So, please, my fellow fan-kids, don’t lose your collective minds when I say Avengers: Infinity War is kind of a big ol’ meh.
I’ve got people already on my Facebook page arguing a) we’ve waited 10 years for THIS so it MUST be AMAZING; b) if Lord of the Rings is long and boring but was made for the geeks, then this can be just as episodic and ponderous too; c) Roy, you just don’t GET it … Empire Strikes Back was dark and sad so this is a logical step in the Marvel narrative.
Folks, my critique of this film is not with the source material, and if I – a 45-year-old man who carries a well-worn velcro wallet which I bought at Hot Topic (!) and which is festooned with ALL the Marvel characters – feel letdown by the film, it is NOT a personal slight to you.
I don’t envy Infinity War directors The Russo Brothers who had to follow the zippy bottle rocket that was Black Panther, a film which successfully balanced the hyper-detailed mythology which those of us far too immersed in comic book lore desire with a sharp, cinematic storytelling that enveloped general audiences in an inspiring and evocative new world.
On the whole, the Russos do a great job in Infinity War of balancing far too many personalities. I can only imagine the war room they set up to figure out which spandex-clad beings would show up where and at what time and how many lines they did or didn’t receive (let alone then wrangling the egos of actors portraying said superheroes). This is no Batman & Robin debacle, nor is it a Watchmen-level slog or a Batman v. Superman cluster.
About 80% of Infinity War is transfixing and, well, fun. It is episodic to a fault, but the characters are drawn consistently from their respective franchises without any jarring beats, and there is a kicky joy to seeing Tom Holland’s delightfully irreverent Spider-Man lost in space or watching Chris Hemsworth’s Thor team up with Bradley Cooper-voiced Rocket Raccoon. Hemsworth’s God of Thunder is by far the brightest spot in the film; Dave Bautista’s Drax has one of the flick’s funnier lines when he opines that Thor “looks like a pirate had a baby with an angel.”Pretty much everyone from the Black Panther cast fares well also, bringing some much needed buoyancy and energy to the film’s saggy late-middle section. All the returning Avengers play to their strengths as best they can in an overcrowded film. Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man) is still so Robert Downey, Jr. Chris Evans is stoic and warm and rather square as Captain America. Mark Ruffalo is pleasantly fussy as Bruce Banner (The Hulk). Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) are pros so they make the most from underwritten roles that mostly require them to look worried and wave their arms around periodically. And so on.
At the heart of the film is a very interesting and thoughtful dynamic between “big bad” Thanos (a surprisingly nuanced motion capture performance from Josh Brolin) and his adopted daughters Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan). Thanos’ villainous motivation (not dissimilar from Killmonger’s in Black Panther) is that society is incapable of caring for itself and that, with resources as finite as they are, the best solution is simply to slaughter half the population of the universe. Okey dokey. His daughters – who tend to hang out with the heroic Guardians of the Galaxy – aren’t down with that, and their familial tension, in a nod toward King Lear, gives the film a much-needed narrative grounding.
However, ultimately, the Russos have far too many moving parts to address, let alone future franchises to set up, so the dysfunctional Thanos family reunion gets overshadowed quickly. I won’t spoil any surprises (to be honest, there aren’t as many surprises as pre-release marketing would have you believe), but there is a substantial and gutting moment between Thanos and Gamora around the mid-way mark. The scene works so well, in an almost Dickensian fashion (think the sadder, creepier parts of A Christmas Carol), due to Brolin’s and Saldana’s performances. Saldana particularly breaks your heart. As an audience member, I was invested.Yet, a final act then follows that piles up the body count (not a spoiler – I’m not saying who) and just as quickly establishes a mechanism where all that mayhem could be undone (not a spoiler – I’m not saying how). I, personally, felt emotionally cheated. The film ends with a fairly dispassionate and obtuse note, and we are left wondering “what next?” Unlike, say Empire Strikes Back which concludes with a Saturday matinee cliffhanger as somber as can be (“will we see Han again? where is Luke’s hand? who’s his daddy really?”), we already basically know the outcomes in Infinity War will be reversed. It feels like a bait and switch. I didn’t like it when Superman “died” in Batman v. Superman, and I don’t much care for it here, even though Infinity War is The Godfather compared to anything DC has released.
(By the way, I’m tired of everyone now saying a bleak middle chapter with a non-ending in a genre film series has a raison d’etre just because of the role The Empire Strikes Back plays in the original Star Wars trilogy. So there.)
I apologize for my rant. I apologize for my indulgences with this “review.” Infinity War is not a bad film. In fact, it’s an interesting exercise in corporate synergy that is far more artistic than it might have been in other hands in another era. I enjoyed so many moments in the film, but, ultimately it doesn’t hang together in the compelling, capstone tapestry I’d hoped it would. Like Drax’s description of Thor, this movie is a bit like a “pirate has had a baby with an angel” – trying to accomplish too much (crowd-pleaser, merchandise machine, epic denouement to a decade of pretty damn great movies) with a whole lot of heart but just not quite enough substance. This movie left me exhausted.
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Thank you for your review once again for honest straightforward and right on to the point of what was happening on the big screen. Thank you as much as I love DC comics the Avengers and all my heroes I don’t want to spend money on something that wasn’t up to Disney regular top knot gold star.
Thanks, friend! You may enjoy it more than I did. Will be curious to know what you think
at least you have the wallet and that is something. no worries, everyone needs a good rant now and then, and i do love the pirate offspring quote.
Haha! I do love my wallet 😂
i love the tone of this as a person myself who only cares about the original tv superman with the saggy tights and glasses and telephone booths and a twin who appeared with scarlett o’hara on her …porch. the pirate/angel reference might apply for that movie also? thanks for the snarkiness…I just wish either I could start caring about marvel figures…or that Hollywood would return to caring about stuff that I used to love…like plots and characterizations and generally happy endings? we must be related?
Haha! Thank you. As much as I love all this, I miss George Reeves’ humanity and the sheer kindness of a show like that. I agree with your assessment about the chronic imbalance in Hollywood right now as well
“I, personally, felt emotionally cheated.” Same.
If they killed the original Avengers at the end and made it permanent I’d feel some closure but most of the characters they killed have sequels coming.
“We already basically know the outcomes in Infinity War will be reversed. It feels like a bait and switch.”
Yes, somebody gets me! Thank you for reading and commenting ❤️
Um . . . I’m a big fan of “Batman v. Superman”. So, I don’t regard “Infinity War” as better. It’s a good movie, but I don’t regard it or “Black Panther” as better. Two, I didn’t really care about Thanos’ desire to “balance the universe” by committing genocide. I’ve already seen this story arc in two previous films in the past three years – “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and “Inferno”. For me, the more interesting aspects of “Infinity War” were Thor’s arc, the Guardians of the Galaxy’s arc and Thanos’ relationship with Gamora and Nebula. Those story arcs made the movie for me.
Thank you as much as I love DC comics the Avengers and all my heroes I don’t want to spend money on something that wasn’t up to Disney regular top knot gold star.
Well, not only do I like Disney’s “regular top knot gold star”. I also like Warner Brothers’ “regular top knot gold star”.
I actually agree with you more than you might realize. I was not that enamored of this film, and had hoped for something more substantive. My interest in Thanos was indeed due to the relationship with his daughters. To me that was the most interesting element, along with thor and rocket raccoon. If they had just focused on that, I would’ve been happier, and had a good hour back in my life
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