As of the end of its opening weekend, Avengers: Infinity War (2018) has grossed, worldwide, $630 million. Justice League (2017) made $658 million, total. This one statistic is staggering to me because 1. The movie just made back its budget in 72 hours; and 2. It’s been three days since this movie’s release. Three days. Infinity War may be a watershed moment for superhero films; but it’s abundantly clear this movie will set a whole new benchmark for blockbusters everywhere, monetarily. While I’d like to think that this is a spoiler-free review, even the slightest implication of plot can be qualified as a spoiler, thus making me a pariah for ruining the culmination of ten years of universe building. So if you have NOT seen Avengers: Infinity War as of right now and are paranoid about even the slightest spoiler, I suggest x-ing out of this page ASAP. If you simply don’t care, then enjoy the review after this GIF of Vincent Vega looking confused as to why he’s all of a sudden an Avenger:
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) is the third Avengers installment and the latest (nineteenth) installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a universe that is now culminating after ten years of build-up (six, technically, if we’re talking about Infinity War hype, since we didn’t know Thanos was going to be an overarching villain until the end of the first Avengers in 2012. You get it). Thanos (Josh Brolin) plays both antagonist and protagonist as the movie focuses on his hunt for the six Infinity Gems, (they call them Stones in the movie but a pretentious nerd like me will call them by their source material name) to form the Infinity Gauntlet and wipe out half of the universe’s sentient life. Thanos is concerned about overpopulation and believes he bears the burden of abolishing half of existence to balance everything out. The movie opens in ominous fashion as we see the fallout of Thanos’ attack on Thor’s Asgardian cruiser that was teased at the end of Thor: Ragnarok (2017). The movie immediately sets the tone and lets audiences know this isn’t going to be a run of the mill rock ‘em sock ‘em superhero flick; there are stakes here that are about to put the fate of the universe in heroes’ hands. Both Avenger and non-Avenger alike.
I’ll get this portion of the review out of the way early because it’s honestly what I want to talk about the most: Thanos is the best comic book movie villain in the last decade. Directors Joe & Anthony Russo (coming off their successful run of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) & Civil War (2016)) manage to not only balance the heroes (literally all twenty of them), but put a great deal of focus on Thanos himself and his background. Josh Brolin – granted he’s been prepping for this role for at least four years – knocks it out of the park. Not only is his CGI performance-capture jaw-dropping and rivals just about every Andy Serkis/Mo-Cap role, but Brolin brings a humanity to Thanos that I honestly can’t compare to a single comic book movie villain off the top of my head. Thanos, A VILLAIN’s, anguish over his own choices and the burden of his self-appointed task to balance the universe, coupled with Brolin’s incredible performance, easily places him as the best MCU villain to date. Granted, there are years of Thanos build-up in the MCU, but still if you take only what you get from his role in Infinity War, you still have a villain who is barely even a villain. He’s a fully fleshed-out character with layers and a cause to fight for. He’s not a Dark Elf who just wants the world to be dark or a nerd who becomes a terrorist because Tony Stark ghosted him on New Years 1999. Thanos is a villain who classifies himself as a hero and that is what makes a truly terrifying antagonist (both in movies and history in general).
While Brolin/Thanos delivers on the villain aspect of the movie, the Russo brothers deliver on the action. First off, the action does not stop in this movie. There is literally no time to sit down and banter with every single character in this clown car of a movie, and the Russos instead let the banter and asides happen as the action unfolds. Unlike the choppy and incohesive camerawork of Civil War, the cinematography here avoids shaky camera syndrome and manages to cross-edit multiple sequences at once without transitions as jarring as you’d find in other blockbusters where three set pieces occur simultaneously. Granted, you still have your massive battle with a faceless army, but that battle pales in comparison to other scenes, both action and non-action, in this movie that packs a powerful and emotional punch because of the characters. My favorite scene in the entire movie only focuses on two characters and it reduced me to tears afterwards. Credit is also due to composer Alan Silvestri for creating a knockout score to accompany the entire film and make these emotional gut punches feel all the more real.
If there is going to be anything to truly “critique” about Infinity War, it’s that I was left wanting more development from characters. That’s barely even a criticism; this movie is so stacked with characters we’ve spent the last decade developing – with origins and sequels – that this is probably the one installment that can get away with little to no development for the heroes – hence why Thanos’ development is the glue that holds this movie together. It’s tough to even criticize that lack of development, however, when you already know in the back of your head these characters’ ideals (from their experience in the movies, not just my experience with the comics). The fact that this movie is the first half of one big story that continues in the upcoming Avengers 4 (and will abolish any box office records Infinity War is about to break in the coming months) also lessens the sin of undeveloped characters.
With reviews coming out and internet trolls/nerd-bros aggregating on Reddit, it’s clear that there is a profound divide between MCU-viewers: you have the fair weather fan who will see a Marvel Studios joint if it looks good and probably makes it out to see each of the Avengers movies every three years; but then you have the diehard Marvel/superhero fan who will see every single one of these movie, other superhero movies to compare and contrast, and knows what’s lined up to be released through 2022. While it’s clear that I fall into the latter, seeing as I just recapped the eighteen movies that preceded Infinity War, I have to see both sides and use that information to formulate as objective a review as I possibly can (no easy feat for me since I’m already trying to feel out when I’m seeing this movie again). For the casual viewer, there is a certain emptiness that accompanies Infinity War. It’s not a movie about heroes developing or having some sort of catharsis. Marvel is not trying to hold your hand through this and say “Okay, Star Lord loves Gamora because of XYZ from a movie back in 2014,” which is also a testament, once again, to the development that Thanos receives because he is the only one at this point we honestly know nothing about.
Infinity War’s ending also divides fans because half of the audience isn’t aware of what can and probably will happen in Avengers 4, so they feel cheated. There are relationships and romances that are briefly touched upon in Infinity War, but never developed in a way that someone who only saw Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) would understand. That doesn’t mean that there are no character interactions at all. The groupings are relatively random, but the way they come into each other’s company makes sense and doesn’t disrupt the story. You get the pairings you wanted like the cocksure Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) going toe to toe in wits/brain power with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) leading his Secret Avengers while Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and (Teenage) Groot (Vin Diesel) explore the cosmos for a means to defeat Thanos.
Thor has the best arch of any hero in this movie, and his experiences in Thor: Ragnarok cement that even more. He has a few quips here and there but nothing on the unbearable level of Ragnarok, where it was joke after joke. No, here, Thor is a Norse God who has lost his home and his closest friends in a matter of a week and a half. There is a scene in Infinity War where Thor finally gets to take a breather and reflect on the events of his life and the recent catastrophe, and it is a poignant moment for Thor’s character. Even in the face of certain doom/universal genocide, he feels it in his heart that he can win because he always finds a way. While Brolin is standout as the hero of a story where he is the villain, it’s Hemsworth who gives a character lost in the abyss of Marvel jokes and gags a purpose that was present in the early movies and only lost in recent years. While the ensemble cast delivers given their limited screen time (the movie is almost three hours long and I still wanted more bearded Steve Rogers), it’s Brolin, Hemsworth, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, and Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man who give truly standout performances in Infinity War, and all for different reasons.
Avengers: Infinity War is a BIG movie. Not only because of the stakes and the multiple planets we visit, but because this is literally eighteen movies coming together into one massive FIRST HALF of an event. For it not to be this big would be a disservice, but as a result you sacrifice intimate moments you may have wanted from certain characters. The Russo brothers do the best they can to give characters a moment to shine, but for every single character to be fully fleshed out as if this is their first time on a movie screen would not only be overzealous but it would increase the runtime to like four hours. But like I said above, critiques like this, about Infinity War having a hollowness to it, need to be taken with a grain of salt because this is THE FIRST HALF TO A BIGGER STORY. Maybe a character you want to see have their big moment happens in Avengers 4, or it’s possible it doesn’t happen all, we won’t know for another year. This is also a movie where the heroes are not the focus. Who’s to say what happens in Avengers 4 and who gets to bask in the limelight? but in Infinity War – a movie that is out and available to process and assess – Thanos is the one driving the story and the action and it’s what makes him the hero, the villain. I know I keep gushing about Thanos but after a decade of relatively lackluster villains with a few diamonds in the rough, a villain deserves to have their day and Thanos certainly has his.
For the diehard Marvel/comic book fan, Avengers: Infinity War (2018) delivers on all fronts: a decade of characters come together under one roof for one fight and directors Joe & Anthony Russo completely blow the lid off what it means to make a crossover event. Josh Brolin delivers the best comic book movie villain since Heath Ledger back in 2008, and gives Thanos a humility that paints him as more of a savior than a devastator. Where Infinity War can’t help but fall flat is in giving each member of its massive ensemble their due. However, a criticism such as this one can be tabled when there are eighteen movies that precede this one that give each of these characters their moments to shine. There’s payoff in the story but not the way you’d expect, and it is best to keep in mind that the Russo brothers will be back a year from now with Avengers 4 to follow up the events that just transpired. For the time being, Infinity War is gut wrenching, emotional, and while you’ll feel like you just ran a marathon when the credits roll, there’s no denying that this was the fastest two hours and thirty minutes of my life.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE RECAPS BELOW!