Every once in a while, a film’s released that you’ve been waiting on for a long time. Maybe it’s the next Star Wars movie, or another masterpiece by Quentin Tarantino. Or maybe it’s that Fifty Shades of Grey sequel you were dying to see (some judgement here). Whatever it is, seeing it on the big screen is always a fantastic occasion, if you’re a movie buff.
Back in April, my wife and I attended the midnight showing of Avengers: Infinity War (if you haven’t been to the midnight showing of a film you’ve been anticipating for a long time, you don’t know what you’re missing). We both had work the next morning but the opportunity was too good to pass up, and naturally, with a screening packed to the gills with comic book nerds, the atmosphere was electric.
Infinity War is an incredible film by all accounts. It’s the culmination of a rich, intricately-woven narrative that began way back in 2008 with the release of Iron Man and shows no real signs of stopping, although most of the all-star ensemble cast we’ve come to love will step down after Infinity War Part 2 (working title). It’s the nineteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it starts the curtain drop that will reach the stage floor next year with the closing chapter of the story.
We grabbed it on Blu Ray this week (the day it was released, naturally) and enjoyed it again from the comfort of our living room. Less atmospheric, perhaps, but no less thrilling.
If you don’t have at least some inkling about the premise for Infinity War, where’ve you been for the last decade?!
The titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) has spent quite some time acquiring – or learning the whereabouts of – the Infinity Stones, six gems that existed before the Big Bang which were scattered throughout the universe (conveniently, though, mostly in easily-accessible locations). Combined, these stones grant the owner power over the entire cosmos. Thanos has had a left-handed gauntlet fashioned for himself to make wielding the stones more straightforward, once acquired.
Infinity War kicks off immediately after the events of Thor Ragnarok (a strong contender for the best Marvel movie), with Thanos and his Black Order cronies decimating the remains of the unfortunate Asgardians who escaped their doomed planet. After a brief and concise encounter with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Heimdall (Idris Elba), during which the supervillain acquires the Space stone from the Tesseract, Thanos sends the Black Order to Earth to retrieve the next two sparkly gems (Mind and Time) for his gauntlet while he heads to Knowhere for the Reality stone.
Naturally, the Black Order show up in New York (it’s always New York, isn’t it?) for the Time stone, currently in the protective hands of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who has just bumped into Bruce Banner and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr). Once the fists start flying, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) comes swinging in as Spider-Man to join the fray. Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, the Black Order attack Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) in an effort to prise the Mind stone from Vision’s forehead, but are thwarted when Steve Rodgers/Captain America (Chris Evans – no, not that one), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) arrive on the scene. Oh, and while all this is going on, Thor has bumped into the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper).
Yes, that cast is enormous, and I haven’t even mentioned Don Cheadle (War Machine), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier), Benedict Wong (Wong, handily), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Benecio Del Toro (The Collector), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) and, wait for it…Peter Dinklage! There’s more on top of that, but I don’t have enough space in this review for them all.
Thanos’s homicidal quest to balance all life in the universe (by wiping half of it out) brings him into conflict with most of the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, either directly (every punch he lands on a good guy will make you flinch) or through his Black Order, who are themselves formidable enemies. The film ends perhaps unexpectedly and will leave you gagging for the final showdown in next year’s sequel.
Worth the wait?
It’s taken a long time to reach this point in the Marvel saga. We’ve seen a multitude of hero origin stories spring to life, love interests come and go (whatever happened to Natalie Portman?), placeholder villains defeated, and the Earth saved dozens of times, all the while building in anticipation towards the introduction of the ultimate comic book monster Thanos. The question is, was it worth the wait?
The answer is, of course, yes.
Josh Brolin’s Thanos is by far the best villain I’ve seen in a comic-based movie since Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. He’s menacing and ruthless, yet his intelligent and – dare I say, reasoned – approach to committing mass genocide makes you root for him on some level, which is always the hallmark of a great bad guy. He’s stronger than Hulk, more powerful than Thor, smarter than Stark, and believes just as wholeheartedly in his cause as Captain America. You can’t help but feel all the way through Infinity War like Thanos is genuinely unbeatable, which is how we should feel about this guy who’s been built up for a decade worth of superhero films.
Anthony and Joe Russo have once again knocked it out of the park from their twin directors’ chairs. I’ve loved their style in previous Marvel offerings (Winter Soldier and Civil War) and felt confident that the Infinity War double was in safe hands. Their expert blend of pacing and specific visual approach keeps the film ticking along nicely – it never drags despite its 149-minute runtime and the action is always easy to ingest, no matter how many hundreds of fist-fights are happening simultaneously onscreen.
They’ve also got the best out of their cast, which is no mean feat considering the sheer number of A-list actors in this movie all vying for meaningful screen time. And yet every one of them gets a genuine punch-the-air-type awesome moment (“We have the Hulk…Wakanda forever…bring me Thanos!”) that you’ll be talking about for a while after watching the movie. For me, the best moment of the film was the subtle flicker of confusion on Thanos’s face as a certain all-American hero matched his strength, just for an instant.
The Bottom Line
Infinity War is a dazzling spectacle of thrilling visuals, clashing egos (Star-Lord squaring up to Thor is a wonderful, hilarious moment) and satisfying story-telling. The antagonist is more than a match for the band of heroes we’ve come to love, and it’s all set up perfectly for what will hopefully be a fantastic closing chapter to this epic, ambitious story.
If you haven’t seen the eighteen films that came before, it’s worth watching them first to avoid getting very lost in the narrative – even if you’ve seen them before, you may need a reminder as there’s simply so much going on in this movie. It’ll be worth your time, though.
This is another five-star review (they come like buses, don’t they?) because I just can’t fault this movie for what it is – the complete superhero film we’ve been waiting for. It’s a lot of fun, and well worth grabbing on DVD or Blu Ray this week.
Verdict: (5 / 5)