AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR REVIEW.
TO INFINITY WAR. And beyond! James Murphy reviews the latest offering from the Avengers crew, coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The movie event of the year is here. Was it worth the wait? Yes and No. Here is a spoiler free Review. Caution: may contain gratuitous sentiment about Tony and Pepper, hero worship of actors and some moderate uses of Latin language. Here we go..
Culmination of the ten year journey among Marvel’s heroes and their movies, both individual and ensemble. A big, bald, bad baddie called Thanos is out to take possession of the ‘Infinity Stones’ and thereby rule the universe. Anyone in his way will face a horrible death. But that cannot stop Earth’s mightiest Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy from taking a stand against evil. Cue a battle across the galaxies that will redefine the universe, forever..
Disney/Marvel; 12-A/PG-13; 2 hours 30 mins approx; Action adventure sci-fi space opera ensemble piece. Now on General Release.
To paraphrase another movie of the super-hero variety: ‘I don’t NOT like you’. That is a most appropriate phrase here, double negatives aside. There are ‘infinite’ qualities to enjoy, appreciate and ‘marvel’ at, all up there onscreen, within AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. I just don’t love the film and I’ll explain why as we go along, so let’s at least launch on a positive note.
There’s some philosophical writing, top notch special effects, immersive sound, convincing stunts and beautiful design to enjoy. And in by far the funniest and most thrilling of the Marvel movies to date. You will be laughing off the edge of your seat. And some truly great actors make that happen.
Robert Downey Junior is among the greatest actors of all time (empirical fact). I also adore Gwyneth Paltrow. #Gwynniee is divine. I even nick-named one of my dearest friends ‘Pepper’ and we sometimes exchange run times / workout tips. So: Thank you, Russo Brothers (the directors of the film), for my Tony and Pepper scene. No spoilers. But they’re dressed in his and hers running gear. Lovely. #onwards.
Yep. Infinity War is a LOT about ‘moving on’. It’s not an Iron Man film by any stretch. Downey is of course magnificent as Tony Stark. The writers advance him without compromising his core appeal. He’s flawed yet focused; a complex mix of comedic timing and serious heart, soul, bravery, leadership and wit. Unblemished utility and one of the things the film gets 100% ‘right’.
‘RDJ’ sells every moment and transitions between narrative styles in split second glances. Aspiring actors could watch and learn but probably not hope to match that kind of magic. That said? It’s an ensemble piece. I used to bemoan the lack of old school, masculine, charming movie stars. NOT TODAY! 😉
Chris Pratt and Chris Hemsworth: Hilarious, Handsome, Hollywood Heroes: a laugh a second, whilst preserving the stakes, tension and terror at the movie’s core. Think Indiana Solo meets He-Man; via Shakespearean historical comedy and Pantomime. Benedict Cumberbatch excels, too as a kind of inter-stellar Vicar (Dr Strange). Dave Bautista is also once again, hilarious.
Scarlett Johansson FINALLY gets to play the ‘Black Widow’ role as a blonde rather than redhead. That coincides with her finally being written properly; unfettered by the posturing pretensions of previous iterations.
This is a lesson in how to ‘write women’. QED: Scarlett leads blokes into battle. Emancipation without emasculation. She could take out the movie’s villain with one kiss/kick combo. No spoilers though. Where was I? Sorry, drifted into Scarletttttt land.
Ah yes. THANOS. The baddie: spoiling the fun. Much has been made of what a great villain he is. And yes. He is. Actor Josh Brolin invests Thanos with physical presence and psychological depth; primal and civil, sympathetic and vulnerable yet pure evil, unbound.
But Brolin’s subtlety is frankly far too good for a film that cannot decide quite where to place him. Pure evil Boo Hiss baddie who just likes being evil and kills for pleasure with limitless power? Or is he a trenchant anti-hero and destroyer, catalysing political and philosophical contemplation? Is this Geek Fantasy or Greek Tragedy? The directors simply cannot decide.
People often reference Empire Strikes Back when talking about ‘darker’ middle chapters in a franchise and how great it is that the characters all become more complex. That’s true. But ‘Empire..’ was economical and purposeful. Things happened at pace throughout. The edgiest of twist blended logically into hints of hope. Infinity War lacks that vigour and rigour.
If we MUST use Star Wars references: One could compare Infinity War to The Last Jedi. IE: competent, clever, philosophically ambitious and carefully crafted by the best in the business. But tonally illiterate: swollen in pace by over-ambitious hubris and needlessly dour darkness.
Yes, Thanos has a plan and some sympathy in his rationale. But that is at odds with his then being responsible for the most cruelly evil acts in a Marvel movie to date. Dark stuff: and when I say ‘dark’ I MEAN ACTUAL DARKNESS. Seriously.
Even the film’s colour scheme is one of seemingly perpetual night, save a few (rather rushed / crowded/tagged on) daytime bits in the jungle or City. Think twice before taking sensitive under 12s to this; shame as it is a ‘kids’ film at heart.
What tone or purpose is being reached for here? It’s a bit of a muffled, muted, muddle of a feeling as credits roll. We are even denied the upbeat refrain of the Alan Silvestri score. Why do that? ‘Cui Bono’? Answers in part 4 next year, no doubt; I’m just not as keen to find out this time.
Avengers: Infinity War is already breaking box office records and it’s undeniably entertaining, event Cinema. Individual moments of genius make this worth a watch. You’ll laugh, cry and cling to the edge of your seat. Just don’t expect to leave with a swing in your step, is all. For the next one /part4/whatever it’s called? Less is more and light is right. Epic scope and dark tone only go so far, before people want an escapist reward in the overall ‘feel’ of a film rather than solely in occasional pockets of heroic/comedic relief. That cannot be too much to ask for. Especially from a team with this much charm and talent.