This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Directors: The Russo Brothers
Marvel has done the impossible. 10 years of world building via numerous franchises, spin-offs, and one-shots have led to a blockbuster film like no other. INFINITY WAR is a Goliath of a film, enlisting some of the highest profile actors working today to tell a story of various worlds colliding. The task of molding the humor of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY with the sarcasm of Tony Stark, or the pure adolescent excitement of Spider-Man, with the dry humor of the Hulk was no easy feat, yet the Russo brothers do it effortlessly. This film could have—no, should have—collapsed under its own ambitions, yet AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR proves Marvel has perfected the superhero formula.
To start, INFINITY WAR is a lot of movie. Maybe too much of a movie! It’s a monolith littered with memorable moments. This is hardly a flaw in a film that delivers popcorn entertainment in every frame, but it did prove exhausting when thinking of how much was happening. The film could have slowed down for a few moments to let us catch our breath, yet we were constantly whisked away to the next visual spectacle, leaving behind our feelings of what just happened. This is a capital-E Event Movie. Clocking in at over two-and-a-half hours and with so many stories and characters to get to, it’s understandable that this needed to occur.
In the opening moments, the Russos establish that Marvel’s cinematic conventions are going to be subverted. Don’t expect the Hulk to pummel the main antagonist to a pulp, don’t expect heroes to be protected by the plot, and don’t expect the heroes to win. These are all surprisingly ballsy choices in a franchise of over 19 films. Every action sequence has a feeling of hopelessness and suspense. For the first time in a long time, I feared for the lives of these superheroes whom up to this point were always going to make it to the inevitable sequel.
Thanos (the Big Bad all these films have led towards) is tragic, terrifying, and just what the MCU needed to bring all of its mightiest heroes together. Josh Brolin basks in his existential dialogue and makes a giant purple being surprisingly human. Thanos needed to work or else this film would have failed. He needed to be menacing, but also relatable. His plan needed to be significant and dangerous, but couldn’t fall into the same old “destroy the universe” BS that plagued early Marvel ventures. Thankfully, Thanos is the star of the film and is Marvel’s most complex character to date.
No, this is Patrick
The other characters in the film fair just as well. Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark) delivers a typically strong performance, while Tom Holland (Spider-Man) and many of the other Avengers steal the spotlight in their short but fun sequences. I need to give a special shout out to Chris Hemsworth, who delivers his best portrayal of Thor to date. Thor has lost much in these past few films. Where RAGNAROK showed a Thor that was funny and inspiring, INFINITY WAR deconstructs him, allowing the character time to mourn while also finding hope in the hopeless.
Thor isn’t the only one who shines, with a surprising turn from Doctor Strange. I had mixed feelings on his initial solo outing, but this film proved that in the right hands, Doctor Strange can be both a smart ass and a highly relatable character. The many action scenes where Strange goes toe-to-toe with Thanos were some of the most visually striking in any MCU film yet. Although I want to avoid spoilers, I have to say that the final moments of this film are even more crushing knowing Strange may not be in the sequels as much.
Shit is about to get real
That being said, INFINITY WAR does sideline characters that usually demand the spotlight. Captain America and his team—including Black Widow, Falcon, Black Panther, and War Machine—don’t have much to do or say other than fight the bland Black Order. However, the two characters that got more focus than expected were Vision and Scarlet Witch. Frankly, this relationship is the heart of the film, giving us time to understand how in love they are, only to have a tragic end pull the rug from underneath us. What I’m trying to say is that the Russos don’t shy away from violence and get incredibly dark in the final act.
The final battle is a marvelous display of spectacle and emotion. Although it’s another CGI army of bland aliens, the battle feels more intense than previous final acts. The characters aren’t just fighting to save the day, but rather fighting to save the universe, uncertain if that’s even possible. These are the Avengers at their lowest point, knowing that many of them will likely not make it out alive. Each moment of fan service is met with a harsh emotional blow to audience expectations. “Expect the unexpected” would be an understatement.
Everyone’s expression after the credits roll
This is a massive film, with various tones clashing with each other, yet the Russos balance it brilliantly. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR has its flaws, yet transcends them by delivering a crowd-pleasing, emotional, and gritty epic. The film always has a hint of humor, but continuously delivers dark and hopeless situations, deftly juggling its contrasting tones in a way that something like JUSTICE LEAGUE completely failed to. The fact INFINITY WAR handles its various characters that all come from different genres so seamlessly needs to be commended. The final act of this film may leave you speechless, but the journey you go on prior is filled with laughs, gasps, and maybe even a few tears.