“Avengers: Infinity War” is a rollicking rollercoaster ride on a tightrope track…

Heavy metal…?

In my previous reviews of “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Black Panther” , I’d noted my acute case of ‘Marvel fatigue.’  Too often these movies are ridiculously top-heavy with CGI eye-candy, Dolby Digital-booming explosions, and butt-numbingly long sequences of flying super-people punching away at cars, planes and buildings like so many LEGOs.

Dialogue in these kinds of films consists mainly of one-liner quips in place of genuine character arcs and development (“Black Panther” being the most notable exception to this admitted generalization).   The trappings of these movies are about as ritualized as kabuki.

Black Panther is a jewel in the Marvel crown…

It’s not that Marvel movies are unenjoyable, nor are they bad moviesbut every once in awhile, I feel the need to scurry away and watch a zero-budget character drama just to cleanse my moviegoing palette.

Too many of these nonstop, sugar rush, roller-coaster ride-movies tends to give one a bit of a headache over time.   It’s like you’re sitting down to a four-course Thanksgiving dinner consisting of nothing but desserts. After a while, you begin to crave a bit of substance.

Balancing act.

That said?  The script for “Avengers: Infinity War” is ably balanced by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and just as nimbly directed by brothers Joe & Anthony Russo (“Captain America: Winter Soldier”).   The film services a frightfully-sized cast both ably and efficiently.   Early on, a wise decision is made to divide the huge cast into more manageably-sized mini-ensembles.

^ Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Terry Notary) go off on their own…

It’s impressive that each member of this large cast manage to have their moments in the film; considering the scope of the entertainment  juggernaut to which they’re attached.  Accomplishing that feat alone, in a movie of this crazy-huge scale, is a minor miracle.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
^ Taking the Hulkbuster out for a spin.

This is also one of those rare occasions in a spectacle-driven event movie where the charm of the actors is not in danger of being overwhelmed by the spectacle.  The star power in this film is permanently dialed up to 11, easily matching the overdose level of the visuals.

Kudos to all involved, as well as a very game cast who pepper the movie with humor and charm to spare.   Speaking of which…

The cast.

Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Wong, and Benedict Cumberbatch in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
^ Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Benedict Wong as…er, Wong.

Everyone who is everyone in the Marvel movie universe is in this film; Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr. in full quip-mode), Thor (“angel/pirate” Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Spiderman (Tom Holland), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America (Chris Evans), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch),  Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) as well as all of their various sidekicks and associates, save for the relatively inconspicuous absences of Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

I assume any missing Avengers will be part of the sequel.

^ Peter Quill/Starlord (Chris Pratt), Groot (Terry Notary), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Mantis (Pom Klementioff), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Drax (Dave Bautista, who is easily the funniest character in the movie).

These characters are also joined by the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’; Starlord/Peter Quill, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Drax  (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Terry Notary, a scene-stealing Dave Bautista respectively).

^ Wakanda Forever: Oyoke (Dinai Guirira), T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Steve Rogers/Capt. America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Bucky/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Shaw) prepare for war.

I think I burst a blood vessel in my head trying to remember all of the names.

Josh Brolin in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Why the long face?

Villany is ably provided in the character of Thanos (a tour-de-force motion capture performance by Josh Brolin), who is rendered so lifelike that even the character’s giant, mask-like face is surprisingly expressive.  It also helps that we have a villain with a genuinely understandable motive, however misguided.  For once, the goal is not simply power for its own sake, but rather a twisted, almost altruistic dream of universal balance and ecological harmony.   This was a surprise…an event movie villain with a genuine motive.

Thanos’ quest for universal balance can almost be seen as metaphor for the movie’s own delicate balancing act with its supersized ensemble of characters.

The Story.

“Like what I’ve done with the place?”

With a cast this large, perhaps it was a wise move to keep the story so simple and straightforward.

The biggest bad guy in the universe continues his quest to obtain magic stones W, X, Y and Z.   If he gets them?  Half the universe is screwed.  All of the good guys in the universe have to stop him.

Or else.

That’s really as much as you need to know.


^ SpiderMan (Tom Holland) does whatever a spider can…

Major characters die.   In fact, there is a lot of death and destruction in this movie.  But even though beloved characters die in the film, I rarely felt the gravity of the stakes involved.

Suffering from dry-eye.

Part of that lack of gravitas may be because of how the movie is structured; it’s clearly the middle act of a Wagnerian superhero opera.  As a result, many of the most tragic moments in the movie feel in flux.

Robert Downey Jr., Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, and Tom Holland in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Which one dies?  Or rather, which ones?

As I told my wife and our friend who attended with us afterward, “The tears will come for me when the other shoe drops in part two.”   But for now, I was curiously unmoved.  It’s incomplete.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
“A little foundation ought to take care of that.”  Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany).

The film’s fatalities feel more like setups than sendoffsas there is no way in Hades that Disney would dare kill off so many cash cows all at once.  So the cynical side of me (perhaps working in concert with my Marvel fatigue), kept me surprisingly dry-eyed, despite the superhero carnage.

Robert Downey Jr. in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
A Stark reality. 

Now, I’m an unabashed weeper when a movie rightly earns it.   I still remember the lump in my throat when Spock died in 1982’s “Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan.”   I get choked up for Pixar cartoons.   I know my internal waterworks are operational.   However, the way the deaths occur in this movie, I felt the strings of manipulation being pulled a bit too firmly… yanking on, rather than gently tugging at the ol’ heartstrings.

Summing it all up.

Despite its length, an FX budget the size of the Chinese GDP, and a cast roster that looks more like a complete Oscar night guest list, “Avengers: Infinity War” is surprisingly light on its feet and entertaining, even if some of the desired emotions it sought to wring from me didn’t quite happen.

For the hardcore Marvel fan, I imagine this movie will be an apex of pure entertainment awesomeness.  It’s like having two and a half hours to play with every single action figure on their shelf.

Even for old farts (like me) who are feeling chronic Marvel fatigue?  You might be surprised to find that you’ll have a good time in spite of yourself.

Given the size of the cast and the terrific potential for this movie to be a giant, unwieldy fustercluck,  I’m surprised and pleased to report that the rollercoaster known as “Avengers: Infinity War” stays on its tightrope track the entire time, and delivers solid-enough entertainment at the multiplex.  Surprisingly, its two and a half hour running time breezes by.

Oh, and stay put for the post-credits sequence…it’s important.

We saw the movie in IMAX 2D (not a fan of 3D) and yes, I recommend that you see it on as big a screen as possible… all of those colorful characters should fit a bit more comfortably.

Don Cheadle, Robert Downey Jr., Josh Brolin, Vin Diesel, Paul Bettany, Bradley Cooper, Chris Evans, Sean Gunn, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Wong, Terry Notary, Anthony Mackie, Chris Hemsworth, Dave Bautista, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Letitia Wright, and Tom Holland in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

7 Comments Add yours

  1. ewpfaffly says:

    Wow, I know I should have waited until I have seen the movie to read this but I don’t know when that will be so I just dove right in. You have certainly covered all bases in this installment of your “Musings”. I might just give in and go to the theatre for this one rather than wait for it to be released on other mediums. Your spoiler alerts were well timed but almost unnecessary as you still kept the wrapper on the candy. I must admit I do love me some super hero movies, so this should fill me up nicely. I just watched the Avengers again for the umpteenth time and still manage to enjoy it so my tolerance for excess must be high. I look forward to enjoying this film in the not too distant future thanks again to your uncanny ability to make me crave my Marvel treats.

    1. Thanks! I tried not to go on too much about the plot mechanics of the movie, because that’s pretty much all spoiler territory. I wanted to review it without ruining it. Hope I haven’t!

      I started out loving the Marvel movies, and I still think 2008’s “Iron Man” is a gold standard. But now we’re up to Marvel #19 in only 10 years, and I’m really feeling the fatigue. However, this one really keeps the fatigue at bay. It’s much more nimble and quickly paced than I expected.

      Well worth catching in a theatre if you can!

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