An era of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe draws to close with Infinity War, the road to which has been paved with hits and misses. From formulaic origin stories to abrasively tethering each film to another, often at the cost of coherence. In terms of ensemble movies, Marvel wowed with 2012’s The Avengers but its sequel Age of Ultron disappointed. While later, the Russo brothers, who return to helm Infinity War and its follow-up, grounded Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War. While the change of pace was welcome, I had hit a wall with Marvel’s onslaught of movies quite early on, rendering any line-up of heroes overfamiliar and in predictable territory.
Luckily, Infinity War revels in its scope and has new group dynamics to explore as this epic collision course allows almost every Marvel character we’ve met thus far to engage with each other, with the added novelty of many meeting for the first time. Heroes by the bucketload rally together to
prevent supervillain Thanos (Josh Brolin) from capturing all six infinity stones to complete his gauntlet and realise his murderous plan of bringing balance to the universe.
In previous Marvel group efforts, humour doesn’t tend to be character specific (with the exception of James Gunn’s distinctive wit in Guardians of the Galaxy), with a quip doled out to each actor, regardless of whether it’s fitting to their persona or situation. Here, the vast majority of humour lands and is well placed. Hurtling back and forth from Earth to space, we’re treated to a battle of egos between Starlord (Chris Pratt) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and on a more touching note, Rocket’s (Bradley Cooper) heart-to-heart with the god of thunder.
Elsewhere, Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) stoic attributes clash amusingly with Groot’s (Vin Diesel) minimal vocabulary as they become acquainted and Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr) attempts to rein in an overzealous Peter Parker (Tom Holland), as he assumes a father role, continues to entertain. On the other hand, while it’s logical for the Hulk’s (Mark Ruffalo) input to be mostly conserved for Infinity War’s conclusion, his endless waffling and dithering did wear a little thin.
As nearly every hero is drafted in, remarkably, nobody becomes lost in the shuffle. What’s more, characters that failed to hold my attention for the entirety of their own films, such as Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr Strange, are utilised fully and are welcome additions.
The Avengers also appear to have bounced back with renewed vigour following their internal squabbling, as they finally face a villain that bucks Marvel’s weak villain trend. Other than Tom Hiddleston’s charismatic Loki and Kurt Russell’s deceivingly dark turn as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (and a slight nod to Michael Keaton’s general brilliance in Spider-Man: Homecoming), the enemy has somewhat been an afterthought. While there’s a pinch of the mass alien invasion that has marred many a superhero film here, they’re the undercard to the main event.
Living up to his long-term build, Thanos isn’t just physically domineering but his calm reasoning behind his brutal intentions almost convince you he’s being rational. From the offset, it’s made abundantly clear that Thanos means business but his emotional tie to his daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is fleshed out and prevents him from being a one-dimensional foe.
While deep into its two-and-a-half-hour run time, the sheer onslaught of (at times repetitive) action may render Infinity War dizzying for some, but surprisingly dark tonal shifts set it apart from its predecessors and cemented the movie’s high stakes. While there’s an overriding sense that some of the seemingly bold moments won’t stick, bizarrely, the film still carries weight.
While the success of Infinity War’s conclusion hinges on how well certain inevitabilities are executed. So far, so very good.