‘Avengers: Infinity War’ review: Grim and Tonic

Life is a Cinema Hall rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) (This rating is only a snapshot. The details are in the words.)

The creaking sound of welded metal that opens up the latest Avengers outing is portent. And sure enough, the first scene’s as grim as they come in the Marvel universe, resulting in a death in the first ten minutes. Directed by brothers Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, Avengers: Infinity War is a checklist of sorts in terms of all that Marvel movies have been building up to. For die-hard Avengers fans who’ve lapped up (and remember) all the 18 movies that precede this opus, it’s surely a delight, connecting all the dots and ticking off all their intergalactic notes and pointers.

Benedict Cumberbtach, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Benedict Wong face a stoney villain
Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr., BenedictWong, and Mark Ruffalo face a stoney villain.

For the rest, it’s sheer fun laced with drama that seems all too brief and humor that’s on the money. One look at the movie poster and you know this is ensemble stuff, and a director’s and production assistant’s worst nightmare-come-true on Overwhelming Street. And strangely enough, here’s where the fun – and the problem – in this movie lies. All the characters – hang on, not all; there’s some more to come in the next part of this blizzard of superheroes – are here. And they have a common enemy, Thanos – played with literal and cinematic heft by Josh Brolin – who’s now out to collect all of the Infinity stones and kill half of all life in the universe.

Chris Pratt, Pom Klementieff, and Vin Diesel are about to run into disaster.
Chris Pratt, Pom Klementieff, and Vin Diesel are about to run into disaster.

He and his lieutenants  – Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary), Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), and Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw) – have run-ins with the superheroes across different planets, spaceships, and cities. If you can’t, don’t bother mapping these locations in the universe and simply go with the ride as the Russo brothers demo what configuration management is, pairing different groups of heroes to fight with the fiendish forces, even as they try and stave off Janos’s access to the stones.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen discover that being stoned can problematic.
Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen discover that being stoned can problematic.

There’s some emotional weight that the directors and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely strive to get to all that’s whizzing and banging on the screen, and to a certain extent, they succeed – especially with Zoe Saldana‘s Gamora and her struggle to redeem herself and Vision’s (Paul Bettany) race to keep his stone out of Thanos’s reach with the help of the torn-between-him-and-his-decision Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). There’s lots of unrequited feelings that gasp in anguish as the fight steams up, but they all disintegrate as the checklist of deaths is ticked off. In that sense, there’s a sense of morbid curiosity to see who and how many characters kick the super-bucket. The answer? The list is long and formidable, and yet when your curiosity is quenched, there’s actually a lack of gut-wrench, at least in most of the cases. Which is where the grim beginning fails to capitalize on your initial feelings of dread and fear, and instead focuses on the CGI action and whiz-bang-zip action.

Josh Brolin is the movie's tour de force.
Josh Brolin is the movie’s tour de force.

But the humor-tonic – and there’s mercifully quite some of it – is superb, especially the impeccable timing between Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) – who eventually sets the stage and plan for the climax, knowing all and telling nothing –  as they play off with Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo); elsewhere, in the Guardians of Galaxy team, Chris Pratt‘s irreverent turn as Peter Quill / Star-Lord is highly entertaining, as are his verbal jousts with  Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). Even the scene where Stark struggles with himself to call Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans – salon spoiler alert: now sporting a beard) is superbly done.

The cast of characters is so long – including all the voices and cameos –  that just listing them here would immediately qualify as a piece of its own. And that’s the other problem with Infinity War, one that comes self-wrapped and is par for the course – with so many heroes and sub-stories struggling for IMAX space, there’s just so much that the directors can do with and for each character in the already long-running, nearly 3-hour movie.  So while someone like T’Challa / Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is given action pieces, there’s really no connect to him or his kingdom. But that’s where the 18-movie long checklist comes in handy – and in a manipulatively marketing sense, it’s all designed to send you scouring for the earlier movies.

In all this, while Alan Silvestri‘s score is really just template big-bang orchestra, the action sequences are truly a marvel, especially the onslaught on the kingdom of Wakanda. Towering above all of this is Thanos, the tour de force in this feature, the stone-hungry wannabe ruler of the Universe, quelling his own feelings to achieve what he wants the most – epitomizing our modern-day, power hungry politicians who desire the seductive and compelling seat at the throne at any cost. While the Avengers pay a price for their principles and their positions on the superhero dashboard, it is Thanos who’s haunted by the steep cost of his ambition. It is he who learns that it’s truly lonely at the top.

Life is a Cinema Hall ratings chart
1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5): Don’t bother
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5): Not too great
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5): Worth a watch
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5): Very good
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5): Drop everything else NOW

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) on IMDb

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Avengers: Infinity War  is rated U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years) There’s intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and bleeped language; plus for the hours you’ll spend explaining to them what became of their favorite superheroes.

Avengers: Infinity War
 Anthony Russo, Joe Russo Running Time 2h 29 min
Writers  Christopher Markus Stephen McFeely
Stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt
  Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Watch the trailer of Avengers: Infinity War here: