor and unexpected awesomeness that ran through the veins of the very first Avengers outing but after so much time and commitment, Marvel and Disney and in turn us the audience have invested into this saga, as the film feels like something more than your average summer blockbuster experience that’s event heavy and many various narrative strands are near perfectly juggled by the Russo Brothers.
From the outset, it’s immediately clear that neither the film’s directors nor screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, are interested in playing it safe. Most other superhero films are bled of high stakes – the hero in the title might suffer untold trauma, but it’s a super-safe bet that he or she will make it to the end alive. There’s no such guarantee here, as within the first ten minutes, we are confronted with the dark, twisted depths to which Thanos and his acolytes in the Black Order will sink in order to achieve their goals. Death, as well as genuine loss and sacrifice, is intrinsic to the narrative drumbeat that drives the film ever forward, and the film is all the better for it.
What is perhaps most remarkable about the film is that, it manages its large cast so effectively, not a single moment is wasted and all major characters have their moment to shine, all thanks to the incredibly efficient pacing and structure. Despite a run time of 149 minutes, the film rarely drags due to a break neck pace that never lets up, there is none of the dull opening exposition and set up that often hurts these films. This film had a massive burden to carry: how to juggle the characters from the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther all in one film without them stepping on each other’s toes for their time in the spotlight. Despite all the odds, the Russo Brothers actually managed to pull this feat off, with every character actually fulfilling a useful role without feeling superfluous.
The chemistry between these people is what binds this film together into something that even fans of only one character can enjoy among the ensemble. Especially the scenes with the Guardians, who, thanks to Drax, inject most of the humor. The Tony Stark/Peter Parker relationship also expands on the groundwork laid in Captain America: Civil War and continued in Spider-Man: Homecoming, to great effect. Furthermore, the undeniable love that ties Vision and Wanda Maximoff together as well as Quill and Gamora, relationships are all dealt with incredibly well, with heartfelt emotion and genuine love for each other. On the flip side are Thor and Cap, who are both dealing with loss, Thor dealing with the destruction of Asgard and Steve with the state of the fractured Avengers due to his actions in Captain America: Civil War, they are very much the ‘solo’ heroes, both with nothing to lose. Dr. Strange also plays a huge part in the narrative of the film, however, alongside Bruce Banner, Black Widow, War Machine, Falcon, Winter Soldier and Black Panther, they are very much the window dressing to fill the gap between the main events.
In many ways, the film stands as a testament to the human capacity not just to love, but to love fiercely and beyond all logic. It’s right there when the unfailingly noble Steve Rogers declares, we don’t trade lives even when giving up one could save billions. But arguably the films greatest victory is in Thanos, as this is very much his story. Despite being large, ugly & purple – gets enough backstory and shows adequate ethos to almost empathize with his reasoning for wanting to destroy half the universe via the infinity stones. We see brief moments of tenderness, and his personality outside of simply wanting universal domination. His motivations feel somewhat morally ambiguous and at times even make him seem sympathetic. Thanos actually has a point and that creates an ability for audiences to understand where he is coming from, hereby making tragic relationship with his estranged adopted daughters, Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan), all the more unsettling.
This is something that Marvel has had a huge issue with in the past but with Thanos and along with the recent Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), perhaps they has finally found a way to fix their well-known villain problem. While the tone is very dark as you would expect with literally half of the known universe facing destruction, there is also some solid humor in the film that never once undermines the story or pacing. Yes, while there’s some deaths and plenty of tension/darkness in parts, there’s still lots of laughs, mostly thanks to the banter between the Avengers and The Guardians.
The action sequences are as expected fantastic – some work better than others. The final act of the film, in particular, was breath-taking. It genuinely felt like the MCU was at its peak, with a couple of gut-wrenching moments scattered throughout the film. However, the film does have a few flaws, namely in a film with so many moving parts, some elements don’t work quite as well, as a couple of characters that you might have expected to be right at the forefront – including an original Avenger or two, fade into the background. Plus, considering it’s a culmination of 10 years of a shared universe, for an audience who has barely seen any of the MCU films, might find it difficult, at times even confusing regarding some connections or attachments to particular characters.
As expected, the performances in this film were incredibly well done, mainly as most were carrying out their parts well established in previous film. From Benedict Cumberbatch’s vulnerability to Chris Hemsworth’s big-hearted comedic swagger to Robert Downey Jr’s Trauma to Chris Evan’s courage to Tom Holland’s heartbreaking performance, each character carries the burden of their set ups and jelled it up here quite well. The huge ensemble consisting of Mark Ruffalo, Paul Bettany, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Pom Klementieff, Bradley Cooper,Vin Diesel, Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, William Hurt, Carrie Coon, Winston Duke, Jacob Batalon, Benedict Wong, Terry Notary, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Michael James Shaw and Josh Brolin do an amazing job. It’s impossible not mention the Peter Dinklage‘s delightful and inspired cameo. On the whole, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is a wild and dazzling roller-coaster that culminates 10 years of the MCU’s world-building with a bold pay off that is epic, emotional, engrossing, and without a doubt one of the best films of the superhero genre.
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 149 minutes