Avengers: Infinity War – Review (Spoilerless)

I was 13 when Ironman debuted, three months removed from my Bar-Mitzvah. My adolescence was partially shaped by the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe); I have spent 19 Thursday nights for the past 10 years in theatres marinating in the familiar smell of popcorn and awaiting what Kevin Fiege (the producer and show-runner for the MCU) has decided our next step will be.

Some may be superior than others, but never have I seen a flick with the Marvel Studios logo preceding it I didn’t, at minimum, enjoy. From the first notes of the music during that intro to the end of the post-credit scene with a full bladder and an empty overly-large soda, I always walk to my car with a sense of joy, like a kid who just saw his favourite Saturday morning cartoon. Last night, there was no elation in my step; there was no joyous recounting of good overcoming evil; there was no joy. My awe outweighed my appreciation for the picture; a true testament to its efficiency.

The audacity of the film, to pull off what it did, was something that no fan could have been ready for. The stakes in the film are for real, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is for real, the emotion and devastation is for real. This film has its flaws and doesn’t care to hide them. I do not hold it against anyone if they cannot look past the jokes that don’t land, the dull moments that never seem to pass, or the elements of fantasy that make you long for the discipline of Captain America: Civil War.

Of the 149 minutes, 120 are a 7.5/10 at best; a passable attempt to bring dozens of characters into one cohesive story that works beautifully at times bar barely at others. The last fifth though, for those of us that are emotionally invested with the characters we’ve spent the past decade with, is something so profound that I find a hard time describing it, mostly because I’ve never had to before. If a bad ending can ruin a good film, then what does a perfect (I use that adjective literally) ending do to an above average film. Avengers: Infinity War isn’t perfect and is by no means the best movie in the MCU, but it is exactly the jolt of fearlessness we needed from the slowly lurking stagnation the universe was about to experience.

Thanos’ masterplan is coming to it’s inevitable end and The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, and their allies must race to stop him. They’ll have to fight like they never have, to defeat an enemy like they never have. They’ll sacrifice more than their willing to stop Thanos’ drive to bring balance to the universe, at any cost.

The old squad is back and with them come their multitude of issues. In an effort not to insult the intelligence of my readers I’ll spare them the rigorous listing of all 32 characters and actors who appear. Just know, it’s basically everyone. You’re favourite hero is here. Just go see the damn movie already. A concern though was how a movie with so many characters could strive for character development within a normal film’s runtime. The answer: these characters are already developed. I don’t need to learn that Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.) and Starlord (Chris Pratt) are cocky A-holes; all I need is to see how they interact. With what little screen time each character is able to own, the writing allotted it to be impactful.

Joe and Anthony Russo, the directing duo, are still batting .300 in the majors, but their direction and style seem to have suffered at having to focus on so many moving pieces; contrary to Civil War which has direction unlike anything I’d seen before. For every shot that seems lazily established there’s another that’s masterfully crafted. The tightrope they had to walk was a thin one, with a doozy of a fall below them. They had to not only appease the most die-hard of fans with numerous references and dramatic punches, but also litter enough quipping and fun to make the casual viewers feel welcomed.

Their action set-pieces also felt a little stock, but more than adequate. Is it fair of me to expect them to HAVE to one up themselves every time? No, but in our spoiled world of Marvel’s rule and complete critical domination satisfactory feels like insufficiency. Watching these heroes fight side to side to defeat a common and unyielding enemy is marvelous (pun intended) and everything I could have asked for. I just felt something missing. It feels like the brothers felt that the team-ups were enough and innovation during the fights could be omitted. The film is still beautiful at times with cinematography foreign to such a blockbuster, but the altercations won’t be the headliners in post-screening discussions like they usually are, and maybe should be.

Sorry to use so many sports metaphors, but Thanos is the MVP of this movie. When LeBron James or Tom Brady win MVP, it’s because they’re literally the most valuable player; without them the success would not have been possible. That is exactly how I feel about the giant, purple titan. In the vain of Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) from Black Panther and Vulture (Michael Keaton) from Spider-Man: Homecoming, he is a complex and tortured individual whose actions, however horrific, are just maybe…slightly…perhaps…warranted. We see him at his most threatening and at his most vulnerable. We witness his hatred, but also witness his capability to love and grieve. Complex villains have always been a weak spot in the MCU, but Thanos, and Brolin’s impeccably portrayal of him, squash any doubt we had that Infinity War would follow this unfortunate trend.

You may hear that this film is dark and you may think that you know what that means. I’m here to tell you that if you’ve stayed truly spoiler free and are familiar with Marvel’s tendencies, you have no idea what’s coming. We knew that characters were going to die, and they do. The consequences feel real because it seems that this time they are. Months of speculation and looking at actor’s contracts are no indication as to who’s safe and who’s not. No one is safe, and by the end, nothing is the same.

“Avengers: Infinity War isn’t perfect and is by no means the best movie in the MCU, but it is exactly the jolt of fearlessness we needed from the slowly lurking stagnation the universe was about to experience.”

I’m going to do my best to not discuss the end (any more than I already vastly have) but it is a plot point that needed to happen, regardless of your outlook on it or how it personally made you feel. Rumours that the film would end with the heroes feeling helpless, with little hope on the horizon, is an understatement to the highest degree. The final five minutes should fall into company with the greatest film endings in cinematic history. I don’t mean to oversell it, but honestly, I don’t see a way in which I can’t. Emotional, devastated, awed, confused, angry, and downright astonished is how I left the theatre. I don’t wish to judge, but if you didn’t feel the same way, then this movie wasn’t made for you.

I don’t know how Avengers: Infinity War will stand against the test of time. I don’t know how it will seem looking back at it when we’re in phase seven about to sit down and watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 6, all I know is how I feel about it now. How I feel about the film, right now, is like I just saw history. I may have rated films higher, I may have enjoyed myself more in the theatre, and I may even like films in the MCU more; but the balls on this movie are just too damn big to be ignored.

Cinema 35 Rating: 9/10

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