It may sound incredibly trite and unoriginal to state this, but Avengers: Infinity War is the best Marvel movie to date. It’s an accurate statement to describe an event ten years in the making, and you’re likely to see top film critics quote something similar in trailers and ads after the film’s release. Like the events in the story, the success of Infinity War is a team effort for which you can credit the studio, the producers, and the directors they trust with these dense narratives to ensure that each new story will top the previous effort.
Each of these characters has grown in the last decade, and you really can feel that the progression of time has affected them – more than their outward appearance and new costumes, it is the motivations and interactions with each other that chart their growth. Even their powers/skills are affected by previous episodes and solo outings, and as such, things feel earned.
Now if, like us, you wanted to stay away from any info on the film, you may not be aware that the Russo brothers (Anthony and Joe) took the helm for this feature, but the result of their touch yields a high quality watermark. They (evidenced in previous efforts like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War) know these characters very, very well. But what is most noteworthy is how this film is paced; that they know just a little bit better.
Tasked with juggling and exhibiting literally dozens of characters, it could have been a mess. Ever since this comic series was published, a filmic adaptation seemed an inconceivable effort. Just look at the poster. Doesn’t it look essentially like all previous Marvel movies thrown in a blender? Good news friends, that is so not the case. One of the only ways this would’ve worked would be to split the characters up into separate tasks, much like the comic books do – the Russos never put (unless absolutely necessary) more than six or seven superheroes in the same action sequence. This keeps the action lively, the stakes high, and the tension more than palatable.
Earlier this year, Alan Silvestri – the fantastic musical genius he is – composed music for another blockbuster, only this film seems better served by his talents. Avengers is more his speed. Sure, he is noted with composing the score to the ensemble’s 2012 outing, as well as the theme for the “first” Avenger, but this heroic composition can easily be done to great dramatic affect in action heavy scenes, or slowed down to be tender, or dialed way up to be intimidating. This is not a master class in variations, but Silvestri does a lot with his existing toolbox.
Now that we get to see Thanos doing more than just sitting, Josh Brolin seems an odd choice to play Thanos, the “Mad Titan”, when a heavier presence might have been needed or expected. Truth be told, he’s not mad like a hatter, but similar to Michael Shannon’s Zod in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (think way more subdued) he’s just mad (focused) on his beliefs, ambition, and goal. The film needed someone with dramatic acting prowess, not just an ominous voice. He’s heavy, but shows that he has a soul and internal conflict. And that’s the point – you need to kind of feel for a villain and understand their intentions based on their losses. That’s more effective than just omnipresent and invulnerable antagonist.
If the Guardians of the Galaxy taught us anything, it’s that galactic turmoil and the fate of existence shouldn’t mean that everything has to be super serious. Here, the comedy is dialed up to 11, and it helps create a good rhythm to the narrative which is pretty dour in parts. Chris Hemsworth, Zoe Saldana, Robert Downey Jr., and Benedict Cumberbatch are dealing with, perhaps, the heaviest burden in terms of plot and tone, and help propel the story toward the titular climax with the gauntlet clad titan. But to balance that, the comedy (from most of the cast) is as welcome at it is boisterous.
While I rarely put myself into these reviews, I have to say that over the past ten years, the two characters I found most charismatic and engaging are the two characters I never thought much of when reading comics as a kid. That said, Spider-Man and Iron Man (comedy aside) make this movie. The writing is sharp, rapid fire, and suits their sensibilities. Yet whenever any emotion starts to become too heavy-handed, the Russo brothers steer the ship to keep things interesting. Very similar to a dance, it is lively, quick paced, and you feel the energy from every player.
The Russo brothers have obviously broken away from the source material, yet it’s still an amazing adventure. How much further they chart their own path in the next film remains to be seen. But at the end of Part I, the story certainly sucks the wind out of the theater, and that is an understatement. Even the most discerning film and comic fans will be surprised by how this film tails off leaving you clamoring for the follow up. Avengers: Infinity War is a straight up blockbuster, and wonderful escapism at the cinema. That will be news to no one. But here’s something you might not expect…it’s a damn good film, full of real narrative weight and tangible character arcs. Bring it on, Thanos. We’re ready for Part II.