Billed as the culmination of Marvel’s ten years of worldbuilding, Avengers: Infinity War lives up to that description in a way that’s consistently separated the MCU from other blockbusters. As ridiculous as this sounds for a film populated wall-to-wall by costumed heroes with somewhat silly “made-up names”, as one describes them, the ambitiously over-the-top effort works mostly due to the strong character work that’s preceded it.
Exponentially building on the original Avengers thrill of seeing the interplay between very different types of heroes, Infinity War wastes little time in creating clusters of characters who’ve shared no screen time before. Many of the film’s most crowd-pleasing moments come from combining these strangers who the audience is familiar with. It’s fun to watch them team up and try to out-macho one another, while gags are plentiful while remaining in the established MCU context (Dave Bautista’s Drax has never been funnier; Thor hasn’t lost his taste for a quip either; Tony Stark is, yeah, Tony Stark). Perhaps there’s a bit too much LOTR-style mini-questing that goes on, but that’s easy to accept when it keeps offering up previously unseen interplay.
As the MCU has evolved, its been consistently praised for its detours into sub-genres like spy flicks or cosmic comedy. The scale of the challenge faced by directors the Russo brothers to fuse these elements together in coherent fashion was arguably as difficult as juggling the dozens of characters featured. On both fronts they impress here. The film convincingly houses a range of tones and visual aesthetics, and constantly jumps between locations and characters in deceptively simple fashion.
One frequent problem with MCU villains has been that they’re one-note, or hampered by poorly realised CGI. That is 100% not the case with Josh Brolin’s Thanos, who takes centre stage. He’s a tangible, threatening,and most of all emoting presence, benefiting from an excellent Brolin performance and stunning mo-cap work that has often been absent from similar villains (including his underlings in this outing). If this film is anyone’s story, it’s that of Thanos, as we follow him on the impossible mission of bringing order to the universe against all odds.
Which brings us to the Infinity Stones. They’ve sometimes served as MacGuffins in the MCU, and, frankly, they are a bit ridiculous. Some characters treat them with reverence – like Doctor Strange, in whose standalone film an Infinity Stone served a defined purpose that is ongoing here. Others speak for the skeptical among the audience and call them out for being a bit silly. Like the latter characters, moviegoers should roll with it – it may seem an oversimplified plot mechanic, but as you will see, they carry very real consequences no matter how smug you are.
Infinity War certainly isn’t totally perfect, but it’s a damn fun time that rises to its challenge. And what about THAT ENDING.