Sure, you can walk into your multiplex, purchase a ticket to Marvel’s latest having seen none of their previous films, and understand at the most basic plot level what is happening in the film. But this is really a film made for those who have committed to the franchise from the beginning. It is a culmination of 10 years, 18 films, and 38 hours of screentime.
And I’ve been using runtime as an excuse for not watching Ben-hur, Lawrence of Arabia, and Spartacus…
Infinity War is the big one. It is the type of comic book endgame arc that could blow up the universe and reset it. Or, you know, everything might be fine at the end. There’s a lot to unpack there that can’t be done without spoiler talk, but it’s no spoiler to say that the stakes are real for the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Big bad Thanos (Josh Brolin) has been hanging around the fringes of the MCU since the first Avengers, biding his time as he scoured the universe for the six “infinity stones.” Once all six are affixed to his shiny gauntlet, Thanos can be virtually omnipotent. With a snap of his fingers, he could wipe out half of all life in the universe. Luckily for him, that is exactly what he wants to do. His warped, genocidal ethos functions sort of like secondary succession: burn it down, and what survives will recover quicker.
His search for the stones will inevitably lead him to Earth, because two of the stones are there. But Infinity War also sends some Earth-born characters to space and some space-faring characters to Earth. The immense scale of this film is something to behold, even when it doesn’t all coalesce in the most cogent of ways.
Given the size and scope, the film has to juggle dozens of characters and their storylines. As a result, some stuff is just going to get left in the dust. Some pivotal storylines have less impact because there is less time to focus on them. Some time feels wasted on silly banter that doesn’t quite match the severity of the very present situation (even if some of this banter is funny).
All the same, the film, by its very existence, is a feat. Marvel has made it to a point where there is enough comic book knowledge that is simply second nature to most moviegoers that little needs to be explained to set up this massive climactic film, and that is an impressive achievement. The film itself does not always feel smooth, but when it is working it becomes an exciting experience.
That said, the excitement can be undercut by the inconsistency of the camera work. Given the nature of the film, much of the runtime consists of intricately choreographed fight sequences. The choreography looks nice, but there are a handful of sequences where it gets hard to properly see this choreography. With so much going on in some of the bigger action sequences, the camera has to cut and whip around so fast that it can add up to a jumble of blurred motion.
At the end of the day, Avengers: Infinity War lives up to the hype if you enjoy the sheer bigness of the created universe. If you enjoy the character work that gets accomplished in stand-alone outings (most notably and most recently in Black Panther), then you might find yourself lost in the shuffle trying to latch onto your favorite characters as they drift across screen. But if you are looking for big stakes and huge-scale battles, then this is the film you have been waiting for since Captain America: Civil War.
Avengers: Infinity War: B-
I have more to say about this film (particularly why I have an issue with it). But I do not want to divulge spoilers in this review, so I will save that for a later article.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)