The Avengers: Infinity War
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Hiddleston, Peter Dinklage
I’ll keep this brief for all of you who don’t really care all that much – or at all – for what is known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe: don’t bother. The Avengers: Infinity War offers the level of quality (cookie-cutter, as deemed by most of you) you have come to expect from this franchise and neither improves it nor drops the ball. For all of you who have not bothered to follow any of its previous installments, the warning comes emphasized: you’ll be watching two hours and twenty minutes of mostly CGI action that frames a thoroughly nonsensical plot filled to the brim with an inordinate amount of “characters” who are really not introduced or explained in any way whatsoever and who, hence, will mean nothing to you.
For all of you this review is over. You can stop reading. Until next time.
If you care, however… For you, who have witnessed this ten-year journey with more benign eyes, I recap: back in 2008, two months and a half before Christopher Nolan’s insanely anticipated The Dark Knight opened to droolingly orgasmic reviews, an overwhelmingly vast majority of cinephiles mocked the nascent Marvel Studios’ naive decision to offer the big budget treatment to Iron Man, a C-list character if there ever was one. It was, of course, bound to be an utter disaster. Four years later, almost to the date, people vaticinated the oncoming embarrassment that The Avengers was about to become, what with its overabundance of characters and unavoidable absurdity. In 2014, the worst idea yet: The Guardians of the Galaxy. Not even F-list worthy, virtually unheard of, with a talking raccoon in their midst.
Ant-Man (seriously?), Doctor Strange (bottom of the barrel not scraped yet?), and Black Panther followed, all of them paving the way for the most impossible idea of them all: a pair of movies that would bring over 20 main characters together to fight a common threat. The trailers confirmed it: there were a lot of superheroes doing their thing, even more than the original Avengers or the Schumacher Batman sequels themselves ever dared to imagine. There was Spider-Man with a new, more tech advanced look that would no doubt sport nipples and a pocket for his American Express Spidey Card. There was the somber score foreshadowing a self-serious tone to be undoubtedly matched by an overindulgent running time. It was bound to be a mess, this time for real, the first Marvel Studios misstep. It had to be.
And, I confess, I walked into the theater ready for anything. Anything but what I ultimately got. The Avengers: Infinity War is a good movie, a great movie actually, but more than that, it is a miracle. Hollywood doesn’t have any right to come up with such amazingly flawless exercises in entertainment but they have been doing it, time and again, since Marvel Studios stepped up to show the world just exactly how.
It has an abundance but not an overabundance of characters since, incredibly, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (and probably some additional uncredited help) pull off the pacing, the rhythm and the balancing act as a whole, making the entire proceedings feel as easily achievable as breathing. This is not just good comic book superhero screenwriting, this is excellent writing, period. When the promise of worlds colliding – both literally and figuratively – finally pays off it fully delivers, packing a wallop that, although initially played for laughs, builds up towards unavoidable dread, reactions expertly ellicited by an entire cast beyond reproach.
You’ve got Pratt and Downey Jr. engaging in an endless ego match, Holland perenially awestruck, Hemsworth unaffected by maintaining a conversation with a “rabbit”, Hiddleston drawing our attention one way and the other with his customary sleight of mouth, and Evans reaffirming his status as the world’s beacon of hope. But all of them are unexpectedly led by what may just be the most relevant and affecting motion capture performance ever by Josh Brolin as Thanos, a genocidal bully with the aspirations of a philosopher. The digital artistry on display goes beyond the usual standards but Brolin’s voice alone makes the film’s main nemesis disturbingly real and, even though he doesn’t force us to empathize with him, he is impossible not to fear.
With the exception of a couple of scenes a little before the halfway point that make you remember, necessary as they are, that only George Miller can get away with creating such an anomalous masterpiece as Mad Max: Fury Road, the movie flies by, time unnoticed. The movie is essentially nothing but a series of action set pieces that evolve into more action set pieces, all coming at a breakneck pace, all thankfully justified, almost all of them clever, spectacular and emotionally satisfying. They are filmed and edited totally clearly, owing more to Joss Whedon’s microscopically specific physical beats than to the average apparently non-choreographed, quick editing style so easy to find elsewhere. Anthony and Joe Russo direct efficiently but the strength of the resulting piece comes, I can’t stress it enough, from the crackerjack script and ten years’ worth of characterization.
Visually the movie is dark, not only due to a big part of the story taking place in space but also to a conscious decision to keep it so. This is a downbeat tale, Marvel’s The Empire Strikes Back, and the filmmakers hammered the point home. Nevertheless, the mood is consistently kept from turning full-on asphyxiating; the jokes never fail to come at precisely the right moment, welcome and needed to depressurize but careful not to impose a faux relaxedness that might jeopardize the pathos and elegiac core of the story.
Alan Silvestri, back after presenting us his iconic work in both Captain America and The Avengers, composed a fittingly respectful and mournful albeit somewhat disappointing score, but (and this is a huge but) he puts his Avengers main theme to perfect use in not one but two separate occasions. These constitute the showstopping moments of the movie, not only not one bit ashamed of their open sincerity but embracing it warmly, bringing back the memories of Diana entering No Man’s Land and Superman saving the helicopter. All-timers.
The movie uses, probably, way more CGI than the recent Ready Player One – and that’s a lot of CGI – but, unlike my experience with that film, here I didn’t mind it at all. Because I cared. Because I was committed. Last decade, kids had the Harry Potter franchise to mold and define their childhoods. Then, a bit older, some moved on to Twilight, some others to The Hunger Games. In the meantime, we, former kids, puzzled over how they could feel so enamoured with that as we kept attending The Church of Spielberg, Zemeckis, Dante and McTiernan.
The fact that I, a grown man with almost nary a connection with the source material, can feel again just as excited and impatient to see the second part of this movie (as promised by the post-credit sequence now also starring a new character I literally know nothing about but whom I just can’t wait to meet) as I was back when I was nine is a testament to the truth. This is Spielberg in the new Millennium. These movies, this movie, is the turning point for the storytellers of twenty years in the future, the seed that will bloom into flowers of dreams and imagination for many, many of the filmmakers who will, in turn and in time, do the same again in this continuing circle of myth and legends. For many regular moviegoers who will smile fondly whenever they remember The Avengers: Infinity War and the very first time they watched it.
For me, this movie is a Marvel. — Eloy Ricardo Balderas Salazar