However you feel about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s hard to deny that Avengers: Infinity War is the cinematic event of the century. A culmination of 10 years and 18 movies, bringing together an enormous cast and running at a bulky 2hrs 30min, Infinity War is nothing if not epic, ambitious and experimental (for a Marvel film).
Fans have waited for a long time for this film, so we feel slightly uncomfortable to report that, well, yeah, it’s ok.
Before the very first UK screening, a #ThanosDemandsYourSilence slide appeared on the big screen, then we were treated to a featurette with the cast asking viewers to please maintain the secrets. The intro from the Disney rep echoes this sentiment – we got the message, so we’ll avoid details as much as we can. As such, there’s not much we can say about the plot.
What we can say is that Thor and the Asgardians are floating in space after the destruction of Asgard in Thor: Ragnarok, where Thor encounters the Guardians and joins forces with them on a mission. Stark joins up with Doctor Strange and later Hulk and Spidey in New York where a massive otherworldly threat has arrived, Steve Rogers, Black Widow and Falcon are in exile and Vision and Scarlet Witch have buggered off to Scotland.
Then there’s the long-time lingering big bad Thanos, who plans to collect the six Infinity Stones in order to wreak large scale destruction on the Universe.
There’s peril. There’s action. There’s gags. People die. And that’s about all we can say plot-wise.
Strangely, that isn’t as vague as it sounds. While yes, there are surprises along the way, Infinity War really isn’t big on plot, focusing more on a series of battles and set pieces. The Russo brothers have a crazy number of characters to cater for and the movie jumps around locations frequently, introducing new planets and new characters along the way, while delivering the usual nods, winks and Easter eggs Marvel fans have come to expect.
The trouble is, despite the run time, it all feels a bit rushed. And while, yes, there are some shocks, the main story arc itself isn’t surprising at all. Instead, it very much feels like a setup for Avengers 4, which will now be the new ‘biggest movie event of the century’. Some of this is inevitable. And we can’t flaw the Russos for their stones – this movie isn’t like anything else you’ve seen. But despite trying to ditch the ‘Part 1’ tag, this remains very much half of an eventual whole.
Long-time fans will certainly get thrills from seeing their favourite characters meet and banter for the first time, but compared with the best of the MCU movies, Infinity War is lacking in emotion. Sometimes this is a tonal problem, hopping between high drama and comedy bantz in a heartbeat. Sometimes it’s a character issue – there are so many of them that there’s not much space for individual arcs. Thor probably has the most compelling journey here and Hemsworth, like everyone in these films, is excellent. There are some great individual moments, but Infinity War is not quite the sum of its parts.
Thanos as the big bad ain’t bad – in fact, he’s better than a lot of the MCU villains you’ve already forgotten. Josh Brolin channels all-powerful gravitas with style, and manages to elicit a level of pathos that’s tough when you’re a massive purple CGI dude. His henchmen don’t fare quite as well – their action scenes are decent but they’re all rather indistinguishable.
It’s epic, sure, but if anything it’s too epic. The characters are too many, the action too massive, the stakes too high, the players too powerful. And at times, it’s like watching dominoes fall down – you can sit and watch, and enjoy the spectacle and the technical proficiency, but you know exactly where they’re going to land in the end.
Never boring, visually impressive, but ultimately rather depressing and unsatisfying, Infinity War will leave you wanting more. But not necessarily in the best way.