Avengers Infinity War is a film with a lot of hype to live up to. The nineteenth entry in the almost-exactly ten year history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it reunites almost every major character from the previous films – there are four or five significant absences and a few minor ones – in a two and a half hour extravaganza. The clash with super-supervillain Thanos has been built up since the stinger of The Avengers (2012), while the Infinity Stones which form the driving force of the plot have been around since Captain America (2011) and were first named in Thor The Dark World (2013).
Against my usual custom, I’m not going straight into a full review. As with Arrival, I feel that this is a film significantly the better for going in without spoilers, so I’ll do the spoiler-filled analysis at a later date.
Infinity War works hard to meet the incredibly high expectations it has built up, and for the most part succeeds. It’s a relentless movie, opening with a mix of action and horror and continuing at an unflagging pace for its entire run time. There are quieter moments and louder, humour and brutality, frenetic action and heartbreaking pathos. It’s not a perfect film, but its flaws are predominantly those of the form; not of the superhero movie, but of the event comic. No one character gets very long on screen; no plot or character point has time to be explored at length; and even major upsets to the status quo can be passed over with little comment.
But it does do a great many things right. There are shocking turns, and desperate heroics. Most importantly, after becoming a bit of a running joke with his appearances as unsuccessful puppetmaster in the background of past films, Thanos himself muscles onto the screen as a genuine menace. The stakes of this film are almost unthinkable, so the villain – although as presented here, Thanos is almost sympathetic – has to carry a sense of consequence, and Thanos is definitely consequential. In fact, this is his story, more than that of any of the heroes. Huge props to Josh Brolin for this one.
There’s not much more I can say in the spoiler-free review. The acting is never less than competent, and often excellent.; the cast totally embody their roles; the production design is amazing. I will add that this film is more effective than previous efforts – in particular Age of Ultron (2015) – at conveying the development of character relationships in the two year interval since the last major assembling in Captain America Civil War (2016).
And oh my golly, I need to see Avengers 4.