Thanos, the mad Titan, seeks to collect all six infinity stones, powerful objects that were formed with the big band, to erase half the population of the universe. He must travel the ends of the galaxy to get them but, standing in his way is a collection of heroes, from the Earth and amongst the stars.
So it’s all been leading up to this after 10 years of Marvel movies we are finally at the end game, well maybe not end game, there will probably be more after these two movies. Oh, that’s right, this is the first half of the story, so we have to wait another two years for Infinity War to conclude. Each film that has come before Infinity War has been carefully made to lead to this moment; introducing us to the infinity stones in Captain America: The First Avenger, to Thanos in Avengers: Assemble, the universe in Guardians of the Galaxy, the multiverse and magic in Doctor Strange and all the other films in between which have built a solid foundation on which Marvel Studio’s legacy will sit, either as a triumph of cinematic universe storytelling or a warning like Ikarus of a studio that flew too close to the sun. So which will it be?
To be honest I was more than a little trepidatious going into Infinity War. Marvel has so many characters now, with most of them being rammed into this film, I thought that it would get confusing and bogged down in the need to show everyone off, doing more of a tour of the Marvel Cinematic Universe rather than tell a decent story. And while it can feel a little rushed and disjointed jumping about the galaxy following disparate characters, for the most part, I will say that the film does a good job making this cohesive despite the different styles of films and cinematography that these characters have existed in before.
This is helped by a tight script that has a strong focus on its central narrative. The film is fixated on the issue of the infinity stones and the collection of them. If it were to be given a singular title that reflected on the character it would be Thanos: Infinity War. Though he is the villain of the piece, he is essentially the main character as he is the through-line that connects all the other stories together, giving our heroes motivation to fight and audiences time to understand the mad Titan’s motives. While he is certainly not sympathetic, he is understandable in a slightly scary way. In the same way that the corporation from the Channel 4 show Utopia was understandable in a twisted and dark way.
Yet, something does seem amiss with the narrative. Because there are so many characters and stories all working together to meet the same end, it can feel a little episodic with each group of characters having little effect on the other group. The film opens at the end of an episode that almost makes you think you missed the first part of a movie or another movie entirely that led to this. Then, while there are some excellent bits within the episodes, each section goes on mechanically toward a conclusion that sets up the next chapter in the Infinity War Saga.
However, some truly fantastic performances all round an act as a way of distracting you from these weaknesses in plot structure, apart from one minor cameo that I won’t spoil. Special mention must be made to Josh Brolin who plays our big, purple, bad guy, who while not sympathetic, is understandable as a villain, someone with a clear motive born out of misguided morality. He is the star of the show.
Unfortunately, though you begin to see how Marvel repeat themselves both regarding story and character archetypes as laid down by Joss Whedon. Each “main” character has a certain level of snark or cut a similar figure. I already knew that Doctor Strange and Tony Stark were cut from the same kind of clothing, the arrogant kind, but I never understood that every other character was sort of a deviation from them. Peter Parker idolises Tony so, though he is more naive and idealistic, he still cracks wise, though this is built into his character from his print origins. T’chala, Captain America and Bucky Barnes are all more serious than Tony, stoic warrior types. Then you have Star-Lord, the Guardians and Thor, goofy spacefarers. I may be boiling all these characters unnecessarily but even the film refers to how similar these characters are by little nods between them or just through their aggressive character interaction.
There is also the tendency by Marvel to lessen itself, like it isn’t fully prepared to go all the way with its story and take it seriously. There is one scene when there is a real moment between two characters and that is ruined by cheap humour; it was a great moment that was well shot, well acted and then ruined by the need to diffuse it with a joke. Something similar happens in some of the tensest most emotionally fraught moments of the film; then they are undone by having a character that can literally bend time and space to his will. What makes it worse is that he does this twice.
The best way to describe this film is like an event or a crossover comic. Now for those of you who don’t read comic books, an event comic is a story that spans the entire comic universe drawing all characters into a grand narrative that often spins off into the individual books. While not exactly like that because there aren’t going to be those issues, Infinity War focuses on the singular story and is not concentrated on significant character development for individual characters. Really though your enjoyment of Infinity War boils down to how invested you are in the franchise. If you aren’t invested, then there is still tones of great spectacle to enjoy some good jokes and characters, even if when you show them close together they probably seem more alike than you hoped. But if you are invested then boy howdy this was certainly worth the wait, despite its flaws.
You can watch Avengers: Infinity War in cinemas now