Avengers: Infinity War review: Marvel's ambitious crossover a total knockout
Thanos (Josh Brolin) in a scene from Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War. (Film Frame)
RATING: **** out of 4
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Elizabeth Olsen, Pom Klementieff, Paul Bettany, Dave Bautista, Don Cheadle, Tom Hiddleston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, Anthony Mackie, Benedict Wong, Sebastian Stan, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage
Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Running time: 160 minutes
Imagine being on a roller-coaster for two-and-a-half hours that pauses for only the briefest of moments for you to gasp for air. Now you have a pretty good idea of what Avengers: Infinity War is like.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s newest entry is its biggest, most ambitious piece of storytelling in the studio’s 10 years of existence and the minute you exit the theatre, you’ll be lining up at the box office to buy another ticket.
It’s that good.
Assembling heroes that have appeared in its films over the last decade — including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany), the Guardians of the Galaxy, Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Don Cheadle (War Machine) and more — Infinity War is the ultimate payoff after an 18-film slate (that doesn’t officially wrap until after Ant-Man and The Wasp, Captain Marvel and next year’s untitled Avengers 4).
Taking place several years after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Earth’s mightiest heroes are fractured. But with the fearsome Thanos (Josh Brolin) on the hunt for six Infinity Stones, that’s about to change. Thanos is a cosmic tyrant that has been teased in the MCU almost since its inception, with his search for the Infinity Gems — the Space Stone, the Mind Stone, the Reality Stone, the Power Stone and the Soul Stone — touching Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), The Avengers (2012), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Civil War (2016), Doctor Strange (2016) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017).
Finding all the glowing MacGuffins will, in Thanos’ warped mind, bring balance to the universe by allowing him to wipe out half of all living things — and that includes your friendly neighbourhood superheroes
When we first meet him, Thanos has caught up with an Asgardian refugee vessel that was led by Thor, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) after Ragnarok. From there, the Mad Titan sets his sights on Earth to snatch the Time Stone that hangs around Doctor Strange’s neck and the Mind Stone that sits smack dab in the middle of Vision’s forehead.
In those opening moments, we get a taste of what’s to come with Thanos’ mercilessness on full display. Online chatter has debated which characters will bite the dust, but Avengers 4 will really determine the heroes who are going to stay dead and buried. That’s all we’re going to say about that.
A lot has been made — by directors Joe and Anthony Russo, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and the cast — about the need to see Infinity War spoiler-free. And, for once, that’s not Hollywood hyperbole.
For fans of Marvel and comic book movies, there’s a thrill in seeing Silver Age Superheroes interacting together for the first time since the MCU’s inception.
The playful banter Iron Man and Spider-Man established in last year’s Homecoming is back, with their quips being met by Doctor Strange’s wisecracks (there’s a fun nod to Alien that people of a certain vintage will get a kick out of). The quirky Guardians of the Galaxy, led by Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) humming the Spinners’ The Rubberband Man, meet Thor and hilarity ensues (Quill is told he’s “one sandwich away from being fat” in comparison to the Norse God). Meanwhile, the romantic itch between Scarlet Witch and Vision finally gets scratched. Bruce Banner spends most of the movie trying to get his Hulk on. And for fans of Black Panther — the MCU’s biggest box office triumph yet — we get to revisit Wakanda just three months after being dazzled by Ryan Coogler’s superhero epic, with Captain America and Black Widow in tow. These pairings are a treat, and audiences are going to thrill at the onscreen chemistry.
Having shown a knack for both close-quarter fights and large-scale action on Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War, the Russo brothers mount one thunderous action scene after another with very little downtime (it’s like a never-ending roller-coaster, remember?).
And with more than two dozen heroes vying for minutes, there’s a lot of story still to stuff in the film’s two-and-a-half hours. Especially considering Markus and McFeely give Thanos’ maniacal motivations and his alien goons known as the Black Order ample screen time. We learn the backstory of what makes the Mad Titan tick.
There will be some pairings that fans are likely hoping they’d see that they won’t. And some of your favourite heroes might not get the cameo you were hungering for (I’m looking at you Ant-Man fanatics).
Also, filmgoers not steeped in the Marvel lore at least a little bit will be lost. Infinity War is the sum of the 18 films that have preceded it, and unlike Black Panther — which I think was easy to access by non comic-book aficionados — you really need to be familiar with past plots. If you’re not, take the weekend and brush up on some of the films. It will make for a richer viewing experience.
If there’s one quibble with Infinity War, it’s that when it ends — and trust me, this is the best ending to a Marvel movie so far in the MCU — you’re hanging in mid-air. Some might feel that it’s half a movie. But I think of it as more of an emotional gut punch. One that fans will be raving about in theatre lobbies when it’s over as they rush to buy another ticket and count down to the real denouement – a year from now.