Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and a few others……
The fate of the entire universe is at stake as the all-powerful Thanos (Josh Brolin) embarks on a mission to acquire all six infinity stones (artefacts that represent the different elements of power). If all acquired together, this will allow Thanos to carry out his mission of destroying half of all life in the universe, and so all of the Avengers must now join forces to stop this seemingly unstoppable foe.
So here we finally are; the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe reaches yet another key phase as all the characters from every film from the last 10 years are thrown together in one gigantic, sprawling epic. Infinity War immediately has of course one advantage over its competitors, in that it has 10 years’ worth of films to use as character development for establishing the plethora of characters that feature within its narrative, and so can just get stuck into its main plot straight from the off, and that it does in its first scene which picks up pretty much straight away from what happened at the end of Thor: Ragnarok.
This could have easily allowed for complacency by all involved, despite the pressure on it that is bigger than Thanos himself, but thankfully they successfully navigate this very tricky juggling act to produce an action blockbuster that is certainly not perfect, but has enough genuine heart and humour, as well as narrative focus, to emerge as the frontrunner as blockbuster of the year. It is hard to believe that anyone going to see this will not already be initiated with at least some of the previous films and their characters, but those that are not should certainly not start with this film, as this is not made to win the franchise any new fans (but to be brutally honest, it does not need any), it instead is for those that have emotional investment in these characters, and all involved have certainly made some audacious and risky narrative decisions.
Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely certainly try to create a film that is epic in scale (and most definitely more than a little bit like The Return of the King) as they split the characters into groups across universe-spanning locations. The criss-crossing between the quests that the various groups of characters embark on does produce an occasionally episodic narrative that does not flow that smoothly initially but does get better and all becomes relatively coherent as the narrative develops.
The pairing up of characters for the first time or reuniting some that haven’t seen each other for a couple of films inevitably provides some of the film’s most satisfying moments, and through the witty dialogue this often produces some very funny scenes. One of the standouts being Chris Pratt being allowed to flex his comic muscles when sharing scenes with first Thor, and then Tony Stark, as the characters inevitably trade put-downs and one-liners with one-another.
However, with this many characters to get through there is inevitably always going to be some that fare better than others, and some do feel like they are very much there solely at the narrative’s convenience. While Thanos’ henchman are completely forgettable characters that are not given any kind of development and are just token bad guys to provide action sequences for our heroes to navigate that almost just feel like the boss levels in a videogame.
Then we come to the main bad guy himself; Thanos, who has been on the horizon since the post-credit sequence of Avengers Assemble, and he is one of the film’s major success points. I know I have said this many times, but a consistent problem in not just Marvel, but all big budget films, is that they tend to have forgettable villains. Thanos is given plenty of focus within the narrative which allows his character to truly develop, making him a very compelling character with genuine depth, and we come to understand the reasoning behind his actions. Though he is of course covered in purple CGI, Josh Brolin delivers a strong vocal performance which further helps to elevate the character.
As the 149-minute narrative goes along, Infinity War never lets up in the pace, and though there is the occasional jarring narrative contrivance there are also a few surprises which could easily be described as both audacious and highly risky. Though it certainly provides an ending that will linger long in the memory, it has now presented all involved with a huge challenge. There is of course a yet untitled Avengers film next year (apparently its yet to be revealed title is a spoiler for this film), and all involved have to tread very carefully with what happens in that film, as if they get it wrong and even make any resolutions look slightly lazy then they risk trivialising and undermining a lot of the narrative events that have preceded it (especially in this film), and once they do that it will be almost impossible to recover. As I said, these narrative choices are audacious and risky, let’s just hope they don’t prove to be deeply misguided as well!
However, there is no denying that the ending of Avengers: Infinity War packs a real emotional punch that certainly lingers in the mind for a long time, and that cannot be said about many blockbusters these days!
A sprawling, slightly chaotic and often deeply engaging action epic that manages to not buckle under the inevitable pressure it was under; Though certainly not perfect, Avengers: Infinity War has thrills, action and heart in abundance, and most importantly a truly memorable antagonist.