Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
And so begins the end of an era. 10 years ago, Marvel Studios put into action an idea they had only envisioned. An idea so bold, original, grand & ambitious that nothing like it had ever been attempted before in cinema history. The plan was to create a shared universe centred on a series of individual superhero films that would later merge into a crossover feature. To create a tapestry of a consistently evolving saga that would borrow plot elements & characters from different films without diluting their individuality. And it worked. It flourished. It exceeded all expectations. And it was so influential that it completely redefined the way this genre is handled nowadays.
It was necessary to pave a strong foundation on which Marvel’s shared universe concept could stand upon. And Iron Man offered them exactly that. Still one of their finest features to date and an origin story that ranks right up there with the best, the first chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe marked the beginning of an era that would go on to change the very landscape of comic book filmmaking in the years to come. The crucial moment was in 2012 when Marvel released The Avengers, the crossover feature that they had been planning from the beginning. This was the film that was going to answer if Marvel’s gamble would pay off in big dividends or not. And the rest is history.
The astonishing success of The Avengers instantly put Marvel Studios ahead of all, heralded a new era of superhero films, and they have only strengthened their position over the years. It has been a decade since we embarked on the journey that commenced with Iron Man and in those 10 years, Marvel produced a total of 19 feature films, bringing both new & familiar faces into their ever expanding universe. Everything that has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its inception has led to this. Avengers: Infinity War is where this decade’s worth of narrative & world-building pays off. And that’s what makes it more than just another MCU instalment. It’s an epic moment, no less than a cinematic event.
The 19th instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first of the two planned Avengers films that will conclude their Phase 3 plan, Avengers: Infinity War follows the all-powerful Thanos as he traverses across the universe, looking for infinity stones which together will grant him the strength to impose his will on all of reality and realise his twisted goal of restoring balance in the universe by wiping out half of all lives. Decimating everyone in his path and collecting the artefacts of unimaginable power one by one, the intergalactic despot finally confronts the Avengers & their allies, all of whom have managed to protect the world from every threat in the past, as the fate of Earth & existence itself hangs in balance.
Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo, Infinity War begins where Thor: Ragnarok signed off and the destruction that unfolds in the opening segment sets the tone for the rest of the story. It’s by all means an extremely ambitious undertaking by the Russo brothers but Captain America: Civil War proved that it’s them who were best suited for tackling this massive assignment than anyone else. And for the most part, they do a neat job at it. One major relief comes from the fact that plenty of screen time is allotted to Thanos, the biggest & baddest villain of them all who so far had only been teased in small doses. Infinity War puts him front & centre, almost as if it’s his movie, and the decision to focus on his backstory & motivations really helps the narrative.
With pretty much everyone from previous MCU films making their appearance, Infinity War is filled to the brim with numerous characters we have acquainted ourselves with over the last decade. And though it can be overwhelming and even result in an overkill, grouping them into small factions does make it easy to follow the different segments headed towards same destination. There is more at stake here than previous entries and in Thanos we have a villain who effortlessly lives up to the expectations. His motivation for the sick fantasy that he wants to turn into reality isn’t as strongly appealing as required but it’s still serviceable. However, the film actually lacks that smooth, perfect balance the first Avengers film exhibited in all aspects, and struggles now n then when it comes to juggling its constantly shifting tones.
The visual effects team deserves the maximum credit, for everything from the set pieces to numerous locations to changing backdrops & settings to characters’ appearances & outfits is an end product of their work. It’s their countless hours of visual rendering that makes this grandeur epic a cinematic possibility. Also, despite being darker than preceding chapters, the film isn’t lacking in humour and makes sure to keep its lighthearted vibe alive & kicking whenever there is an opportunity for it. Camerawork is at its finest during moments of action, plus there are plenty of scenes that will make the audience cheer at the spectacle they are witnessing on the big screen. But it can also be somewhat exhausting since CGI-laden action segments don’t carry that lasting effect and may become tiring after a while, which is exactly what happens here.
There are a lot of familiar worlds we revisit in Infinity War, and then some new ones we are introduced to. Production design team does well to add a sense of uniqueness to the new locations explored in this film and the level of detailing in set pieces, both big & small, is quite commendable. Cinematography is splendid, using IMAX cameras to capture the images in sharp detail & crisp clarity, but it fails to make the most of the available technology by operating the cameras in conventional fashion. Colour palette is wonderfully utilised and lighting is apt too. Editing is excellent for the most part, making sure the action keeps surfacing regularly to keep the interest alive but there were several moments that it could have clipped from its already demanding 149 minutes runtime. And last but not the least, Alan Silvestri delivers a rousing soundtrack that further uplifts the film’s larger-than-life aura.
Coming to the performances, barring a few exceptions, the entire ensemble of the MCU return to reprise their respective roles of the Avengers, the Guardians or their allies. The real main attraction is Josh Brolin as Thanos who finally takes centerstage in this film after appearing only briefly in some of the earlier entries. The years of careful threading that has gone into hyping him as the overlord of villainy & darkness ultimately works out in the film’s favour, for Thanos makes up for one formidable supervillain who’s much more intimidating than previous Marvel antagonists and Brolin’s conquering voice & impressive motion capture rendition makes the character stand out even more. There is an attempt to make us invest in him emotionally but it isn’t done well enough. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that Thanos more than lives up to the hype and overshadows everyone.
As for the rest of the cast, Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark (Iron Man) with all his charisma & magnetic screen presence in tact and contributes with a confidently assured performance. Chris Hemsworth is even better as Thor and has the most interesting arc of all Avengers in this story. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers (Captain America) is no slouch either and earns his moments to shine. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Doctor Strange with same demeanour as before, plus his interaction with others is a delight to watch. Tom Holland is effortlessly captivating as Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and steals pretty much every scene he appears in. Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner (Hulk) is mostly in for comic relief this time. Among the Guardians, Dave Bautista turns out to be most amusing but rest aren’t far behind. There isn’t just enough space for all characters, many roles are reduced to mere cameos, and the ones who stay for longer do well with what they are given.
On an overall scale, Avengers: Infinity War is a highly enjoyable, entertaining & satisfying extravaganza that somehow manages to live up to its enormous hype. An action-packed, big-budget blockbuster of epic proportions, the film keeps delivering one action set piece after another, barely letting the audience breathe, and though it keeps majority of filmgoers engaged, the dramatic portions suffer because of that, thus preventing the film from achieving the greatness that was up for grabs. There’s no denying that the film has plenty of unexpected surprises & unforeseen tragedies in store, and the ending is sure to hit fans hard, but all of it would’ve left a far more powerful & unforgettable impact if we didn’t already know that much of it will be undone in the upcoming Avengers sequel. All in all, despite a few shortcomings, Avengers: Infinity War does pay off 10 years’ worth of investment with an exhilarating action-adventure spectacle and wraps itself up by setting a perfect stage for the grand finale.