After the success of Captain America: Civil War, the Russo Brothers returned with the lofty task on their hands of uniting the Avengers and all recent MCU arrivals with The Guardians of the Galaxy in a royal rumble against the Mad Titan himself; Thanos, one of the most infamous villains in Marvel history. With high expectations from fans who have been following the Avengers saga since Iron Man’s first big screen outing back in 2007, Infinity War is a milestone in the MCU and marks the end for some of Marvel’s best loved characters.
The ticking clock.
Avengers; Infinity War dives straight into the events following Thor: Ragnarok’s post credit scene. The Asguardian refugee ship has been attacked by Thanos and his ‘children’ – The Black Order, slaughtering half the Asguardian’s without mercy and taking Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) hostage. As Ebony Maw delivers rhetoric reassuring the Asguardian’s they have not died in vain, we finally meet Josh Brolin’s hulking Thanos, a villain who’s arrival has been awaited since Avenger’s Assemble. Having been cast only for the Infinity War and not for Thanos’ brief appearances earlier films, Brolin’s Thanos has a distinct presence and believability to him from the get go. His calm persona illustrates his experience and self perceived wisdom and he commands almost every scene he is in. Driven by the desire to complete his infinity gauntlet and simply snap half of all life in the universe out of existence as an act of mercy serving the greater good, he has crafted his own prophecy and deemed himself the only one capable of bringing balance to the natural order. After showing off his battle prowess to the Hulk, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), is zapped back to Earth and into the mystic sanctum of New York into the path of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) where his only words spark the race that drives the entire movie – “Thanos is coming”.
The characters are well served by being placed in new and uncomfortable situations.
While the over-arcing plot of the movie is quite clear, Infinity War see’s the heroes still recovering from the segregation of Civil War and complete unity is almost out of question. Instead smaller alliances form as sub-franchises clash and witty banter, contests of machismo and bickering breaks out in all ranks. Tony Stark (Robert Downey JR) must tolerate Doctor Strange who matches his air of superiority and out does his spiritual wisdom whilst simultaneously attending to the excitable Spider-man (Tom Holland) and cocky, lovable dimwit, Star Lord (Chris Pratt) and his guardians. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), who have been nurturing a meta-human-Android relationship, are blindsided by the possibility that removing the Mind stone located in Vision’s forehead may kill him but that may be the only option with The Black Order on Vision’s trail. Captain America (Chris Evans), now going by Steve Rogers is still unable to watch another ally die whether they are willing to do so to stop the galactic purge or not. God-like Thor must tolerate the quirky guardians of the galaxy for sometime before commandeering a tiny ship to be stuck with the brash Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and a stroppy teenage Groot (Vin Diesel).
Despite Infinity War’s long run time being full of constant time and location jumps, the Russo’s and their massive crew rather miraculously manage to utilise this to their advantage, focusing on the urgency, the ticking time bomb of Thanos’ conquest for the Infinity Stones. The tension however is frequently relieved with hilarious and memorable scenes of miscommunication and flawed alliances between the countless franchises. A mixing pot that could have easily ended up in disaster if it wasn’t for careful stewardship of this complex narrative. The inventive groupings of the various Avengers, Guardian’s and solo franchise leaders breathes new life into each scene, with all characters staying true to their persona for the most part, a great source of internal, organic conflict. Although not all of Marvel’s beloved have equal share of lines and screen time, most are used effectively.
The heroes journey.
There are a few arcs that don’t quite carry enough weight compared to the two most central plot pieces, which shouldn’t come as a surprise with such a huge amount going on inside 3 hours of run time. Following his initial and utter defeat at the hands of Thanos, the Hulk retreats inside Bruce Banner and remains mostly dormant for the rest of the movie. Whilst Banner to’s-and-fro’s between two major centres of action little is said about why the big green giant won’t show himself and Banner can’t get much sense from his inner demon. Thor’s plot arc of acquiring the perfect Thanos killing weapon with the help Rocket and Groot feels like a jump out of the main agenda which slows the pace, although it is clear that Thor getting his hands on this could turn the tide of the Infinity War after some much needed grieving and reflection. Finally, Captain America, who is usually a beacon of hope is much more of a stoic and less decisive protagonist, opting for retreat to Wakanda to protect Vision and his comrades over taking the fight to his enemy.
All this however does make space for one very important element – Thanos. Thanos in Infinity War is given a full arc, a strangely compelling ‘heroes journey’. He absorbs the risk and accomplishments of the Avengers to utilise the rewards on his own personal quest to wield unstoppable power and through doing this grows and develops as a character more than any of the franchise leaders, Captain America and Iron Man included. This makes Thanos, in a sense, the protagonist of Infinity War who we follow through a dark tale of genuine sacrifice and triumph, ultimately leading us and The Avengers to a harrowing final confrontation with a shocking and emotional outcome.
The sting in the tail.
The true strength of the god-like heroes becomes questionable, with a plethora of curtain calls for some of the most popular characters guaranteed to leave an ache in their place. Whilst the romance between Vision and Wanda is basic, it succeeds at tugging at the heart strings, Banner’s internal feud with the Hulk is peaking, Tony’s worst fears are coming to light and Star Lord’s ‘long term booty call’ is in jeopardy but what Infinity War does surprisingly well is supply a villain of gargantuan proportions who is also believable and perhaps guiltily understandable. Thanos’ mantra becomes clearer as the movie progresses and whilst we boo and hiss at the mad Titan there are also surprising moments we are persuaded to feel sympathy. With a climax that will rock even the more casual audience, Infinity War is a no-holes-barred, turbulent and compelling end to Marvel’s phase three.