There was an idea, 10 years ago; to plant the seeds for a comic book movie universe and in the time since, that universe – the Marvel Cinematic Universe – has bloomed from a monumental risk to a box office annihilating formula. Cast your minds back years ago and only Superman or Batman ever really escaped the supposed confines placed upon a comic book movie, and even then, the supposedly upper elite of film criticism scoffed at such fare. Oh how times have changed, with more comic book material than ever making it to screen, Marvel are now considered the apex of forward planning and big screen comic book ambition and whether you love them or have a bit of fatigue, it is impossible not to respect the achievement.
However, after a decade, a pinnacle of sorts is upon us in Infinity War, based partly on Jim Starlin’s “The Infinity Gauntlet” and Jonathan Hickman’s “Infinity”, this film seeks to pay off many years of hype, which started with 2008’s Iron Man. The point has arguably passed when people worry about MCU films failing and I’ll hold my hands up and say that, like most of the Marvel machine (save for Iron Man 3 and Avengers: Age of Ultron), I expected Avengers: Infinity War to be another blast of colourful fun. What I did not expect was the film to go for broke with its tone and push past the boundaries of its audience’s expectations. No doubt about it, Infinity War is occasionally the film you expect but as it builds and builds across a hefty 2hr 30 minute running length, the odd surprises mount, and the movie then ends on a wind out of the sails climax that is very brave considering the young audiences this franchise has acquired.
Ok, we adults may know that that ending is not set in stone (at least we don’t think) but for a younger viewer fed on a hearty dose of comic zingers, hope and CGI action, this is one hell of a ballsy development and narratively it may end things on a part 1-esque crescendo (which may infuriate some as we were promised the contrary) but it also does more to excite you for future Marvel films than any other recent entry in the franchise since Captain America: Civil War (still my favourite from the studio). Emotional, dramatic and rather cruel, it caps off the plot beautifully, and adds fuel to the film’s themes of the consequences, toll and impact of conflict and the destructive results powerful ideology. If Infinity War says anything, it is that some wars cannot be fought or won with an intact soul.
Outside of the soulful finish though, there is still an epic film here, with plenty of laughs and CGI-loaded action set pieces, accompanied by a great score from Alan Silvestri. Admittedly some stretches do feel a tad slower compared to others but considering all the tangents and characters involved, things are delivered very well and impressively neatly. It is quite ironic that after Thor: Ragnarok being pretty much a comedy, Avengers: Infinity War (like this year’s Black Panther) is so gripping with its drama and stakes, that the comedy moments – while mostly still fun – feel to almost distract from, as opposed to add to the drama but this is only a very mild flaw really.
I won’t go into the characters and loaded cast (so as to avoid spoilers) but needless to say the figureheads like Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson all deliver top performances, as do more recently fresh additions, especially Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman and Benedict Cumberbatch. I also found it refreshing that Infinity War gave a platform to some characters that I was not expecting it too, in particular Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlett Witch, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora and Danai Gurira’s Okoye, each of which were excellent.
Then there is Josh Brolin’s big bad Thanos, who does fall into the atypical Marvel bad guy definition but escapes the blandness of Ronan or the ridiculousness of Killian, thanks to the poignant depth the script gives him. At no point does Thanos feel like just another big all powerful antagonist, he feels alive, he feels fully rounded and comes with a brilliant backstory that makes him both menacing and wounded and his moral mission challenging and compelling.
Avengers: Infinity War marks a further maturation for the MCU and with a future that already is planned to span a decade ahead, it seems that Marvel will continue to return. Impressive stuff.