How the hell am I even supposed to review this. Ten years, 18 theatrically released films, and billions of dollars, have all culminated in one cinematic event. In 2012, Disney changed film making (and inspired a bunch of crap movie universe’s) With the release of The Avengers. They proved that, if done right, you could take multiple franchises and tie them together into one cohesive story. With Infinity War, directors Joe and Anthony Russo turn that dial up to eleven as they deliver the conclusion to a story ten years in the making.
Since the first Iron Man, when Nick Fury was hanging out after the credits to tell us about the Avenger Initiative, it’s been clear that these movies have been telling a bigger story. Hint’s here and there about infinity stones, a glimpse of Thanos in a post credit scene, these movies have all been building towards something. Except Ant-Man. Ant-Man is busy doing Ant-Man shit.
Now, the meta-narrative is finally coming to a head with Infinity War. Thanos is making good on his goal of hunting down the Infinity Stones, and he’ll leave behind a wake of death and destruction along the way. I would go more into the plot, but there isn’t much I can say without spoiling the hell out of it.
It’s also hard to review this film as a stand alone story, which happens to be the single largest problem with Infinity War. This is the sequel not just to Avengers: Age of Ultron, but a decade of film making that’s come before (again, except Ant-Man). This film wastes no time with character introductions or backstory. For the first time, Marvel has made a movie that assumes you’ve seen everything that’s come before.
For example, 2012’s Avengers serves as a perfectly serviceable standalone film. Characters are introduced on their own, and everything is set up and resolved in the 2 hour runtime of the film, giving the audience a palatable experience. Sure, it helps if you’ve seen Iron Man and Thor, but it’s by no means required.
That’s not the case with Infinity War. If you haven’t seen Civil War, you will be lost. If you haven’t seen Thor Ragnarok, you will be lost. Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, almost everything that’s come before is required reading for this film. If you’re going into this expecting a fun, brainless action adventure romp, you will be sincerely disappointed and extremely confused.
However, we don’t live in a vacuum, and if you have seen what’s come before, you’re in for one hell of an enjoyable experience. The analogy I’m hearing thrown around most is that of a television show. The season finale of a television show might not be a great standalone episode, but within the context of the grander story its telling, it can be great.
Ok, enough about the predicament of history and long-form story telling. Lets talk about how kick ass this movie is.
Without question, the film’s biggest strength is it’s mishmash of character pairings. There is a surprising amount of screen time devoted to simply letting characters interact and re-act to one another. We’ve been waiting for years to see what a conversation Star Lord and Iron Man would look like, and we get dozens with not only them, but character pairings we couldn’t have even dreampt of imagining.
In most action blockbusters, the talky bits are the most boring part, and we’re just constantly waiting for the next set-piece. Not the case with Infinity War, as my favorite moments are all when characters from various franchises are introduced to one another, and simply allowed to explore those relationships. No amount of CGI punching will bring me more joy than Peter Quill pissing off Tony Stark.
That’s not to detract from the action though, because Holy Shit. If you thought the airport scene from Civil War was impressive, you’ll be blown away by the set piece’s of this movie. Some work better than others (I’m looking at you, train station sequence), but honestly, each fight feels genuine and understandable. It would be so easy for this movie to have fight scene’s “because the plot says so,” but they never do. Every fight is character motivated, and none of them are simply filler for the run time.
By now, you’re probably thinking “wait, it has great character moments AND a bunch of great action? What, is this movie like two and a half hours long or something?” To which I would say no. It’s two hours and forty minutes long. And boy do you feel it. It’s not that the movie is slow per se, but there are scenes that definitely slow the momentum waaay down. I left the theater feeling almost hungover, trying to remember every little thing that happened.
This is far more preferable to the alternative though. I’d much rather have a long movie with a few slow, yet necessary scenes’s than a 90 minute team up film that leaves crucial elements on the cutting room floor in the name of efficiency. And again, if a few seemingly pointless scenes give me more character interactions, I’m all for it. I’ll gladly sit through Thor forging a new weapon if It means I get to hear him call Rocket Raccoon “sweet rabbit.”
Honestly, the best parts of this movie are all the moment’s between characters that are only made possible by a cinematic universe. This movie is so much damn fun, and most of that fun comes from watching the Russo brothers remix everything that’s come before into one “greatest hits” Avengers movie.
Thanos and his crew are really the only new additions to the universe, and the movie wisely puts the bulk of character work squarely on the Mad Titan’s big purple shoulders. The Russo’s trust that we already know Cap, Iron Man, Thor, etc. Rather than developing those characters more, they simply show us who Thanos is, and how these characters we already love would react to his presence. Sure, sometimes the CGI is a little spotty, but Brolin & co. do a good job fleshing out Thanos’ character, so it’s easily forgivable when the visuals aren’t always perfect.
If you are looking at this as a standalone film, it fails, no doubt about it. However, that’s clearly not what Marvel was going for here. This is a movie built on what’s come before. Taking story lines and plot threads across multiple genre’s and weaving them together into a truly ground-breaking work of art. It might not be a great solo film, but it’s the single most amazing season finale I’ve ever seen.