Fair warning, you’re going to want to be incredibly careful with what you read in advance of seeing Infinity War, because it’s difficult to talk about the film without spoilers. So much of its success as a story hinges on certain points that won’t just harm your enjoyment, but will WRECK it if you know what to expect going in.
But, you’re safe here. I don’t spoil in advance, and never in movie reviews. You want to know what I thought and whether the film is worth your time and money. Plus, you already know if you, your family, or your friends are going to see it anyway, so this kind of review is more or less just a curiosity.
The short version of it, if you just want one paragraph to cut through the clutter, is that Avengers: Infinity War is good, most of the time very good, but not off the charts legendarily great like some hoped. It’s also exhausting, sometimes in a positive way, but also sometimes in a “you did too much” way. Its biggest conundrum could have been predicted, and it will be a subjective opinion from me to say the least. One of the biggest benefits of having something like a Marvel Universe is the breadth of characters you can pull out to utilize.
The grandest reason why Batman was such an obsession of mine as a child, which subsequently continued into adulthood, was the wide Rogue’s Gallery of villains. It wasn’t just one or two that mattered, as even though the Joker was the king, there were a dozen others with compelling backstories. It wasn’t always rinse and repeat with a various comic run or in the movies, and it always worked. Yes, Batman 1966 brought out some ridiculous antagonists, from King Tut to Egghead, but that show was intentionally campy and fun, so it played well anyway.
Infinity War has a problem, and it’s the embarrassment of riches in its cast. This has to be one of, if not the most star-studded cast in terms of sheer notoriety and “name” in the history of movies. There are no less than 15 legitimate Marvel lead characters in this thing, and all of them have to get screen time. It becomes an issue, because while on paper you want all these heroes, and it works in print, on the big screen you have limited time, limited space, and as a result you get a rushed, almost on-rails feel to the proceedings.
That said, the team-ups and the various character interactions are a comic book fan’s nocturnal emission of sorts, and almost all of them work. The guys and gals you love are here in force, and there’s a lot of humor and levity when necessary, though by no means is Infinity War as light or funny as many other Marvel films have been in the past.
Once you see it, you’ll understand why. This is a dark movie. While not a hard “R” like Logan or Deadpool, the actual story itself is arguably the darkest big screen attempt in Marvel history. The stakes couldn’t be higher, the villain couldn’t be stronger or more menacing, and the chances for peril have also never been this palpably clear. From moment one, Josh Brolin’s Thanos is a terror, and he has a motivation that makes his actions logical FROM HIS PERSPECTIVE.
He isn’t just out to rule the world for selfish, mindless Skeletor reasons. Thanos believes in balance, which requires extermination of 50 percent of the universal population to maintain resources, care, and basic needs. It’s a nondescript belief as well, as he doesn’t favor one race, class, planet, group, or species over another…well, other than himself, because SOMEBODY has to be in control. It’s entirely executed randomness behind the balance. It’s not a motivation you’re going to agree with, but it makes sense as he lays it out, so this is a villain with a code, with a self-glossed purpose, and because of it, everything he does is logical based on his warped sense of what’s right.
Bad guys with a cause, however misguided those causes may be, are always far more interesting than those that just have a narcissistic or megalomaniacal complex.
This movie is going to confuse some of the kids out there, and it’s going to scare the younger ones. It’s filled with action, but it’s loud, it’s got some frightening imagery, and it moves so quickly that there’s not a great deal of time to process what just happened before what’s about to happen…happens.
There were moments in Infinity War where I got a legitimate Game of Thrones vibe in the structure of the story. It moves from revealing dialogue sequence in one location with one set of characters to another revealing dialogue sequence halfway across the universe. Between the secrets or the tidbits in the spoken word, there’s a successful action scene. It’s predictable in its movements, even if the climax and finish are by no means easy to decipher ahead of time.
That’s all I’m going to tell you about the last half hour of the movie. What you need to know is it’s excellent, it’s unique, and it’s a welcome departure from the norm. Infinity War would have been largely forgettable amongst all its contemporaries but not for the stellar and supremely important back quarter of the film.
Robert Downey Jr. is so well cast as Tony Stark that I’m pretty sure I’d watch him play the role forever. It’s always a joy, whether in his own film or a team-up picture, or more of a secondary role as he played in Spider-Man: Homecoming. On a larger scale, almost all the performances match or exceed expectations.
With one exception.
Mark Ruffalo was off from moment one in this one, and although he improves in the back half of the film, he overacts to a bad 1980s WWE degree in the first half and the manner in which he telegraphs his dialogue almost took me out of the experience. Everyone else is much more smooth, but his exasperated exaggeration of every syllable is without question the worst work I’ve ever seen him do, not just as Bruce Banner, but as anything in his career. I’m sure I’ve missed something, but usually he’s good. In Infinity War, he basically stunk, and it’s unfortunate, because Hulk is both popular with the audience and pivotal to the Marvel Universe.
A particular highlight for me, as he’s been in the past, is Dave Bautista. Whoever writes his material crushes it every time, but even with less screen time than 80% of his colleagues in the movie, Drax the Destroyer is relentlessly hilarious, particularly when he first meets Thor and eavesdrops on another conversation a few minutes later. Speaking of which, proving Thor: Ragnarok was no fluke, Chris Hemsworth continues to impress with the new version of the character, and balances humor with power very effectively. His interactions with multiple Guardians specifically work to major success at every turn.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange might be an overlooked gem as a standalone film. If you missed it, it’s on Netflix and it’s fantastic. He’s great in Infinity War as well, which hopefully will encourage those who passed on that entry to go back and experience it. It was excellent.
Elizabeth Olsen is another standout as the Scarlet Witch, even if her beloved Vision still doesn’t interest me as a character. He’s important to the story, but it’s Wanda that makes his scenes worth paying attention to, and Olsen does a great job throughout the movie.
Avengers: Infinity War is a lot of fun, and it’s solidly in the “B-” category for anybody with a predilection to enjoy these movies. I’m not comfortable calling it a top ten Marvel entry, and it certainly doesn’t hit the consistent levels of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, The Avengers, Black Panther, or in my opinion the wildly entertaining and surprisingly wonderful Thor: Ragnarok. It wouldn’t be on my list above the original 2008 Iron Man either, and if I had all of them in front of me, I’m sure there are some others that would surpass it as well.
It’s still very good though for what it intends to do. Had it not had 74,578 characters, it would have probably been better. There’s just too much happening and too much going on and generally, there’s just too much. Thanos is a great comic villain, and deserved grand treatment, and he gets it. That role along with Michael B. Jordan’s performance in Black Panther have reset Marvel villains. Arguably, it may have started with Michael Keaton’s Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming and the true shift likely began on the television side, where Wilson Fisk and Kilgrave were both game changers on Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
Though Avengers: Infinity War might not be the best Marvel movie of all-time, I can’t see too many people being more than mildly disappointed, and those mainly because their expectations were set too high. This movie accomplishes an awful lot and its conclusion is breathless to say the least. Also, on almost every occasion, you walk out of a Marvel film and move on with your day. This one though, you’ll be discussing with your friends for days and potentially even months after you return to your normal life in the actual universe.
It’s going to make a ton of money, which it needs to pay off that cast, and I still want to know in a film with 40 recognizable stars (at least), why Vin Diesel needed to be paid to do the Groot voice. We don’t even know it’s him. I feel like you could walk into the street outside the lot and find some kid named Kyle, pay him 300 bucks, give him a Chick Fil-A gift card, and save yourself several hundreds of thousands of dollars. But I digress.
You’ll enjoy it. You may not be blown away by all of it, it might feel a little long or a little disjointed, but in the end, the actual plotline is simple. While it’s very spread out in various locations, it all comes down to every superhero you’d ever want to see (well, most of them anyway) trying to save the world from balanced extinction by stopping Thanos from finding and activating all six Infinity Stones. It’s a simple story made complex, and it generally works.
Falling short of spectacular, but still an entertaining, albeit exhausting ride, Infinity War is visually special and remains a can’t miss entry for comic and superhero movie fans of all stripes.
I’m @JMartOutkick. The goggles…they do nothing.