First of all, I need to make clear that I have watched all of the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU)/Disney franchise films, minus maybe one or two (SUICIDE SQUAD and possibly one other), and usually in short order after each movie’s release. Hence, I’ve been able to stay in the flow of the multiple interweaved narratives in the MCU. If you are someone who hasn’t done this, you will not necessarily enjoy the 2018 installment, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, one of the few most chock-full Marvel productions to date, with the exception of its more recent sequel that wraps it all up: AVENGERS: ENDGAME. This is not a movie to see if you haven’t kept up with the Marvel Studios of Disney cycle. You may feel lost and often confused, possibly even indifferent.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this second to final film in the Avengers series. I had girded myself for an over-crowded, spread-thin production where only the villain had enough consistent footage and gravitas. Fortunately, that was not the case.
What impressed me throughout the movie was its pacing and clever balance of humor and serious drama. The story is indeed action packed, but threaded together well to prevent a sense of gratuitousness or pointless shock value from developing. The acting and material given to each actor to work with were both of a solid caliber. It can be argued, and already has been elsewhere, that certain characters were short-shrifted in time and development. Be that as it may, I bear in mind that this is often inevitable with any large ensemble cast in a multiple episode narrative, be it on film/screen digital, TV, or in a book series. Some characters are chosen to be at the core of a saga while others remain more supporting, off to the side, in order to keep plot-lines tight enough to follow and the audience’s sense of connection to the players strong. However, this core can shift and evolve with time the longer a universe is continuously created. For one thing, the core or primary circle of characters gradually enlarges. This appeared to be the case with AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Scenes with each superhero were pertinent for us viewers to witness, highlighting each individual’s dilemmas, motivations, and primary emotions.
One such scene around the middle of the film comes to mind. Thor (Christopher Hemsworth) has just been rescued in outer space by the Guardians of the Galaxy team after humorously banging up against their ship’s front window, as if he were a bird hitting a car windshield. Later, during a rare moment of calm and personal exchange, Thor sits and reflects aloud on his numerous losses of family members and friends. His attentive, listening witness is a wonderful choice: Rocket Raccoon (a CGI voiced by Bradley Cooper), a sarcastic, hard-talking anthropomorphized raccoon. He clearly has taken a quick liking to and admiration of the Prince of Asgard, someone Rocket views as both “angel and pirate.” We the audience join Rocket in watching Thor open his heart for a bit, with the former asking a few questions to help the latter man (and demigod) open up. Not only does this previously loud and obnoxious Raccoon begin to soften somewhat inside as a character, i.e., evolve towards being more human, but we see a vulnerable Thor relay one of the main purposes– if not the main one– to the entire story. He basically states, while tearing up, that all of his rage, anguish, and sadness is a good motivator to push on and do what needs to be done. In other words, use your feelings as the pure energy that they are to keep on going in life and accomplish what’s necessary and more. Thor then tightens his lips and moves his chin in such a way as to relay some levity about the situation in which he finds himself, adding another layer of feeling and good perspective to the obvious sadness filling him up inside. He relays such wisdom here, that union of knowledge from life experience with compassion, including for oneself. The warrior has clearly matured, which all true warriors (as opposed to soldiers) do. Each of us face adversities all the time, so often small and easily manageable but also some that are periodically large and daunting. If Thor can carry on and do what’s right and good, so can we, for we too are warriors in this thing called life. Such high drama with Christopher Hemsworth rising to the occasion and delivering.
There is family drama a-plenty in the film, which keeps things interesting and very human. Thanos, the villain, is on a mission to destroy half of life in the known universe in order to save worlds from the bane of overpopulation, while consolidating omniscient power for himself via his quest to possess all six of the Infinity Stones. His adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the green humanoid (Zen-Whoberis) woman who is part of the Guardians of the Galaxy team, appeals to any hope of humanity in him. Their on-screen tension is acutely felt. Continuing from a dynamic of rivalry and favoritism set up in the two GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies, Thanos continues to find ways to torture his weaker adopted daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan) while favoring the stronger Gamora. The last existing Zen-Whoberis– her people destroyed by Thanos– has evolved into a more compassionate being, thanks to her membership on a pirate-like team traveling through space while she enjoys a budding romance with the Guardians’ leader Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star-Lord, played by Chris Pratt). Also, she and Nebula have reached a sort of truce with each other after duking it out in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2. All of this is to say why Thanos capitalizes on Gamora’s relatively new-found compassion by torturing Nebula in front of her to force her hand in revealing to him the location of one of the Infinity Stones. This family triangle is one of the most compelling interpersonal dynamics in the whole movie, because of its complexity, emotional intensity, and believability.
I did find one character to be disappointing yet watchable and sympathetic nonetheless: Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland). I have previously written a review of 2017’s MCU movie SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING. (See my review of it, posted August 18, 2017.) In there, I discussed the issues I have around the changes made on this superhero for his latest movie incarnations. Again, his outfit was over-the-top, this time with added robotic spider legs that quickly appear and disappear from out of his suit whenever needed. It can be argued that Spidey indeed required such high tech. to more effectively fight such powerful adversaries while in a spaceship and then on another planet. I eventually came around to this understanding but the origins of Spider-Man’s upgraded tights does not sit well with me. The mentor-mentee relationship between Tony Stark/Ironman and Peter Parker/Spiderman is heart-felt and touching, however.
I was excited to see how Black Panther and his wonderful associates arrive in the storyline, even though he and they do not have as much screen time as I’d have preferred.
This movie does justice to the overall arc of the Marvel Avengers series, delivering immersive, dramatic spectacle entertainment one comes to expect with this big screen franchise. My inner boy who became captivated with the images of Marvel’s Avengers decades ago was duly thrilled and impressed.
Sadly, for me, AVENGERS: ENDGAME, the final installment to this long, somewhat uneven, but mostly good Marvel-Disney series did not maintain the momentum and proper pacing that INFINITY WAR did. (But, more on that another time, perhaps.)