Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
It’s Avengers: Infinity War. Do you need another reason?
The Marvel Battle Royale of superhero movies, almost every MCU superstar is in this movie. In many ways, this is the perfect movie for the times we live in now.
Josh Brolin’s performance as Thanos steals the show. For my money, he is the finest Marvel villain of the decade, a character with complexity and conviction, and a simple desire to rule the world.
So, like, I can’t say specifically, but the movie makes a decision at the end that, well, played a bit hollow with my audience. Perhaps I’ve said too much.
The humor and drama struggle to come together, and Avengers: Infinity War is a movie that seems to be at odds with its tone, sometimes not feeling like everyone is on the same page and laboring to move through its steps.
You like being the lone dissenter in a group of people who coalesce around doing the same thing.
Let’s get that pull quote out of the way right from the start.
“Avengers: Infinity War is perfect!” - Mike Ward, Should I See It
Now that your fist pumps are put away, the second batch of tickets have been purchased, and DC fans reading this can officially begin the online Twitter attacks that allege I was paid off to give Avengers: Infinity War a positive review (seriously, guys, are we still doing this Disney-pays-critics-nonsense?), let’s revisit that statement.
Avengers: Infinity War is too perfect. Too clean. Too measured. Too studied. Too polished.
After 18 previous films, thousands of minutes of screen time, and almost every Marvel Cinematic Universe character imaginable in Avengers: Infinity War, I have to admit there just isn’t a whole lot to say about a movie seemingly everyone wants and has been waiting a decade to finally have.
This is the very definition of “review-proof cinema,” since very little I can say positively or negatively will change your decision to see this or not. And if it sounds like I am whining about that last detail, we need movies like Avengers: Infinity War in our world. And so, I say all of this with great reverence for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and everything they have accomplished in the 10 years since Iron Man planted the flag for all that was yet to come, way back in 2008.
As one expects, with a name like Infinity War, plenty happens. The movie’s 150-minute running time ensures that, and there are lots of surprises, in terms of how things have concluded once the end credits roll by. A new villain steps forward, the seemingly indestructible Thanos (Josh Brolin), resulting in every Marvel superhero not named Ant-Man joining the fight.
(Sorry, guys, no Paul Rudd to be found here. This will be the only spoiler in our review. Promise.)
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, and written by Christopher Markus and Steve McFeely (no pressure guys, only everyone will be watching this…), I cannot imagine the stress one has to work through to deliver a winning product on this grand of a stage.
With more than 30 superheroes jockeying for time on screen, how do you give everyone ample time and introduce a new villain and propel multiple movie storylines forward and fall in line with future plans and make people happy and keep everything you are doing quiet and secretive along the way?
A fair criticism of Marvel movies is that they can get caught up in their own universe, unnecessarily making stories too complex and isolating those of us who do not have their comic books committed to memory, on a shelf, in a box, or pre-loaded on an app.
Recent efforts to lighten the mood a bit have paid off, and, recently, allowing Ryan Coogler to make Black Panther the way he wanted to, helped gain us a cultural phenomenon, and a rather brilliant film, that can stand apart from the Marvel Universe or slide right into the canon with ease.
And so, a big positive here is that the story in Infinity War is very simple. Thanos, who you may remember popped up in Guardians of the Galaxy and the end credits of Avengers: Age of Ultron, plans to take possession of all six infinity stones – the gems which hold the universe in balance.
That quest summons the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and their respective support staffs, to engage in a war to save the universe. With the six gems scattered everywhere, the race is on to protect them before Thanos can insert them into a special glove, custom-made for him by a Dwarf King and magical weapons maker (Peter Dinklage).
As we travel back and forth across the universe, the movie struggles to find a narrative tone it is comfortable with. Humor and drama slam up against each other, with the Guardians of the Galaxy proving the most dysfunctional, as they have to wrestle with a serious storyline involving Gamora (Zoe Saldana) being Thanos’ adopted daughter (not a spoiler), and the witty one-liners they must exchange with each other and one particular Avenger who unexpectedly joins them in their travels.
The ace-in-the-hole here is Thanos. He has interesting depth and convictions, and Brolin’s performance only gets better the longer he exists in the film. And while I am certain Marvel’s rabid, dedicated fans will come after me, Thanos strikes me as easily the best and most well-rounded villain in the 19 MCU films so far. His mission is understandable, explainable, and, in this world, obtainable. As a result, his threat feels real and gives everyone something to fight against.
I cannot tell you how, in this instance, less is absolutely more. Thanos is not pontificating about science-fiction mumbo-jumbo and impossible to follow monologues. He wants the stones. For a particular reason. And he won’t stop until he gets them. Period. End of sentence.
Hey Warner Bros.? DC Universe? Paying attention yet?
Much has been made about what happens next and I will not reveal anything, other than to share that the film makes some rather bold and potentially polarizing decisions along the way. Unfortunately, it takes two minutes on the internet to find out what Disney and Marvel have cooking in the oven or prepped in the kitchen for the coming years, which is, in a word, unfortunate, but a reality of the world we live in.
Which raises an interesting conundrum: How do you build to a main event-style movie, then pitch it as once-in-a-lifetime, when everyone knows there are a half a dozen more movies to come, involving characters directly in the crosshairs of the action in Infinity War?
Marvel is, in some ways, a victim of their own success, and even though the guy three rows behind me, shouting “F*** yeah!” repeatedly throughout the movie didn’t seem to care, comments from some others walking out of the theater told a different story.
Be that as it may, Avengers: Infinity War is an interesting film and experience to share with others. Big, immense, expensive, and everything Marvel fans have been wanting, but nonetheless unable to fully reconcile the drama and the humor it aims for.
Most will not care. And I encourage everyone who goes to have a ball with this, and debate it in the car, and pick it apart with friends.
Does it live up to the hype? No way. Is it too long? Absolutely.
Is it a good movie? Yeah, it gets the job done.
Are you already looking to buy tickets to the sequel? Of course you are.
And as long as that is the takeaway, and the popcorn stays buttered, the soda nice and cool, and the candy fresh when you rip open the bag, all is right in the MCU, the theater and the world, with Avengers and their Infinity War bringing us all together one more time.
CAST & CREW
Starring (cracks knuckles): Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Letitia Wright, Terry Notary, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Carrie Coon, Michael James Shaw, Winston Duke, Kerry Condon (voice), Jacob Batalon, Stan Lee.
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on “The Avengers” comic book franchise, written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Release Date: April 27, 2018
Walt Disney Studios