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.
It’s not that Marvel movies are unenjoyable, nor are they bad movies, but 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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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).
I think I burst a blood vessel in my head trying to remember all of the names.
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.
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.
That’s really as much as you need to know.
**** INFINITY STONE-SIZED SPOILER AHEAD ****
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.
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.
The film’s fatalities feel more like setups than sendoffs, as 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.
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.