This film is literally everything “Justice League” tried and failed to be.
“Avengers: Infinity War” is the 19th installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and marks the 10th year since its inception. It unites every hero we have met along the way, from Iron Man to the Guardians to your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The ensemble cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Josh Brolin and Chris Pratt, among a dozen others, reprising their roles as the Russo Brothers, who directed the last two “Captain America” films, take over “Avengers”-directing duties from Joss Whedon.
When we all sat down to watch the first “Iron Man” is 2008, we had no real idea what we were in store for. Up to that point, Sam Raimi’s campy “Spider-Man” and the X-Men were the only truly successful superhero films, and Nolan’s game-changing “Dark Knight” was still a few months away. By the time the Avengers officially assembled in 2012, it was groundbreaking and — possibly annoyingly — started the connected universe craze. We all wanted “Captain America: Civil War” to be an epic battle of heroes and have some real consequences, but for many it turned out to be anticlimactic disappointment. “Infinity War” is everything “Civil War” should have been and more, with humor that doesn’t distract, popular figures that interact in unforced ways and emotional weight and consequences that are felt.
The scale of this film is huge. It reportedly is one of the most expensive films ever made with a budget between $300 and $400 million dollars; most figures I could find peg it around $360 million, second behind the fourth “Pirates” film. It connects literally two dozen characters, many of whom we have spent the past decade getting attached to and would hate to see get put in harm’s way, and for the first time in the MCU there is an actual chance that they could be killed. In the likes of “Civil War” and “Thor: Ragnarok,” dramatic or emotional moments are undercut by jokes, and all the characters remain friends at the end of the day, ready to fight again. Not here.
Right off the bat, the Russos show that Thanos — played by a perfectly menacing Brolin — means business and is the most ruthless villain that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever seen. With Michael Keaton and Michael B. Jordan and now Brolin, the past few MCU bad guys have actual arcs and motivations that the audience gets conflicted over because they make sense, just are taken too far.
The first half of this film honestly ranks among some of the best moments in superhero film history. From characters interacting for the first time to Brolin having the power to defeat Earth’s mightiest heroes, there are a lot of fun, exciting and sometimes shocking moments.
The acting here is all superb, although none really get a whole lot of time to themselves, not that that is too much of a complaint. The film feels perfectly broken apart and paced, with each group of heroes getting the perfect amount of screen time yet all feel like their missions matter, unlike “The Last Jedi,” which was just filler.
For being one of the most expensive films of all time, nethertheless a Marvel film, some of the special effects and green screen shot look pretty bad. It is a similar issue that plagued “Black Panther,” and it is more shocking than anything that Disney would allow something like that to be sent into theaters. On the same note, some of the editing and sound design choices seemed to be surprisingly subpar.
The ending will sure to have everyone talking, and it will lead to some conflicting feelings. I will in no way spoil what happens, but just say that it didn’t fully work for me and the more you think about things, the less I think you’ll like it, too. Or maybe you’ll love it. That’s the great things about movies.
“Avengers: Infinity War” has huge ambitions and an overstuffed cast and, for the most part, meets its grand ambitions and expectations. For a majority of the runtime I was on the edge of my seat and was in love with what I was watching, and honestly how this film ranks among my MCU and all-time superhero films will depend on how “Infinity War 2” plays out next year. Bring it on.
Critic’s grade: A-.