*Beware all ye who enter…spoilers are afoot!*
There’s much to unpack when it comes to Infinity War. So much, in fact, that it practically necessitates repeat viewings. Because the likelihood of picking up on each and every one of the dozens of fun character moments, easter eggs, one-liners and engrossing action beats in one viewing alone are minimal; partly owing to the fact that you’re taking somewhat of an emotional beating at the same time as trying to take everything else in. It clocks in at a runtime verging on 3 hours, and yet never even comes close to outstaying its welcome. Every single one of the film’s bladder-busting 149 minutes is utilised, with universe-hopping, inter-character relationship building, tear-jerking highs and lows, and the development of an overwhelmingly powerful villain crammed in; all without it ever becoming overcrowded. There’s not a toilet trip safe juncture to be found; the pace is relentless and any time spent away from the screen will leave you scrambling to fill in significant information blanks.
It’s a juggling act from directors the Russo brothers even more impressive than that which they achieved with Civil War (2016). In terms of character numbers we’re down Hawkeye and Ant-Man here (both under house arrest, which it seems they’re taking very seriously), but their absence is more than made up for by the presence of Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the Guardians of the Galaxy and many, many more. It’s a huge cast for what is an extraordinarily massive movie. And each has their moment in the spotlight. Drax brings the comedy (Dave Bautista keeps on getting better and better with each film), Robert Downey Jr. is reliably quippy as Tony Stark and Tom Holland continues to be entirely loveable as Spider-Man. The real winners here, however, are Chris Hemsworth, who conveys Thor’s sense of loss and sadness to tremendous effect, all the while balancing this out with the humour and bravado we’ve grown to expect from the God of Thunder, and Benedict Cumberbatch, who gets oodles of screen time as Doctor Strange, slotting himself in seamlessly alongside the longer standing Avengers crew.
With such a ginormous list of heroes, the table is set for an equally huge threat for them to contend with. Enter Josh Brolin’s genocidal Titan, Thanos, who’s brought to life with remarkably detailed CGI. Through a combination of brute force, Infinity Stone enabled powers, and one heartbreaking click of his fingers he tears through all who cross his path in a fashion unlike anything we’ve seen before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So often do we see hulking big CG baddies threatening to destroy the protagonists (à la all of the DCEU films), but never do we see them straight up win. We get an immediate display of his strength, with the brutal killing of none other than everyone’s favourite trickster, Loki. What better way for the Russos to signal to the audience that all bets are off and that no one is safe than for Thanos to so effortlessly off the lead villain of the first of the Avengers movies? Whilst his actions bring emotional beat downs to Spider-Man, Tony Stark, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) – all of which are felt intensely – it’s the weight that Thanos himself feels as a result of his own choices that’s most interesting. He has a plan which he is convinced is for the betterment of the universe and an unflinching will to execute it, even in the face of his own personal loss. In his eyes he’s the hero of his story, and he even receives his own happy ending. He could almost be relatable…if it weren’t for all of the mass murder.
There are a few minor quibbles, however. Peter Dinklage rocks up halfway through and puts in a performance as questionable as his Destiny effort. I found it difficult to fully invest in Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision’s (Paul Bettany) relationship until fairly late on into proceedings (though Captain America tagging along for their plot thread helps significantly). If Thor has spent all of Ragnarok (2017) learning that his powers don’t come from his hammer, they come from within, then why does he suddenly become intent on getting himself a replacement weapon (even if his new axe is pretty awesome)? But above all else, where in the universe are Korg (Taika Waititi), Miek and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)?! Frankly, though, these are issues that dissipated with the second and third viewings, becoming largely inconsequential nitpickings in amongst the abundance of impressively assembled parts that make up Infinity War.
At one point in the film, Peter Parker asks Tony Stark how he can be a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man if there’s no neighbourhood left to defend. The question Infinity War leaves is how can he go back to just being a “small scale” friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man after being a part of this behemoth? How do any of the smaller solo outings for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes raise their stakes high enough to make their villains feel like large enough of a threat after Thanos? Questions, perhaps, for another day. For now, we can just bask in the glory of our new lord and saviour Thanos…
All hail Thanos!
Rating (out of 5):