Sunday, April 29, 2018

"Avengers: Infinity War": the no-spoiler, two-paragraph review

By this point, I think I can assume that steady readers of this blog will have read my other Marvel reviews and will know who the main cast members of the various Avengers and Avengers-related movies are—which actors play which characters, etc. Of note this time around, however, is that the Russo Brothers direct 2018's "Avengers: Infinity War," and that Josh Brolin takes the lead as main baddie Thanos, whose presence and significance have been teased since at least the first Avengers movie (reviewed here; the second was reviewed here). The Russos, meanwhile, are your go-to directors when you need to helm a film with long, complex storylines like "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Captain America: Civil War." "Infinity War" is complex insofar as there are several separate-but-converging plot lines to follow, but the overall plot is rather simple: Thanos, the purple giant who has lurked in the background for several movies, finally reveals his plan to collect all six Infinity Stones, described by the Collector in "Guardians of the Galaxy" as "six singularities" that were "forged into concentrated ingots," each representing some fundamental aspect of this universe: soul, mind, power, reality, space, and time. "Infinity War" is essentially a giant version of Pok√©mon Go, with Thanos portal-jumping from locale to locale to pick up Infinity Stones where he can, or sending his minions—the Black Order consisting of warrior Corvus Glaive, bruiser Cull Obsidian, dervish Proxima Midnight, and wizard Ebony Maw—to do his dirty work for him. The Avengers, no longer a functioning team since the events of "Civil War," must somehow reassemble (see what I did there?) and fight back once word of Thanos comes their way.

For the rest of this spoiler-free review, I'd like to focus more on my impressions than on the actual plot. There's a lot the movie gets right in terms of shifting its often-humorous tone as it switches its focus from one group to another. There are also plenty of interesting mix-and-match moments as, for example, when the arrogant Tony Stark meets the equally arrogant Steven Strange (you'll recall that the movie "Dr. Strange" was criticized as a shameless retread of "Iron Man," and in the comics, there's a "facial-hair bros" moment between Strange and Stark, all of which shows these two are karmically linked), or even better, when Thor meets up with the Guardians of the Galaxy (not a spoiler! that's in the preview trailers!). We viewers were warned that the overall tone of "Infinity War" would be darker, but that's no surprise given that this movie is the first part of a two-part story. It's also no surprise that the movie ends on a very dark note, but there are hints laced throughout the film that make it fairly obvious that most of the damage we see will be undone by the end of the second movie. This point is worth focusing on because I've seen plenty of critics use the phrase "gut punch" to describe how "Infinity War" ends, and... I have to be honest: it was no gut punch to me. First, there's the fact that, in sci-fi and superhero movies, the dead never stay dead; next, there's the very structure of the plot of "Infinity War," which hints at the scales' tipping one way, then tipping the other. I hate to say it, but all this spectacle, while a treat for the eyes, is moving in a rather predictable dramatic direction. In terms of things I didn't like: I can't reveal details, but there are two aspects of Thor's plotline that I thought undid a great deal of the Asgardian theology established in "Thor: Ragnarok." (You'll know what I mean when you see the scenes in question.) And as with other Marvel movies, I don't think the screenwriters really took the time to work out the metaphysics (shouldn't it be enough to possess the Reality Stone to control reality?)—or even the physics: how can one super-being withstand a stellar maelstrom while a similar super-being can have his neck snapped with a mere squeeze of the hand? That said, taken as a whole, "Avengers: Infinity War" was a treat to watch. It's a worthy member of this year's pantheon of big, dumb summer movies, and may even be worth a rewatch or two, given the multiplicity of storylines and a plot that ricochets across the galaxy.

1 comment:

Charles said...

Thank you for the spoiler-free review. I've tried to stay away from reviews in general, but the consensus seems to be that this is a good Marvel film, though not nearly the best.

I've also heard about the gut punch, and I am also somewhat skeptical. Like you said, nobody ever stays dead in the comics, which is something that always annoyed me. You can have all the great death scenes you want, but they become cheap when you know that this character is just going to come back again. I'm not saying that I necessarily like it when everyone dies (not a huge fan of GoT for this reason), but there should be an actual threat of death to give the proceedings a certain amount of tension; even if nobody actually dies, it's different when you know that somebody could die.