Avengers: Infinity War (dir. The Russo Brothers, 2018) – The Avengers unite to defend against an all-powerful Thanos, set upon his misguided ways to salvage the universe.
Patience begets us heroes that need no introduction, such that characterisation may take a backseat to Marvel’s epic vision. Escapism at its best, ten years in the making.
Warning: Thanos demands you avoid all Infinity War reviews, until you have seen it.
There is no stopping Marvel. After a decade of build-up, the expansive universe has finally culminated in one of the biggest studio blockbusters in cinematic history. Sure enough that Avengers: Infinity War is far from the pioneers in crossovers. But scale is not its only impressive feat; there are few things more gratifying than to see a ten-year plan come into fruition with such apparent ease.
Kudos to directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who have yet again proven their flair for presenting intricate stories in accessible terms. What seemed like an inevitable mess turns tractable in their capable hands. As done before in The Winter Soldier (which remains my personal favourite), the pair admirably brings out the charm of each individual faction from an impossibly massive cast.
Most of the A-listers get reasonable prominence in contained stories. Finding chemistry in unexpected bonds, the smaller teams see recent additions Dr. Strange and Peter Parker stand comfortably next to the very first Avengers. Few are sidelined as mere cameos. That is save for Bruce Banner’s green alter-ego that laid low amid chaos in a baffling move. And… still no sign of Clint Barton.
Pop culture quips – courtesy of the arachnid youth – made for welcome lighter moments, which never felt out of place in the doom and gloom of things. In this deft balance act, nothing quite beats Thor getting acquainted with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Their fun interactions deliver Marvel’s signature humour, faithful to each personality though soon to be missed.
The story quickly turns dark, with Thanos accomplishing his genocidal ploys on planet after planet. A twisted philosophy drives his act to rid half of existing life, which he believes to be the biggest planetary danger. While his ideal rings familiar, the outcome is what subverts expectations. His threats are not empty. Thanos managed what Ultron could not, trading millions of lives for each Infinity Stone, including that of beloved heroes.
Woe betide the newly assembled Avengers when he reaches the endgame with unpredictably dismal outcomes. Major deaths may have long been teased, but the impact hits just as hard when Avengers: Infinity War takes the plunge. That is even if revivals are inevitable, as seen in Marvel’s history with character deaths.
Still, a number of fatalities feel permanent this time, their stories having run their course. And each death matters. After all, it has a whole decade of getting to know them, hero or villain. It is not just the people too. Destruction leaves Sanctum Santorum, Knowhere, and Wakanda in ruins, places that we have come to love.
Of course, the places will be rebuilt, just as key heroes are bound to return. The all-powerful stones offer obvious options from the very start, with their ability to alter time and reality. But just as pedantry for logic makes time travel stories impossible to enjoy, it is best to put aside these unavoidable McGuffin gripes before easing in for the Russos’ emotional ride.
Once that is over, so begins the year-long anticipation for Part 2, which may like to pick up on its optimism. Odin knows we will need that, after how the Russos have put us all through comic book Hell, like only true villains would.