Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War (2018) is the aspirational, mid-career double album of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s overlong, overstuffed, yet digestible mostly because a handful of inspired moments remind us of “the way things used to be”, and the way things could be in the future.
In Infinity War, the mains of the first two Avengers features are joined by the casts of Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy series (2014-present), along with your friendly neighborhood Spider Man (Tom Holland), to engage in a globe-trotting, sometimes-intergalactic battle with Thanos (Josh Brolin), an indigo-skinned tyrant intent on controlling the universe. This will be done by collecting six “infinity stones” that will give him the ability to control all reality as we know it.
As urgent as this sounds, 70% of Infinity War’s 160 minutes is spent in the throes of development. Rather than allow all its characters to coalesce at once, there’s hopping about from subplot to subplot. Most of the movie-specific ensembles are kept in semi-standalone storylines, usually interrupted by a visitant or two. (The Guardians retinue is joined by Thor; Iron Man, Spider Man, Dr. Strange, and the Hulk band together.)
I feel it is the smartest way to approach the narrative of an Avengers movie in 2018. In no way is it possible to have 50-plus characters in the same room, at the same time, to tidily make their intentions clear. Because there are so many characters and subplots, the movie feels strangely inconsequential, at least for the first 90-or-so minutes. We’re so busy double-checking on the various states of these groups that the film often lacks a necessary desperation. It isn’t until the last act that Infinity War becomes exactly what it should be: an expectations-defying, ferocious pulp adventure where things are actually capable of going awry.
Directors Russo’s fit comfortably in this universe (they impressively shot the film’s sequel immediately after wrapping), but they’re still not sure how to approach the less-is-more ideal. They’re obsessed with giving us more of what they think we love, which is fine until we remember that too much of a good thing can eventually become tiresome. Infinity War is enjoyable, although stakes-heavy, and yet I’m pressed to think of a reason why it had to be almost three hours in length.
Still, it often goes in directions we don’t think it’ll move toward, and thankfully doesn’t overdo the gravitas. It’s funnier than it is existentially uncertain, which is surprising for a three-hour epic this late in the game. Much as I’d like to say that there isn’t a need for another Marvel movie, (we’re at number 19, after all), I’m eager for part two of this particular opera. Fingers crossed I won’t be at the next movie for three hours…
A student at the University of Washington, Blake will major in Visual Communications or Journalism. petersonreviews.com