‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Review (Spoiler Free)

0

Our Rating

Infinity Stones10
10

The gauntlets are off…

With the events of ‘Civil War‘ still fresh in the memory, The Avengers must reunite and defend the world against a new threat, the likes of which they have never seen, an alien warlord who is attempting the gather the legendary Infinity Stones. His name? Thanos

Amongst the hyperbole that usually accompanies big cinema releases in this day and age, the phrase ’10 years in the making’ seems almost pedestrian. And yet that’s exactly what ‘Infinity War‘ is, the (almost) culmination of the epic story that first began at the very end of 2008’s ‘Iron Man‘, when a mysterious black guy with an eye-patch and a cool leather coat offers the newly minted superhero the chance to be part of something called ‘The Avengers Initiative’. Back in those halcyon days, the very idea of a long-running movie series featuring the mightiest heroes planet Earth could muster (the Marvel planet Earth, anyway) seemed like a pipe-dream, but had its roots in some very real concerns of the high-ups at Marvel Entertainment. Basically, back in the 1980’s, with the company facing the very real prospect of going out of business, Marvel had sold off the movie rights to a whole bunch of its most popular characters, which may have meant that they stayed in business, but it also resulted in a series of movies that could be politely described as ‘not very good’. Somewhat miffed at such poor treatment, and as soon as it was financially viable, Marvel began quietly buying back whatever rights it could get its hands on, although at this point there was no grand plan in place. Oddly enough, it was the success of a property that Marvel didn’t own (at the time) that kicked things off. The current boom in superhero movies began in 1998 with ‘Blade‘, which starred Wesley Snipes as the titular vampire-hunting hero, an obscure Marvel character who first appeared in the early ’70’s. To cut a long story short, superhero movies were the coming thing, and, recognising that they now owned a decent number of characters, Marvel began planning their own foray into cinema under the stewardship of Kevin Feige, a producer with a fair amount of experience of the superhero genre. However, even with the benefit of serious hindsight, the decision to kick it all off with Iron Man seems like an odd one. Although well-known to comic book fans, outside of that world the character was not blessed with the same level of mainstream recognition as, say, Spider-Man or The Hulk, while the character of Tony Stark was far from the most accessible.

Considering the risks being taken, casting would be key to the success or failure of this venture, so thank god for Robert Downey Jr. With a career that was in the doldrums somewhat, after his early promise was wiped out by well-documented problems with drink and drugs, Downey Jr. grasped the opportunity with both hands, portraying a character who could’ve been problematic (an arrogant billionaire industrialist and arms-dealer) with humanity and warmth, as he transforms from indifferent war-monger to reluctant hero. Along with a post-credits sting, mentioned above and featuring Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, not-to-mention ‘The Incredible Hulk‘,  which was also released in 2008 and featured its own post-credits sting with a cameo from Stark himself, all indications were that something big was afoot, and subsequent movies introduced more big names including Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and War Machine (Terrence Howard, before being replaced by Don Cheadle), as well as re-launching the Hulk in the shape of Mark Ruffalo, after Edward Norton had a falling out with Marvel and walked away. All of this was building to the first of several ‘event-movies’, with 2012’s ‘Avengers Assemble‘ (UK title), which saw the heroes finally unite as a team to defend the Earth against an alien invasion led by Asgardian big-bad Loki (Tom Hiddleston). As well as being one of the great movies of the last 20 years (and, at time of writing, the 5th highest-grossing movie of all time), ‘Avengers Assemble‘ also features a killer mid-credits scene that makes it very clear that Loki was acting under orders from another, more powerful alien warlord. Non-comic fans may have found themselves wondering who this mysterious purple-faced dude actually was, but those of us in on the secret did not need telling twice: this was Thanos, and he had a plan, namely to collect the all-powerful Infinity Stones and use them for nefarious purposes. While Thanos himself only made a handful of brief appearances in the subsequent movies, the stones themselves have been much more prominent, turning up as major plot points on four occasions, causing maximum destruction at the same time, while it was left to The Collector (Benecio Del Toro on typically weird form) to provide an explanation of their origins in ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy‘ (2014). All of which leads us here, with 18 movies down and the 19th being the one that it’s all been building to. Can ‘Infinity War‘ handle the load? You bet your ass it can…

Infinity War‘ picks up where last year’s ‘Thor Ragnarök‘ left off, with Thanos and his bloody massive star-ship encountering the refugee’s from the destruction of Asgard, a ragtag bunch who were probably hoping to settle down on some uninhabited rock somewhere, as oppose to being slaughtered by an angry cosmic warlord and his equally pissed ‘children’. Sadly that’s what happens, although we don’t witness the actual slaughter, only its bloody aftermath. You see, unfortunately for the Asgardians there is an infinity stone on their ship, the Space stone (the blue one), taken by Loki before Asgard was destroyed. And Thanos really wants it… It’s no spoiler to say that Thanos gets it, as the trailer explicitly shows him attaching it to his gauntlet, but from this point on the plot kicks in, as Thanos begins collecting the rest of the stones in earnest (as the film begins he already has the Power stone (the purple one), taken after an off-screen attack on planet Xandar). With Earth’s heroes given prior warning after The Hulk crashes into Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)’s home (fulfilling a role previously given to The Silver Surfer in the original comic series), they begin to plan their response, especially as there are two stones on Earth, meaning some sort of attack is inevitable. From here the focus begins to shift at regular intervals, as we follow different teams of heroes (they don’t all count as Avengers, no matter how much Spider-Man (Tom Holland) wants it) as they tackle these new threats. Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) attempt to deal with two of Thanos’s children, Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughn-Lawlor) and Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary), as they attempt to take the Time stone (the green one) from Strange, while Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) head to Scotland to defend Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) from Corvus Glaive (Michael Shaw) and Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), as they attempt to rip the Mind stone (the yellow one) from Vision’s forehead. While all this is going on Earth, Thor encounters the Guardians Of The Galaxy, which results in that team splitting in two, as Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) help Thor with his attempt to create a new weapon, leaving Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to head off to Knowhere to grab the Reality stone (the red one) before Thanos can get there. All the while the ongoing mystery of the missing Soul stone (the orange one) is lurking in the background, along with the suggestion that Gamora may know where it is. Is it in Wakanda? Or buried inside Heimdall? Perhaps it’s disguised as a can of Tango in a supermarket in Swindon? Wherever it is, Thanos needs it to complete his self-appointed mission, and will stop at noting to get it…

It should be noted at this point that that mission, to erase half of all life in the universe, does have a certain perverse logic even though it amounts to little more than genocide on a cosmic scale. Unlike in the comic series that inspired much of this, where Thanos was little more than a nihilist trying to impress the living embodiment of death (we’ve all done it), here his argument is almost sound, in that he argues that there are too many beings in the universe, with not enough resources to sustain them. His ‘re-balancing’, as he puts it, will deal with this problem. If, while watching this movie, you begin to find yourself sympathising with the big purple bastard, you’ll almost certainly not be alone, particularly when you witness the lengths he’ll go to succeed. 

I’m going to say no more about the plot, lest we wander into the dreaded spoiler territory, and simply say that ‘Infinity War‘ is a truly brilliant movie. There is no other word for it. Everything that Marvel have learnt over the past decade is up on the screen, with the great script, delivered by a cast clearly having the time of their lives, sitting alongside the excellent effects work, with everything marshalled perfectly by the Russo brothers, two directors who, in three movies, have made the superhero genre their own. For me, the greatest joy comes from the performances by that stellar cast, many of whom display impressive levels of character development. For instance, witness the first meeting between Tony Stark and Doctor Strange, two massive egos (with matching facial hair) who both seem to think they should be in charge. Indeed, it’s a genuine pleasure to see the old Stark, cocky and self-assured, re-appear after the emotional bruising he sustained in ‘Civil War’, as the equally full-of-himself Strange attempts to assert his dominance, a situation not helped by the fact that, while Stark is still essentially a man in a fancy suit, Strange has clearly been practicing since we last saw him, and is now far more powerful and sure of himself. Both Downey and Cumberbatch absolutely nail these interactions, as the mutual antipathy gives way to grudging respect, with a slightly star-struck Spider-Man looking on in awe. Elsewhere Olsen and Bettany are genuinely touching as they explore the limits of their burgeoning relationship, before their secret hideaway is invaded by Glaive and Midnight (themselves a couple, at least in the comics). Once again, however, it’s left to our old friends the Guardians Of The Galaxy, the cosmic a-holes themselves, to (almost) steal the whole show. Their interactions with Thor, and then later Iron Man and Doctor Strange are genuinely hilarious, particularly as they involve watching Peter Quill have his ego absolutely shredded by these genuine heroes and their selflessness. Even in the face of cosmic Armageddon their natural instinct to bicker and argue amongst themselves takes over, leading to one moment in particular of sublime facial acting from Downey, his exasperated expression conveying all the frustration of dealing with a group of beings who have the attention span of a heavily-sugared infant. And all this happens with no input from perennial shit-stirrer Rocket, so god-knows what would’ve happened had he been present…

I say ‘almost steal the show’, because the undoubted star of ‘Infinity War‘ is Thanos himself. Although brought to life entirely in CGI, advances with that particular technology mean that you would be forgiven for thinking that Marvel had managed to cast an actual 8-foot tall, purple skinned alien, so perfect is the rendering. But such technical wizardry would be meaningless without an actual performance underpinning the visuals (think Andy Serkis is just about anything he’s ever been in), and Josh Brolin proves more than up to the task. He infuses Thanos with genuine emotions, displaying arrogance, pride, anger, rage, even vulnerability and sadness during one pivotal scene, conveying fully the sense of a being who has chosen to burden himself with a task so evil, so vicious and spiteful, yet also so necessary (at least in his own mind) that he will stop at literally nothing to see it through to the logical conclusion. It’s another strength of the script, and indeed of Brolin’s performance, that you’re never encouraged to simply dismiss Thanos as yet another disposable villain. Alog with the fact that he’s a genuine threat to the whole universe, even without the Infinity Stones, as I’ve mentioned above his plan does have a certain twisted logic, it’s just his methods that make you think twice. If the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences ever get over this issue they seem to have with motion-capture performances, they could certainly chuck some sort of nomination Brolin’s way. He really is that good.

Inevitably there are a couple of minor missteps. Peter Dinklage’s much heralded appeareance is nowhere near as satisfying as it could’ve been, and isn’t helped by the fact that he just seems to be playing a slightly different version of Tyrion Lannister. Elsewhere, ‘The Children Of Thanos’ (also referred to as The Black Order in the original comic books) are not really that impressive. They are certainly powerful, although nothing like as strong as their comic counterparts, they look great and they all get individual moments to shine, but in all honesty they just feel like an afterthought, added to give Thanos an entourage which he doesn’t really need, mainly because he seems perfectly capable of handling everything on his own. And if some of the other main characters feel slightly underserved, well there are over forty lead characters to work with, so that was probably inevitable. But in all fairness these are minor quibbles, and certainly shouldn’t stop you enjoying the movie as a whole.

It would be easy to simply say ‘Infinity War‘ is a brilliant movie and just leave it at that. And I wouldn’t be lying. But the reasons for that brilliance need to be acknowledged. It’s everything that Marvel have built and developed over the last 10 years, up on the screen for all to, ahem, ‘marvel’ at. It’s an excellent script being delivered by actors who have been perfectly cast in their roles, and have grown into them with each subsequent appearance. It’s a complex plot that delivers much to think about and mull over, at the same time as the effects wizards once again convince the audience that this is all really happening, right now, somewhere in the world. It’s moments of comedy and light-heartedness that perfectly balance the darkness. It’s another excellent musical score that infuses every scene with the perfect balance of emotions. And it’s a pair of Directors who could well have cemented their places in the pantheon of the all-time greats after just a handful of movies, so perfect is their control of this potentially unwieldy behemoth of a film. What the Russo brothers have achieved here is nothing short of a miracle, a superhero blockbuster that not only stands out in its own genre as a near-masterpiece, But could well be recognised as one of the all-time great movies, full stop. At time of writing, after one week on release around the world, it stands at number 35 on the all-time box office list, and will go a lot higher before it’s done. Is ‘Avatar’ in danger at number 1? I wouldn’t rule it out. It really is that good. And this is only part one. The still untitled ‘Avengers 4’ is released this time next year, and the mind truly boggles at what Marvel and the Russo’s have in store for us. I absolutely cannot wait, so if someone wouldn’t mind telling me where I can get my hands on an actual time stone, I’m going to jump ahead 12 months and get my place at the front of the queue. I’ll save you a seat… In the meantime, and assuming you don’t have access to a time stone, See ‘Infinity War‘ on the biggest screen you can find and with the best sound system you can physically take, and enjoy what will almost certainly be the film of the year. You won’t be disappointed.

About author

TheMetalHead

Long-time fan of all things geek-related. Comics, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, Warhammer, video games, mythology, you name it, I probably like it. This also extends to pro-wrestling and heavy metal, hence the name. Particular loves would be the Star Wars sage, Game of Thrones (books and TV), Judge Dredd, Assassins Creed, and many more. Born and raised in Essex by parents who have broadly supported these passions over the years, so much so that they now share many of them.