Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
This is it. The big one. After ten years of teasing big bad Thanos, he finally arrives on our screens with all the pomp and circumstance you might expect.
Starting just minutes after Thor: Ragnarok, Thanos (Brolin) has taken over the Asgardian ship to claim the second of the Infinity Stones, after grabbing the first from Xandar, destroying said planet in the process. Split across galaxies, almost every hero from previous MCU does their part to stop the bad guy collecting all six stones and snapping half of the universe out of existence.
There is so much going on in this movie that I don’t know where to begin. Instead of having all Avengers together, Captain America (Evans) and Black Widow (Johansson) are still incognito after the events of Civil War. Iron Man (Downey) is now happily married to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and Thor (Hemsworth), after the destruction of his ship, ends up with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Historically speaking, this film shouldn’t work, not with the amount of characters needed and certainly not with them all scattered around. It is testament to the incredible work of both directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, that the film is cohesive, let alone any good. Each and every one of our heroes is given a chance for action (some more than other, but more on that later), and switching from location to location feels normal, rather than channel hopping on a Wednesday night.
As stated before, every character gets something to do, but for some, that’s not very much. Cap and Black Widow are side lined far more than in previous films, although, in hindsight, this is for a now very obvious reason. It’s more the supporting cast that gets short shrift; Falcon (Mackie), Bucky (Stan) and War Machine (Cheadle) have few and far lines between. It’s a small nit-pick in an otherwise terribly busy movie – busy being a compliment in this case.
In fact, despite the lack of older characters from this cinematic universe, the film feels incredibly well-balanced. Just enough time passes between groups of characters before moving onto the next, without whiplash or a earning to go back to heroes previously seen. It is also insanely well-written, this film providing some of the heart-wrench that previous have not, particularly from daughter of Thanos, Gamora (Saldana, excellent), who gets to show her real acting chops with this instalment. In fact, thanks to her relationship with the villain and a good performance, she might have one of the best scenes in the entire movie, something that nobody saw coming.
It also has a very well-developed villain, due to that connection with his adopted daughter (although saying more would be spoiling things). Brolin is excellent in the role, even underneath the special effects of a motion capture suit, but his anguish at some of the acts he has to commit overshadow the fact that his motivation is somewhat thing (destroy the current world to make a better one).
In fact, the special effects on Thanos are so stunning, that it’s sometimes difficult to know where practical ends and computer begins. One particular close-up on Thanos’ face, whilst Mantis (Klementieff) uses her powers against him is nothing short of spectacular, Thanos becoming physical in a mostly CGI world.
It’s action, too, is incredibly satisfying. A first-act bust-up in New York connects Iron Man and Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch) with Spider-Man (Holland), whilst the third-act battle joins Rocket (Cooper) with Bucky, to great comedic results - it is very gratifying to see characters of disparate personalities come together, especially after ten years.
After two-and-a-half hours of well-developed characters and enjoyable set pieces, it’s final ten minutes will gut-punch you into next week, and it’s a beautifully made sequence. Probably the best Avengers film so far, it is the rarest of things: perfectly balanced. Thanos would be proud.