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[Joint Review] – ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 26 April 2018
 
Director: Anthony Russo - Joe Russo
 
Writer: Christopher Markus - Stephen McFeely [Screenplay]
 
Cast: Robert Downey Jr. - Chris Hemsworth - Mark Ruffalo - Chris Evans - Scarlett Johansson - Don Cheadle - Benedict Cumberbatch - Tom Holland
 


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Posted April 29, 2018 by

 
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Lestat’s Perspective:

This is it! The culmination of 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ends in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’. What started as a tentative dip in the pool has now spanned a decade, 19 films, seven television shows and millions of fans. ‘Infinity War’ brings the majority of our MCU heroes together to fight the nigh-invincible villain, Thanos (now played by Josh Brolin).

After teasing his intimidating appearance in 2012’s ‘The Avengers’, Thanos finally takes centre stage in ‘Infinity War’. Thanos’ quest to find the Infinity Stones that will power his gauntlet leads him to many corners of the galaxy. Viewers have become acquainted with five out of six of the stones over the past several films – the Tesseract (Space stone), the Aether (The Reality stone), Dr. Strange’s Eye of Agamotto, which is powered by the Time stone, the Mind stone, which is part of Vision, the Power stone that was rescued by the Guardians of the Galaxy, and finally, the Soul stone – the only Infinity stone the heroes of the MCU had not located.

‘Infinity War’ follows in the vein of video games – it is a conglomeration of puzzles that must be worked out, each solution forms the link in a chain of events that lead to the climactic end. But the protagonist of this video game is not an Avenger. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo instead focus their attention on Thanos.

This film is a veritable ode to Thanos and his motivation, with the Avengers planted as obstacles to achieving his destiny. Thanos is not, however, a complex villain. Not one in the vain of Marvel’s Loki, Killmonger or Zemo (he may not have been the Zemo we were looking for, but he was brilliant). Thanos’ characterisation is thinly drawn, yet captivating due to the immense power he wields.

What becomes of our heroes – the ones we have been invested in for 10 long years, is what keeps the audiences in their seats. There are many heart-rending moments followed by jaw-dropping ones. It is a tense watch not knowing just who will end up on the chopping block. Despite it all, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and the Russo brothers are still able to astound us. Loud applause and audible gasps rang out through the theatre crowd I was a part of. Fans and critics alike have grown with these characters and everyone watching knows their fates will mark a turning point in the franchise.

Suffice it to say that the Russo brothers were definitely the correct choice to direct this film. As they showed with ‘Captain America: Civil War’, they have a great understanding of pace, character development and have the proven ability to work with multiple characters and arcs.

However, ‘Infinity War’ is bogged down by exposition – a surprising inclusion in a Markus-McFeely production. Far too many scenes – most including Thanos – grind to a halt as the audience is provided information and context. We could have done without most of it. But, more importantly, vital backstories and motivations could have been shared with the audience through a variety of techniques that the creators didn’t employ. It brought down a great film to just a good one. Neither ‘Civil War’ nor ‘Infinity War’ match the crispness or tightness of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, which is to the detriment of both films. Without that frenetic editing and the overwhelming heart, ‘Infinity War’ feels disconnected from the emotionality that it should have capitalised on.

Despite that criticism, this is an ambitious project which few people would have volunteered to take on board and succeed with. Somehow, the creators continue to keep their heads above water and have released an entertaining smorgasbord of MCU brilliance. The Russos adeptly include the stylistic elements of all the previous films, making the characters’ solo transitions to this film almost seamless. Almost. A handful of characters do feel out of sync, but not for long.

They even brought back Alan Silvestri, whose work on previous Marvel films ties the ‘Infinity War’ film score to all that has gone before. Most of the music is orchestral, but in line with Silvestri’s prior efforts. It’s not particularly memorable, bar the use of his Avengers theme, which is music to every Marvel fans’ ears.

I am glad that the creators decided to include humour – not as quip-a-minute slapstick character development, but as natural and organic interactions between highly egotistical characters unused to working with each other. The humour undercuts some of the darker moments, without taking away from the emotion.

Any crossover project like this will be met with grumblings from fans who feel their favourites didn’t get enough screen time. I will admit that I was surprised by some of the character emphases in this film and am equally bemused by those that were side-lined. It works all the same and every character has a vital role to play in moving the story along.

It is evident that each of the actors cherishes their role as a Marvel hero/villain. The quality of performances in superhero films is often overlooked but were the actors not 100% invested in bringing these characters to life, the franchise would not have survived this long. From Robert Downey Jr.’s frustrated Tony Stark, Chadwick Boseman and Danai Gurira’s bemused but determined T’Challa and Okoye, Chris Evans’ passionate Steve Rogers and the quirky likes of the Guardians of the Galaxy, each person draws in the audience with the characterisation that has become synonymous with their hero. Mark Ruffalo is a particular revelation in this film – capturing the audience’s attention in every scene he’s in. He wears Bruce Banner like a… well, a glove.

My biggest grouse with the writing of the film is that Markus and McFeely fall into the same trap as Joss Whedon in the first ‘The Avengers’ film – they try to pit several MCU characters against each other. It only organically works for one pair, but for the others, not so much. This is down to audiences’ familiarity with these characters. We already know these people and like the majority of them – watching them fight each other when we know they’re on the same side is just taking time away from the plot and organic character development.

‘Infinity War’ is a Marvel fan’s dream come true but it is not the MCU’s best film. Plodding exposition hinders the pace of the film and while Thanos is a real mean machine, he is not a villain with the menace and complexity that we were hoping for. He’s been built up and hyped too long to meet our expectations – he feels little more than a plot device, working away to wreak havoc on the galaxy and the Avengers.

But, the four-man team of the Russo brothers and Markus and McFeely behind the film have done the ambition of this film justice. Expect the unexpected in ‘Infinity War’, because there are twists at every corner. And that ending; every viewer will come away with questions after watching this film. This could be the most talked about Marvel film yet following that denouement. Let the speculation and conjecture begin.

Written by:

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Lestat de Lioncourt
Random Thoughts – Lestat’s Blog
@EnsignLestat58
Freelance Contributor

 

Louis’s Perspective:

It’s finally here – the superhero event of the 21st century. Ten years of planning and 18 films later, we have Avengers: Infinity War.

Thanos (Josh Brolin) is on the warpath. He needs the six infinity stones so he can wield the ultimate power in the universe – the infinity gauntlet. With it, he will be an unstoppable god. But, the stones are hidden all over the universe. Plus, pesky mortals keep trying to stop him from getting to the stones. He will need his most ruthless warriors to find the stones for him, or else he will have to get his hands dirty, and lay waste to those who stand in his way.

Meanwhile on Earth, Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) recruit Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) to help them defeat the new threat heading towards the planet. But, Thanos’ Black Order are far more formidable than they realize. Fortunately, they don’t have to wait long before receiving help from unusual sources. Can they beat Thanos to the infinity stones and save the universe?

It is difficult to explain the plot of this film because pretty much everything is a spoiler. Despite the endless trailers and featurettes that Marvel routinely produces, the core plot points still managed to remain hidden, a massive achievement for the blockbuster film to end all blockbusters.

To call Infinity War a superhero film almost seems like a disservice to it (looking at you, James Cameron). Like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok before it, Infinity War is a mashup of a number of genres. It is part comic book adaptation, part Sci-Fi, part comedy and part tragedy. All these genres come together as a surprisingly cohesive whole that puts Infinity War well ahead of its Avengers predecessors.

There is a massive amount of CGI in the film and, though we have come to expect high quality from the Marvel films, the CGI is still worth mentioning. This film is character-driven, so there isn’t time to dwell on backdrops and new planets. Thus, the graphics, though very good, look strangely lifeless. The characters in the film visit a number of planets but it is obvious that they are all shot against a green-screen. The characters rarely interact with anything but each other, which is a shame because the scope of this film is huge.

The threat that Thanos poses also affects the colour scheme of the film, which is tonally dark. At first glance, it feels far too pared down, especially when compared to the bright colour palettes of Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther or the Guardians of the Galaxy films. It works because of the subject matter but visually, this film is a bit too dark to stand out in the canon.

The multi-genre approach works well here but it is still secondary to characterisation, something the film gets very right. One of Infinity War’s greatest strengths is its villain, Thanos. Long-teased but barely seen, Thanos had the potential to be a disastrous one-note villain. He, surprisingly, is not.

Writers Marcus and McFeely add depth and layers to the character, giving Thanos far more nuance than seemed possible. He is not quite a competition to the tortured Loki fans loved in The Avengers but he is close. The Thanos we see here is more than just a ‘bad guy’. He is a father, a master, a believer, a man on a mission he thinks of vital importance which nobody else seems to understand. We only knew of the tragedies that lay in Thanos’ wake, but there are tragedies to this character that we only learn about in this film.

Josh Brolin, despite the CGI face, does an excellent job at emoting and giving Thanos personality. One may not be rooting for him by the end of the film but you will definitely understand the reasons behind his actions.

There are a lot of characters in this film! One look at the cast list is evidence that almost the entire MCU is here. The Russo Brothers had a similar task with Civil War and managed to pull it off with only slight hiccups. This film is on an even grander scale but also much more polished. The Avengers get a fairly equal amount of screen time, which fans will be relieved to see. However, considering that Thanos was primarily a Guardians of the Galaxy villain, that group sees more collective screen-time than any of the others.

Plot and visual effects aside, most fans will be eager to see how this vast number of characters interact with each other. For the most part, these interactions are note-perfect and will please fans. There are probably only a couple of instances that seem jarring but actually add to the plot so that works out well.

This, of course, brings me to the deaths in this film. No spoilers but, as rumours would have it, characters do die in Infinity War. And, after 18 films, it is surprising that the MCU can still shock audiences. There are a lot of unexpected moments that will make your jaw drop and have you crying out in anguish. How precisely the MCU will recover from the events of this film will be cause for much conjecture in the coming months.

My only grouse with this film was that it was exposition-heavy, not as cumbersome as Avengers: Age of Ultron, but there were still a few too many scenes where characters stood about talking instead of doing something.

Also, though the humour generally balanced out the sombre moments, a couple of scenes seemed overlong and bordered on cringe-worthy. A quick snip by the editor would have been well-placed. Having said that, for the most part, the directors managed to get the pacing right while also maintaining the tones of the solo films they were incorporating into this larger property. That the writers and directors have managed to pull off a film of this scale is a huge achievement for cinema and testament to the talents of the people behind the scenes.

Infinity War is an event fans will remember for a long time but not just because of the scope of what Marvel has achieved with this franchise and this film, but because of its unexpected plot, its diverse and fascinating characters and because, underneath the bluster and the brawn, Infinity War is an incredibly well-told story. This is the Avengers film we have been waiting for and the one we deserve.

Written by:

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 20.58.57

Louis Skye
@LouisSkye77
bloggingatwarp10.blogspot.com
Freelance Contributor

 

Kieran’s Perspective:

10 years ago I went to see Iron Man. At 13, with no knowledge about film and no desire to pursue it at all as a career, it was just a lot of fun to see the pages of comic books leap out and dance. It became habitual to see all of these Marvel films from that point onwards. The thing with Marvel films is that largely, they’re quite unremarkable. They’re funny, solidly written, and a god-send for the popcorn industry. They’re good at what they do. What they don’t do, (for the most part), is astonish, push boundaries, or distinguish themselves. In fairness, it’s difficult to distinguish oneself from oneself; Marvel practically a monopoly of its own genre as the folks over at DC still furiously try to learn how to stick a tape in a VHS player. I don’t think I speak just for myself, though, when I say we learn from them. When you’re going through a bad break up, flick on Age of Ultron to hear Vision’s words: ‘A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.’ When you’re feeling low, hard done by, and beaten to the ground, tune into Civil War as Cap, bleeding from head to toe, resolutely rises to grimace ‘I could do this all day.’ And, if you just feel damn mad about something, press play on Avengers, learn Banner’s secret, and watch him turn into the magnificent green rage monster that smashes everything in his path. The MCU, for an entire generation, has provided catharsis, ideals, and growth. So, 10 years after it all started, it’s hard to review Infinity War without some emotional bias.

I liked it. A lot. There was a lot of fear that the overwhelming amount of characters sandwiched into one film would lead to it feeling overstuffed. The Russo brothers and screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus have done probably the best job they could possibly have. This is The Lord of the Rings of its genre. Specifically, The Two Towers, an adventure where groups of heroes split off into several B plots, all relatively interesting, with enough screen time to merit their stories. The editing becomes a bit frantic and choppy as the film cascades towards its final third, but largely, and incredibly, the flick remains not just coherent, but engaging.

It’s funny too, as you’d expect really. Established fan favourites meet for the first time with effortless chemistry. Whether it’s Chris Pratt’s Star Lord having a masculinity contest with Thor, or Steven Strange and Tony Stark as foils to each other, it all really works.

Thanos is the best thing to happen to the MCU. He might be 100% CGI, but he’s also 100% human. While critics rave over the excellent Killmonger in Black Panther, Thanos surpasses him. The dizzying scale of the story works in his favour, as amongst all the crash, bang, wallop, fate of the universe rhetoric is bandied about, Thanos is incredibly grounded. His resolute drive is admirable, but only because his cause is, while never fully reasonable; understandable. McFeely and Markus are the champions here; they script Thanos as equal to our heroes, even telling the story from his POV more often than say, Stark, or Cap. You leave feeling unconvinced that he’s actually a bad guy, even if he is the bad guy. If ever my eyes came close to tears, it was Thanos who was cutting the onions. The result of this ‘antagonist’ was a maturity seldom seen across Marvel films, and a real Shakespearean tragedy if you can look beyond the relentless special effects.

But, with my emotional connection to the MCU perhaps clouding the judgment here, it’s my responsibility to make this review, in the words of Thanos himself, “perfectly balanced, as all things should be.” There are problems. While Infinity War works better than it ever should have, its colossal cast is too much, forcing concessions from certain characters’ screen time, robbing them of anything particularly meaningful, or new, to do. There’s also a big, stupid, mindless drone alien army that comes out nowhere to fight – you know, because it’s a blockbuster, and blockbusters need big, stupid, mindless drone alien armies. For those that aren’t really invested in the MCU, there’s not much for you here either. The action is relentless, often just for action’s sake, with several fights not wholly necessary to drive the plot along. At two and a half hours, these were obvious areas to cut down. The plot is thin, literally circling around a glove-shaped McGuffin, masked with the success of the universe’s characters and their interplay.

But all in all, none of these problems are enough to stop me singing the film’s praises. 10 years in the making, Marvel has done an amazing job consistently upholding a fair standard, developing interweaving plots and characters all towards this movie. Well, and part 2 coming next May, and with the haunting final five minutes to Infinity War, you’ll be left wanting for next May to come around fast.

Written by:

Kieran Rae
@KieranRae95
Freelance Contributor

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