Why review Infinity War?
Avengers: Infinity War is an incredibly difficult film for me to review. Especially considering the fact that I do not wish to spoil anything for anyone yet to see the film. It is a film best viewed fresh. Which may lead to the question: why review the film anyway? Isn’t the purpose of a review to get others interested in watching the film after all? And this is certainly a spectacle that needs little hype or emphasis for anyone to watch.
However, there is another purpose for reviewing. This is the purpose of reflection, where the review serves to provide closure to those who have seen the film. Where those who have similar or differing opinions can read a review and come to a conclusion about their musings. The same may pass for a video game, novel or music album. So therefore, I choose to review Infinity War on the basis that this is my reflection on the film. And hopefully it will prove reflective for anyone conflicted by the film or wishing to see it.
A Cinematic Culmination
It is oxymoronic to state that Infinity War is the culmination of ten years’ worth of films. That in itself makes this one of the most ambitious film projects to ever grace the cinematic screen. There have certainly been longer film franchises – think James Bond for example – but none have ever tied together their narrative threads in such a way. The very same ‘shared universe’ approach which made the Marvel Comics work was approached here for the film screen and through careful plotting and planning, Infinity War was born after ten years.
That in itself is almost enough to make Infinity War a worthwhile film. But it is not enough. If Infinity War were a mess of narrative plot-lines, different character arcs and themes, then it would be almost worthless. Ten years of investment wiped away in a muddle of mediocrity. It is the fact that this ambitious film succeeds as a coherent whole that potentially makes Infinity War the very best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At least as far as delivering the impossible through a grand sense of scale goes.
Why Does It Succeed?
As with any grand narrative, the film succeeds through maintaining a clear direction. This direction is upheld by utilising the antagonist in the way many other plots would uphold a protagonist. Essentially Infinity War becomes a film focused on Thanos and his quest to find all the infinity stones. Which grants the viewer the opportunity to emotionally connect to this villain and understand his insane motivations.
Thanos is emotionally complex, delivered through genius motion capture. Josh Brolin’s deep voice is both cold, sinister and deeply moving: often at the same time. While the action scenes with Thanos capture his calculated menace and unstoppable power. In the comics Thanos has always been one of the most powerful beings in the universe and this is true on-screen also.
Thanos’ Black Order – four newcomers – are also equally menacing. And while they run the risk of feeling the same due to their similar alien look, they mostly have enough unique attributes to maintain a sense of difference. In some regards the film may not use these newcomers to their fullest and most sinister potential. Yet to do so would take away from the grandeur and might of Thanos as the true villain.
The film also balances the connections between various plot points and characters exceptionally well. To some viewers the film may ‘bounce around’ too much. Yet I felt that there was a clear balance to the amount of time spent in each location and with each character. While the film certainly focused on some core characters more than others, each character featured in the film had their role to play – whether as a major or a side-character.
In essence Infinity War feels like one of the very best comic-book narratives. With a large cast (25+ major characters) and endless amounts of action and colour it was a feast for the eyes. But it was also tempered with emotional moments where the tempo slowed. Despite its 160 minute running time, the film never felt overly long. From my observations it felt perfectly paced, and while not a perfect film (some elements were perhaps slightly rushed) it was very well executed.
A rousing, shocking finale
To say too much about the final thirty minutes of the film would naturally spoil the film. This is a film with a clear three-act narrative structure that concludes with a rush. It is a shocking conclusion, a stunning conclusion. Yet likely it is the conclusion the film needed to have. It is worth cinema goers knowing that the next Avengers film will continue directly from the conclusion of this film. More importantly that this film is only a year away. A long year away.
Avengers: Infinity War is shocking, amazing and thought provoking. It is an ambitious ten-year-undertaking that pays off in ways the audience may not have ever thought possible. It is a film that opens up so many questions about the future. Yet through careful selection of easter eggs, character interactions and emotional pulls the film delivers. And while the full payoff may hinge on next year’s sequel film this is a film which pays homage to ten years of incredible cinema. While at the same time delivering an incredible new chapter in the grand saga. It may not be the best Marvel film objectively when compared to how well Black Panther is put together. But when everything is weighed in the balance this may be the most profoundly engaging Marvel film and successfully ambitious to date. Marvel keep raising the stakes every time and I cannot wait for the next installments.