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Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers Infinity War[This review will be spoiler-free. However, it does contain some discussion of the plot, mostly discernible from the film’s promotional materials]

It’s impossible to be hyperbolic. There has literally never been another movie like Avengers: Infinity War. 

The culmination of a decade of serialized, connected movies, ever-teasing fans towards a giant crossover event. So, is it any good?

Absolutely, yes. It’s also one of the most challenging films in the genre, as it’s sure to leave many fans quaking with anger or curled up in a fetal position.

Leave all of your expectations at the door, because this film is chaotic and nihilistic. It is also beautifully crafted and supremely morally-centered, as all great superhero fare is.

At center is Thanos, a big baddie whose coming has been teased in a half dozen films. His goal? To unite six Infinity Stones, sources of great galactic power. Unlike most would-be conquerers, Thanos is not interested in ruling the galaxy, but, rather, destroying half of it. Channeling Malthusian theory, he believes the universe must be “balanced” by killing half of all living beings.

On the opposing end are literally almost every character in the last decade of movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bring tissues. Thanos leaves a body count.

However, if you think you know who lives and dies, put all your expectations aside. One problem with watching this film is it is so full of feints and misdirection, you keep waiting for the next major character death. You will need to see this multiple times just so you can stop anticipating and simply enjoy the spectacle.

And boy howdy, is there ever spectacle. All of your favorite characters get their moments, and some even more than others. Front and center are Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and Thanos’s daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana). On top of them, all of your favorites return, and perhaps the most impressive thing about this film is that everyone gets a moment to shine. Not only that, but they get specific callbacks to their films and backgrounds that are huge pay-offs for the fans who have been paying attention since Day 1.

Perhaps just as impressive is how expeditiously they dispatch their exposition in the first part of the film. Believe it or not, for a film that banks on its viewers having seen at least a half dozen other films in the series, it gives a nice intro for anyone who is either neophyte or needs a refresher. Stan Lee used to always spend the first few panels of every issue explaining how we got here, saying, “Every issue is someone’s first.” Avengers: Infinity War takes this in stride.

As great as our heroes are, this would fall flat without a great villain. And Thanos is a great villain– one who believes he is right, and we can empathize with as he goes on a personal journey as well. It’s not often that your antagonist is the one who enjoys the most character growth, but here we are.

A tiny complaint is that the CG that makes Thanos come to life looks a little uncanny valley-ish, but let’s be real: he’s a giant purple dude. He’s going to look cartoonish every once in a while. It’s ok, and it’s certainly nothing compared to another giant CG villain in a comic book event movie– Steppenwolf from Justice League. In every conceivable way, Thanos is a superior villain, despite these minor quibbles.

This film is just so unexpected. Who knew that such a giant spectacle could also carry so much emotion? It is also so meticulously constructed — balancing multiple storylines at different ends of the universe with beautiful, fantastical settings — that this truly deserves to be seen on an IMAX screen (or the biggest one you can find). The Russo Brothers prove themselves masters of being able to juggle this many things at once and yet make sure they all work. They’re master chefs who tell you they’re going to put 30 different ingredients into a giant burrito, and at first you’re incredulous, then skeptical, then hopeful, and as you taste it you’re surprised at just how well everything works together.

And a final exhortation: don’t spoil this movie for others. A LOT of stuff goes down. Make sure before you discuss it in public, on social media, that everyone around you has seen the movie.

But when you do see it, see it with friends, family, and others so you can cry together, and then wonder, “Where do they possibly go from here?”

The conclusion in 2019 can’t come soon enough to answer the questions left hanging.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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