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Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers:Infinity War (2018)

Infinity War is a huge film, a cinematic event. I’ve never seen my local cinema so full - the showing I was going to was sold out so I got tickets for the one ten minutes later. It’s a big deal. Clever marketing for sure, and good news for the multiplex. The movie itself is huge: two and a half hours of action that crosses the galaxy from Scotland to Wakanda to various locations in the depths of space and features a massive cast of characters.

But is it a good movie?

Short answer: yes!

Long answer:

The huge scope and spectacle of it is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness - while it does succeed in managing multiple plot strands as different characters try to stop Thanos in different ways across the galaxy, and it does successfully give these characters their own emotional beats along the way, it was never going to have quite the same level of character journey as a single-character movie, that’s just the nature of it. There are some characters that are reduced to supporting characters here (Black Widow and my personal favourite Captain America seemed particularly short changed), but perhaps at least some of them will get their chance to shine in the next installment.

It succeeds well as a culmination of ten years’ worth of strands of superhero movies but does that make it weak as a standalone movie? In some ways its more like part one of a season finale of a long running show, it will mean a lot to fans of the show but if you’re not up to speed you may be lost. If you’re not a Marvel fan, this isn’t going to convert you. If you are, there are a lot of pay-offs here.

This is mostly the Guardians’ movie. The Guardians films notably have a much more comic tone than the some of the other Marvel movies, but it blends well here. Partly because their main interaction is with Thor, whose last movie Ragnarok brought him closer to them, tonally as well as geographically. Partly it’s because they get some of the darkest and most serious stuff to deal with, which throws that humour into relief. Gamora and Nebula are, after all, daughters of Thanos. Watching Peter Quill unable to quip his way out of genuine emotion is a real high point of the film.

Speaking of Thanos: what a villain! Compare and contrast with X-Men’s Apocalypse. Probably the best villain Marvel have ever had. Genuinely, world-endingly threatening but with a personality of his own too. The action in the movie is occasionally a bit too frenetic and shaky, towards the start there’s a lot of people throwing different coloured lightning and random objects at each other and knocking down buildings, but as it goes on it seems both more grounded and more important.

Right from the start this movie sets out to show you that the stakes are high, that it’s not afraid to kill off beloved characters. It makes you feel that no-one is safe. Your traditional superhero movie ends with the good guys defeating the bad guys and all is right with the universe. In some ways, this is not your traditional superhero movie. The ending is truly shocking. But on the other hand, you know that your traditional two-parter Saturday morning cartoon will end with your heroes facing an impossible situation, leaving you hanging to see how they will get out of it next time. So perhaps it’s not such a departure, after all. My one quibble with the ending is that it, in a way, undermines the shocks and certainties of the deaths earlier in the movie. Actually watching it is pretty devastating. But thinking about it afterwards, you feel more and more sure that you’re now waiting for Avengers 4: The Quest for the Reset Button and it actually negates it all a little bit.

There is an over-reliance on a particular plot device:

WARNING: "Infinity War" spoilers below

Thanos: Give me the infinity stone or I will torture and kill your friend/family member.
Avenger: Never!
Thanos: *tortures family member*
Avenger: OK, OK, I’ll just give you the infinity stone.

Seriously, three times in one movie? I know the third one was different, slightly, and that by that time we’re supposed to think “Why did he just…?” And later realise, “Oh wait, because he’s seen….” But still.

I’ve seen some reviews take issue with the humour. My personal take is that I would rather have superheroes quipping at each other as they fight than taking it all deathly seriously despite the fact that they are dressed in tights and a cape. In this movie, serious moments are undercut by jokes. But then jokes are undercut by sudden upsets and serious moments. So it cuts both ways and keeps you very firmly on your toes. Tonally I thought it did a good job. Unlike previous Avengers movies I wasn’t bored for a second. Okay, maybe a second while Thor is fixing a giant space anvil or something, but really, hardly at all. It’s all go. They acknowledge the quirks in their own universe as well, which is always fun.

My absolute favourite part was one little throwaway joke on a sign,
WARNING: "Infinity War" spoilers below
We will deep fry your kebab.

The interactions between the different characters are a joy. The Guardians’ reactions to Thor are priceless. Tony Stark teaming up with Doctor Strange, with the addition of Spiderman, who functions as Tony’s surrogate son, brilliant. Tom Holland is still perfect as Spiderman. There are brief but brilliant moments between some of the other characters on the Wakandan battlefield too. It also takes the time to explore some of the relationships we’ve seen set up in the individual films - Wanda (Scarlet Witch) and Vision’s relationship hinted at in Civil War comes to the fore in this movie, with interesting parallels with Quill and Gamora.

Altogether it’s an experience, a thrill ride of a movie that delivers surprises, action, humour, tragedy. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry etc. etc. I’m looking forward to seeing it again.