Note: To the best of my ability, I have written this post to include as few details or spoilers as possible from the film. But if you want to experience the film fresh and uninfluenced, it would probably be a good idea to wait on this post until after all of the credits have rolled.
In theaters today, April 27, is “Avengers: Infinity War,” an unprecedented event 10 years and 18 films in the making. Featuring an outsized cast and absurdly powerful villain, “Infinity War” is the culmination of all of the post credits scenes, side plots and Easter eggs alluding to the Infinity Stones and Thanos’s quest to possess them that began in “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
“Infinity War” opens on a Bond villainesque description of an evil plan, laid out by Thanos to several Avengers. After an attempt to assemble the group, for what we are informed is the first time since the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” the ensemble is isolated into two major divisions with frequent breakouts of smaller groups. Featured in the film are essentially all of the New York Avengers team, the Guardians, the Wakandans, several Asgardians and the sorcerers of the Sanctum (Dr. Strange, et al.). Usually in writing reviews of films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I attempt balance and measure, but still wind up with more of a gush.
“Infinity Wars” is not worthy of gushing.
Relative to the net average of enjoyment I typically get from movie watching, films from the MCU are reliably not just good but great. And, even beyond the ever growing connections built between films over the last four years, each film is enjoyable, coherent and satisfyingly self-contained. For this reason, it was out of the studio’s character to announce “Infinity War” initially as a two-part event, before backtracking once two-part series chapters went out of vogue. Make no mistake: “Infinity War” is very much Part I.
And therein lies my disappointment. The premise of this movie is already loaded: based on fidelity with similar plot lines in the comics and the expiry date of several of the biggest stars contracts, it’s easy to relish in the queasy anticipation of who will make it out of the film alive. And yet, I left the theater as uneasy, if not more so, than when I arrived. The whole film feels more like a first act, and a rather dour one at that. The hallmark of these films, and especially of those in the “Avengers” installments, is the feeling of exhilaration that comes from the swell of theme music laid over a charge into battle. “Infinity War,” though essentially a non-stop battle, lacked that exhilaration.
Beyond an overall feeling of anticipation left lingering, “Infinity War” does not handle its massive cast as deftly as past ensembles like “Age of Ultron” and “Civil War” did. The film focuses most thoroughly on emotional journeys of five characters, but attempts moments of epiphany, acceptance or growth with many more. However, few of these moments land without feeling like an expedited manipulation of the audience. Further, the characters who get more time and space for their journeys are not necessarily the ones that are the most interesting or engaging. I generally found time was languished upon characters who I either did not need or did not want more focus on, while more dynamic threads were not followed.
None of this is to say that the movie was not a generally enjoyable watch. In small scale, scene-by-scene, “Infinity War” is quippy and fast-paced, and it was by no means boring or down-trodden, despite its almost hilariously high stakes and indefatigable villain. While the ensemble was split generally in a pleasing way, there was virtually no cross-interaction between factions. Why take a juggernaut cast and preclude many of the scenes that carry the jubilation of a massive crossover?
While I had several major issues and many more minor ones with “Avengers: Infinity War,” it still is a display of novelty and accomplishment on a historic level for any studio and the movie industry as a whole. I had tremendous expectation and anticipation of the third installment of the “Avengers.” I look forward to seeing the rest of it in May 2019.