AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (9 out of 10) Directed by the Russo Brothers; Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Holland, Scarlett Johannson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olson, Paul Bettany, et al; Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references. ; Running time 149 minutes; In wide release April 27, 2018.
This review will remain as spoiler-free as possible.
The Infinity War has come, and the film wastes no time getting into the thick of it and neither shall this review.
Infinity War isn't like other movies. It's not like other comic book movies, it's not like other summer blockbusters, it's just... something new. Those going in and expecting something on as personal a scale as Captain America: Civil War, with its high stakes between Tony and Cap and all the personality that that implies, might leave Infinity War disappointed.
That's not to say this film is bad, quite the opposite, it just needs you to tweak your expectations going in. All of the Marvel films leading up to this moment were the individual comic book titles that led to the giant crossover event. And who is always the star of the crossover event? The villain that the heroes must try to foil. In this case, it's played to perfection (granted through a digital performance) by Josh Brolin. If the film could be said to be anyone's, it's him. He's given the richest backstory, a goal, and the largest and most revealing arc of any of the characters.
For the superheroes of the MCU, they all fill in together to create a multi-protagonist story, not unlike classic World War II films or The Phantom Menace.
Some might get bogged down by this pacing and comic-book installment style of storytelling, but it really does work to the film's advantage. And by dividing up all of our favorite characters into unexpected combinations, it gives the audience something hopeful to latch onto in a film that is bleak. But the film's pace is relentless and every time you get into one situation with a set of characters, you get antsy, dying to know what's happening with the other set. It really is structured like a comic book crossover event, set in four different titles, each one giving us a full issue before moving on to the next.
For those who know the source material, this film will play out largely as expected (with a number of shocking surprises, to be sure), but for those who aren't familiar with it, this movie might almost be too dark and too bleak. There's failure here. A lot of it. Plenty to go around. But if The Last Jedi proves anything, some fans aren't in the mood to see failure, no matter how well crafted the film is. (I wrote a piece about that worth checking out here.)
And this film is finely crafted. I'm not sure there is anything the Russo Brothers could have done better to balance the juggling act they had before them. They had to pay off an 18 movie series, they had to do it with dozens of the most iconic characters on the planet and make you feel as though none of them were wasted, while at the same time raising the stakes so high that there's no other force on Earth that could possibly stand against such a threat.
They pulled off something incredible and they should be proud.
We'll be back on Thursday with a roundtable and more spoiler-filled thoughts, but our first impression, overall, is very positive. We need to see it again, there's just so much going on and it's all a joy to watch.
In a manner of speaking.
There's not much joy to be had in the story, but there is a lot of joy for your inner-ten-year-old watching these events unfold.
This is Marvel's The Empire Strikes Back moment. Now how will they get everyone out of carbonite, so to speak?