In the world of the Avengers less isn’t more. Bigger is better. The newest instalment “Avengers: Infinity War,” the nineteenth in the Marvel Universe, is their most epic film yet. Taking place all over the universe, it pits daughter against father, challenges the true nature of love, all while saving the world from certain destruction.
Set two years after relations soured in the Avengers camp—“The Avengers broke up,” says Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). “We’re toast.”—the new Avengers spectacle sees them put aside their differences to once again save the world. Iron Man (Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and a laundry list more, including all the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), band together to prevent intergalactic despot Thanos (Josh Brolin) from collecting the six powerful Infinity Stones hidden on earth. “He is a plague,” says Bruce Banner. He is the strongest creature in the universe, so pumped up he can toss Hulk and Thor around like they are rag dolls.
With the half dozen gems Thanos can decorate his bad-guy golden gauntlet. Not only fashionable, the artefacts, once collected, will also enable him to bend reality to his will. “The entire time I knew him he only ever had one goal,” says Gamora (Zoe Saldana), “to wipe out half the universe. If he gets all the Infinity Stones he can do it with a snap of his fingers.” Gah! Simply put, “He’s from space,” says Stark, “and came here to steal a necklace from a wizard [Dr. Strange a.k.a. Benedict Cumberbatch).”
“Avengers: Infinity War” is where good and evil and franchises collide. The good guys—essentially everyone but Thanos—put aside their grievances with one another for the common good. From far and wide, from outer space and the mystical realms, they unite, trade quips, kick butt and try to beat the odds. “There are 14,000,605 possible outcomes,” calculates Doctor Strange, “but only one where the good guys win.”
Then there’s Thanos, whose twisted idea of tough love involves a genocidal solution for overcrowding on planets, and his nasty minions. The big man is a get the job done kind of guy but he’s not simply evil. He’s a villain who feels the psychic weight of his evil doing. His conscience doesn’t slow him down much—he still does terrible things—but he is more layered than your usual CGI baddie. Brolin shines in a mo cap performance that gives the character depth despite his cartoon appearance.
Combined they create a primal battle of good and evil on a scale that makes all other Avengers movies pale by comparison.
The sheer number of cast members brings to mind the old Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer slogan, “More stars than there are in the heavens.” Iron Man, Thor, Scarlet Witch and the Guardian gang are put to good use but too often the superheroes are set dressing. There are so many characters and interactions that even at two hours and forty minutes the film struggles to find meaningful things for all of them to do. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow does little more than grimace and say things like, “Let’s do this!” Tom Holland as Spider-Man is given a cool new suit and a couple of action scenes but like many others like Falcon (Anthony Mackie) don’t seem to be there for any other reason than to bulk up the marquee. Even the main players check in and out, often disappearing from the narrative for substantial chunks of time.
There has been much speculation as to which characters live and who dies. All I’ll say is that there will be some actors looking for work after “Avengers: Infinity War” opens.
Many of the actors may not get much to do character wise but most are in almost constant motion in some of the largest Avengers fight scenes ever. For the most part they are CGI fests, geared to make your eyeballs dance. They are expertly realized but many of them feel familiar, like larger versions of the smash ‘em ups from the other films. If the fight scenes are your favourite bits of the Avengers movies then you’ll be pleased. If not, look out, they eat up a good piece of the film.
What makes “Avengers: Infinity War” compelling isn’t that it is bigger and louder than its predecessors, it’s that there are high stakes for everyone. Once again the world is in peril but we’re used to that. The powerful work is interpersonal, between characters. No spoilers here, but lives of characters we’ve followed for years are changed and it brings humanity to a film that could have been computer generated overload.
“Avengers: Infinity War” ends with a downbeat cliffhanger that leaves much up in the air. The final scene—after credits so long it seems like everyone in the world worked on this movie—gives a hint of the worldwide consequences of Thanos’s plan but gives no hint as to what’s to come. For that you’ll have to wait until part two hits theatres on May 3, 2019. The dangling nature of the story will be frustrating to some. For fans, however, the movie should deliver in a big way.