Avengers: Infinity War is almost worth the 10-year wait
Smash! Pow! Bang! The latest Avengers is the penultimate instalment of a decade of Marvel movies
After years of teasing us with intersecting story lines, clever cameos and Easter eggs for eagle-eyed viewers, Marvel's super duper battle royal is here.
Avengers: Infinity War unites the title band of superheroes with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther and more against one maniacal, extraterrestrial ruler for a never-been-seen-before feat of corporate engineering.
This is Marvel's world now: we're just living in it.
Was it worth the wait?
Avengers: Infinity War delivers on what was promised: a full-out, almost exhausting level of combat, with nearly every major Marvel character we know involved. But more than that, the there's a personal dimension to many of the struggles onscreen.
Iron Man sees his fear of a world-conquering foe realized. This time, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark is less smirking billionaire and more tragic figure. Chris Hemsworth's Thor, still space-bound after the events of Ragnarok, is a refugee in mourning as he faces his greatest test yet. Don't forget those goofy Guardians, the swashbuckling band of intergalactic heroes attempting to blend into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
One of the surprises of the movie is how heavily it leans on the theme of sacrifice, particularly in the case of the massive purple villain seeking to gather the Infinity Stones and impose his will on the universe.
Voiced with a thunderous rumble, Josh Brolin's Thanos is more than a monster. Infinity War gives the world-destroying despot ample screen time as it explores his connection with daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana in another emotional performance).
From splash page to screen
As mentioned, there are battles aplenty and they are spectacular. Marvel's legion of visual effects wizards has improved its craft. But Avengers: Infinity War also demonstrates the limitations of the medium.
The dream of every comic book geek is a massive splash page crammed with characters. That same approach doesn't necessarily work on film.
As Star-Lord, Iron Man and the rest try to out-quip each other, the rhythm is all wrong. It seems there's a limit to how many super-powered smart alecks can share a moment.
Still, some characters do rise to the occasion, namely the new kid: Tom Holland, returning as Spider-Man. As in the comics, Spidey is the emotional heart of this galaxy-spanning story. Again and again, Holland displays a knack for grounding the most fantastical moments.
I'm less enthused about power couple Vision and Scarlet Witch, who play a surprisingly critical role. When we catch up with Vision, the android with an Infinity Stone in his head looks more like a Banana Republic model, while Scarlet Witch frets about their future.
Capes but no closure
Directing duo the Russo Brothers embrace the inherent grandiosity of the story, a trait in the best comic book blockbusters. Let's be clear. I'm not looking for a documentary.
This is an epic tale sheathed in spandex, a super heroic soap opera. The Russos know how to deliver the bang, but also when to lay back and showcase a halt in the action. So, to quote R.E.M., it's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine. Better than fine really — elated.
But as the plasma blasts fade and the credits roll, I confess to a feeling of frustration.
19 films. 10 years. After all that waiting, Marvel serves up a giant helping of "To be continued."
As with too many franchises these days, Avengers: Infinity War is the first instalment of a two-part finale. You would think after so many years of loyalty, fans have earned some closure? A bit of satisfaction perhaps?
Yes, there are Earth-rattling consequences in Infinity War, but the conclusion leaves fans trapped in limbo and frozen waiting for the next instalment, coming in May 2019.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars