Avengers: Infinity War looks spectacular, has some good laughs and makes a pretty good villain out of Thanos, but has no momentum, mostly ho-hum action and almost no emotional weight.
So, this will be a ***SPOILER*** filled review! If you want to go into Avengers: Infinity War spoiler free, this is not the review for you; Ben’s is, here.
So, last ***Spoiler*** warning is right now, turn back, I’m not going to hold back!
You spoilerphobes gone?
Now, it is fun to see all of these characters together, well, not ALL together, but the ones that we do get to see together are always fun to watch in Infinity War. The movie has plenty of fun. I need to see it again because I laughed over some lines on multiple occasions. But for every beat that is fun, we are often left with a counter to it that just doesn’t land.
There are some great character interactions we’ve never seen before, but for every great one liner, there is often an emotional beat that feels hollow. For every piece of action ingenuity, there is just about everything in Wakanda that feels as dull as the previous set piece set in Wakanda in Black Panther. As exciting as it can be to see all of these characters interact, that feeling is often fleeting and a number of scenes feel a beat or two too long.
I enjoyed my experience watching the movie, I look forward to seeing it again, but after a first watch, Infinity War is bottom 5 MCU. The MCU is a universe I love to visit, but I wasn’t expecting this film to sit this low in my rankings. It’s full of way more memorable lines (“I am Steve Rogers.”) then memorable action beats, and I don’t think I am putting any of the action in this film anywhere near my favorite moments from the MCU. The characters feel disparate from the plot and never really a part of it all. It is hard to describe, but I think this is where I am coming from when I say the film doesn’t gel. It feels like almost everyone is just passing through, with Thor and Thanos feeling the most inherently connected to the film’s plot. The script just never pulls it all together and the plot never compels, or has any stakes. I only felt tense for characters in the final scenes because the film is supposed to be the big culmination of things (it’s not, Infinity War’s finale and cliffhanger feel emotionally inert), but I will say I am intrigued by the potential of where this film leaves us.
Thanos is a big reason I will revisit this movie, him and Thor, as Josh Brolin makes a compelling villain out of a character that has been a joke for almost ten years. Brolin plays the part calmly and contemplative, even showing some genuine emotion and pathos in his scenes with Gamora. One flashback to him meeting her for the first time is enough to explain why he loves her enough to sacrifice her for the Soul Stone, but I didn’t feel it. Nice to see Red Skull though, even if it didn’t make any sense? Still, every Thanos scene was pretty much enjoyable and I think it is kind of remarkable that that Brolin was able to do that. You believe in Thanos’ buying into his rationale, and how he views himself as the hero of his story as he wipes out half of all life in the universe. But, man, does Thanos have some really “nerd ass shit” going on in all of his scenes. Not a bad thing.
This is definitely the most comic booky and least grounded of the MCU films, taking almost everything to the genre’s extreme, but feeling like it lost something by going there. Nothing in this movie had the stakes of that final fight Civil War. The finale’s of both of the previous Avengers films felt tethered to something tangible, something we could relate to, everything in Infinity War feels detached and off from everything before it in the MCU. I get the power of Thanos forces this story to take things to this level, but it felt inauthentic all the same.
I mentioned Thor working for me, and I think this is because Hemsworth is just so damn good in the role. Yes, the banter with him and the guardians is quite good, but I think the posturing by Star-Lord could have lost a joke or two and instead better sold us on his and Gamora’s relationship; especially as two of the film’s biggest emotional beats rely on us buying their powerful love for one another, which we still haven’t seen on the screen. Thor and Rocket are great together, though, and I love that Rocket is still trying to work on becoming a better raccoon (or is it a rabbit?), a great extension of the arc he was on and launched out of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Thor’s thought process is also one of the easiest to get on board with, as he sets his mind on one goal after the brutal opening sequence picking up right after the end of Thor: Ragnarok. You knew Loki was going to bit the dust (but did he?), but I was hoping Heimdall might get out with Korg and Valkyrie; who I am assuming are alive since there were no bodies on the floor. Thor’s action beats, forging his new hammer (with a piece of Groot as the handle!), basically decimating the Wakanda battlefield and plunging said hammer deep into Thanos’ chest were easily some of the action highlights of the film.
The Guardians of the Galaxy all feel slightly off here, and I don’t know if this is because they are interacting with the rest of the MCU, or if it is because Gunn didn’t write this one (I’m sure he contributed), or if it is because these are slightly more mature versions of these characters post Vol. 2. Star-Lord plays the best with those new faces around him, but I also wish the aforementioned romance between him and Gamora was given more attention. When Quill does decide to kill her on Knowhere, I thought it was a great story beat, but it still felt like I had a long way to go to connect to them emotionally. Same goes for when he starts beating this shit out of Thanos, breaking him from his sleep (this action sequence, the fight on Titan to bring Thanos to his knees, was probably the action highlight of the film), I didn’t buy it and it is counter intuitive to him being willing to sacrifice Gamora one minute, but be this thick headed the next. I hope Groot gets more to do in the next film, Rocket too, even if the “rabbit” entering the battlefield on Thor’s shoulder and spinning with Bucky were two highlights for me. Oh, and everything with Nebula was great. From her torture intro to her showing up on Titan, I can’t wait to see how her and Stark get off Titan and play against one another.
Tony is pretty great in this movie, but we’ve come to expect that by this point, haven’t we? Downey Jr. is so good, and I really loved his banter with Parker and Strange, but those two have little depth beyond that. Strange gets some cool moments, though, him watching millions of alternate realities was impressive, but it’s a shame we aren’t going to see the one where they win play out until the next film. Spider-Man has some fun one liners and plenty of good action set pieces, but he, like Strange feels along for the ride; maybe even less so since Strange at least has an Infinity Stone. Tony going one on one with Thanos was well choreographed, and the end of that fight was compelling as hell, but Tony’s tech makes no goddamn sense. Same goes for Spider-Man, whose new suit didn’t do it for me either, with the spider legs feeling way too overpowered along with Tony’s nanosuit. Still, I laughed every time someone said “wizard” and loved that Strange’s Cloak of Levitation was just as fun, hilarious and affective in this film.
So let’s get to some of the other, many, characters in this film. If you are looking forward to the Black Panther cast in this one, you will be sorely disappointed. You can tell Marvel had no idea the phenomenon they had on their hands, or else these guys would have had a better representation in this film. Shuri gets, like, two lines! Black Panther looks more convincing on the battlefield, but gets no good beats. Okoye gets to participate in a fun fight with all of the major women on the battlefield, but, again, she had so many cooler beats in he own film. She gets one good line here, and let’s not even mention the short shrift M’Baku gets.
Vision and Wanda I found compelling as well, and their emotional beats certainly felt earned, especially their final moments together. Seeing Vision reassembled and then having the stone ripped away from his head was not fun to see, but all the talk of Vision being better without the stone gives me hope he pops up in the next film still, somehow (Shuri?). Wanda also got some of the best action beats in the film for me, with her really getting to flex her powers and beat the shit out of some people. I hope these two kids get a second chance!
Lastly of the core characters, we have to talk about Captain America and his crew. Their intro, where they swoop in to save Wanda and Vision, was great. I was all, “The Cap is back, BABY!” And then they basically get nothing to do the rest of the film. Steve standing up to Thanos is legit, and I am ecstatic he is still alive, as this would have been a shame to go out on his worst appearance yet in the MCU. Chris Evans is still sexy in that beard, though. Scarlett Johansson makes the most of her short screen time, as usual, but again, I wish she had more to do. Still, it was fun to see her hold her own against Thanos’ minions in a fight. Falcon and War Machine just felt out of place in this over the top setting, though, as I had a hard time buying either of them would have survived these battles. I love Cap and we didn’t get enough of him and he didn’t feel tied to this story.
Which brings me to the ending. Hmmmm. I don’t know how I really feel. Sure, Thanos snaps that finger and half of the world goes away, but it didn’t really feel like dying. It all felt so perfunctory and in no way permanent. The film feels incomplete and I did not feel any emotion over these beloved characters “dying” on screen. Holland plays his moment well with Stark, but eh, not worried he’s not coming back. In fact, as a whole, I don’t know how strongly I feel about any of the deaths in this movie. Heimdall is the only one that feels pretty permanent (Loki was off screen way too long and comes out of the shadows for me to think he is 100% done). That said, I like the line up that is left behind, and that it seems like they are going to give the OG Avengers crew one last hurrah; with the help of Rocket, a couple Wakandans and the post-credit called Captain Marvel (I don’t think that is how pagers look/work).
Also, no fucking Hulk! I get Thanos kicking the crap out of him sets a precedent, and I loved him getting swooped away as Heimdall’s last act, but really, nothing else? Banner/Ruffalo was weak, especially in the Hulkbuster armor, and how did they just blow right past him and Nat?
Infinity War is going to be an interesting rewatch for me, as I think it really could go either way quality wise. Will knowing what I am getting into make the film work better, or will the film feel even more dissociated from the MCU the more I rewatch it. I also can’t wait to see how this plays as one movie, as the film cleary is a Part 1for the story of Thanos. He may be at peace at the end of the film, but the resolution of this story for the Avengers is far from over; and so are my feelings on this film.