This review may contain spoilers for “Avengers: Infinity War.”
In a grand culmination of the last decade of well-received superhero movies, Marvel Studios, backed by the entertainment magnate Disney Studios, has released a crossover film bringing together the studio’s biggest franchises: The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
“Avengers: Infinity War” follows the quest of Marvel Universe supervillain Thanos on a quest to collect all six Infinity Stones, sources of power which, when put together, would give the wielder near infinite power. Despite the film’s budget of nearly $400 million (making it the most expensive film of all time), studio backing and a decade of support, its execution, character arcs and overall tone failed to live up to its own reputation, leaving audiences with a mediocre superhero film and a below-average Marvel outing.
At its face, “Infinity War” presents a striking conundrum for its heroes: how to beat the unbeatable. Fractured across the universe, members of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy slowly come to understand the threat of Thanos and begin to build their own plans to prevent him from collecting all six Infinity Stones. At its heart, the story is one of desperation and a series of flailing attempts to prevent an unspeakable threat. In this sense, the film explores an overwhelming feeling of immediacy, and that oppression carries across each character, action sequence and line of dialogue across the film. “Infinity War” doesn’t show the beloved Marvel characters at their best, but at their weakest, most insecure and most human.
To that end, beneath the story presented to audiences at face value, directing duo of the Russo Brothers, attempt to craft a certain moral message, and walk a thin line between tongue-in-cheek references to their intended meaning and the break-neck pace of the action and storyline. This message feels severely underdeveloped, and the moments in which it is intended to shine through and impact the audience’s understanding of the film are some of the weakest in all of Marvel’s film history. Though some emotional peaks shine brightly, the low moments are among the lowest in Marvel’s decade-long run.
The story and unsubstantiated moral message are bolstered by a sprawling cast of characters, each portrayed excellently by their respective actors. Despite having over a dozen heroes and named characters throughout the film, the audience feels able to follow each group of supers’ actions and movements, though with relative success for each group. To that end, some characters feel wasted in the film, as though their star power was particularly under-utilized. Meanwhile, the character of Thanos is made to feel simultaneously very human and very superhuman, a clash of powers and emotions which largely misfires as the film attempts to sway the audience toward sympathy for him.
The characters’ many, many action sequences are blurs of fists and explosions, and are largely satisfying and logically-progressive. In particular, an all-out assault against Thanos by several heroes is suspenseful, emotional and surprising at every turn. Larger, more invested action sequences in the film, though, feel less detailed and are easily glossed over.
Visually, “Infinity War” was stunning. The Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), camera angles and colors were some of Marvel Studios’ strongest, especially considering its main villain, Thanos, was entirely computer-generated. The film did, however, struggle with the same problem that the prequel trilogy of “Star Wars” did in the early 2000s: over-use. Most of the film’s sets, effects and set-pieces were entirely computer-generated, and often left the audience desiring some moments of pure human interaction, a recurring theme the film struggled with throughout.
Similarly, the music was dramatic and heavy, but at times felt overpowering and cheesy in context of the scene, taking away from the attempt at humanity the movie stumbled towards.
All said, “Avengers: Infinity War” was an enjoyable, well-made movie that, without being preceded by a decade of momentum and suspense, would have been received much more openly. The film, however, is flawed, and doesn’t deserve the same accolades that many of its predecessors did. In the spirit of comparison, at least, “Infinity War” far surpassed the misguided attempts of DC Comic’s “Justice League” that premiered last fall.
“Avengers: Infinity War” is certainly worth watching for Marvel enthusiasts, but will likely carry little weight for casual cinematic universe viewers or those looking for a well-rounded superhero team-up flick.