In Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel goes nuclear
Film review by Jake Coyle, of the Associated Press
After 10 years of lean, threadbare, Lilliputian tales, Marvel Studios has, thank heavens, finally decided to go big.
The scale of Avengers: Infinity War, of course, isnt a departure for Marvel. Its an apotheosis. But is it possible to supersize what is already colossal? Infinity War, which brings together more than 30 significant characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and enough spandex to clothe a small nation, is a little like launching an invasion after the war was already won. Despite assured dominance, Marvel has gone nuclear.
Infinity is an interesting word for the Marvel machine, which sets much of its development pipeline a decade in advance. Never-ending is indeed how the superhero era of blockbusterdom sometimes feels, both to its fans and its critics. Even Steven Spielberg, who once said superheroes will eventually go the way of the western, recently signed on to produce a DC Comics film.
But the title refers to the six infinity stones scattered around the universe, each conveying a power of sorcery, like the time-warping one held by Doctor Strange. They are dearly sought by Thanos, the indestructible Titan warlord, who rules over much of space but would like all of it. With all the McGuffins er, stones he can, with the snap of his fingers, wipe away half of the universes beings: a rapture to cull an overgrown herd, he envisions.
And its, in part, the lure of finality that has made Infinity War, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (veterans of two Captain America movies), one of the years most salivated-over movies. The preamble has been one long tease we have seen fleeting glimpses of Thanos (Josh Brolin) since Barack Obamas first term leading up to a battle royal that could mean the demise of some of Marvels most famous faces.
It can be hard to know who or what to root for. Arguably the best quality and most vital asset of the Marvel canon is its star-making (or at least star-expanding) power. On the one hand, Chris Pratts performance as Star-Lord in The Guardians of the Galaxy has been terrific and turned him into a household name. On the other hand, weve hardly seen Robert Downey Jr. outside of the Iron Man suit in the last decade. It took 18 months to shoot both parts of Infinity War back-to-back (the sequel is due out next summer), putting a stranglehold on some of our best movie stars, like Chris Hemsworth and Anthony Mackie. Faint cries can be heard on the street of: Let our Ruffalo go!
And its really the simple pleasure of seeing so many good actors together that makes Infinity War an Oceans Eleven in hyper drive work. The screenplay, by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, spreads the heroes around in improvised groups that create some funny dynamics. The Guardians, who inject most of the life to Infinity War, swoon for Hemsworths one-eyed Thor. Hes like a pirate had a baby with an angel, said Dave Bautistas Drax. Many dont know each other, or the parameters of their shared cinematic universe. Theres an Ant-Man AND a Spider-Man? remarks Mark Ruffalos Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk. The level playing field is a chance to rebalance the Marvel pecking order, most recently upended by Chadwick Boseman and Black Panther.
Neither Chris Evans Captain Cap America nor Scarlett Johanssons Black Widow, for example, make much of an impact on Infinity War. But, as the green-skinned Gamora, strides to the fore, as does Elizabeth Olsens Scarlet Witch. Infinity War rarely, surprisingly feels as overstuffed as such a superhero smorgasbord ought to, a testament to the filmmakers adept plate-spinning skills.
That may be because Infinity War doesnt really belong to the superheroes. This is Brolins film. Already an actor who can appear chiseled from granite, his Thanos is an imposing boulder of a villain, with weary eyes and lined creases running down his massive chin. He and his adoptive daughter, Gamora, are the only characters with much of a story in Infinity War. Hes the immovable object around which the gaggle of superheroes orbits.
There may be some hint of overpopulation anxiety in Thanos ambition and in the Russos frighteningly overcrowded film. Its saviors repeatedly contemplate sacrifice. Previous Avengers chapters and the Russos Captain America: Civil War expended some effort considering the Avengers place in society and whether they should be controlled by the state. But this movie, a sensory onslaught, has little room for political subtext.
Still, I doubt such gestures of allegory are anyones favorite part of the Marvel movies. Most come for the action, the quips and the characters, and I suspect Infinity War will deliver for most particularly thanks to the Guardians. In such a bruisingly long showdown, the action sequences never the strongpoint of the Russos, who cut their teeth on comic ensemble like Arrested Development and Community grow monotonous, and the interludes amid the rubble more infrequent. But if Infinity War is a lavish reunion tour propelled by star power, the Russos are sure to plays the hits.
The movies ending just one of the spoilers that divulging here would bring Thanos fist down upon me will be the major talking point. But for me, its power only lasts as long as a commercial break with an easy-to-see-through to be continued. Who lives and who dies? Its hard to fret too much with an eternity of sequels and spinoffs lined up.
Avengers: Infinity War Two and a half stars out of four Cast: Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Mackie, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana and Elizabeth Olsen Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo Rating: PG-13 intense sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references Released by: Walt Disney Co. Running time: 149 minutes.