After a decade of patronage, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ takes its viewers to high highs and low lows. If you’re an MCU fan, you may find yourself buying another ticket for a repeat viewing.
If I were to channel Mantis’ empathic skills to understand Thanos’ plan of saving the universe by wiping half of it, I would stray no further and ponder on the two-hour excruciating morning commute I had to go through to catch an 8AM screening of Avengers: Infinity War. These days, every place is so crowded: roads, restrooms, restaurants, theater houses… there’s an endless queue for almost everything. Not to mention a climate change as moody as a Teenage Groot! For someone who lives in a third world country, Thanos’ vision is not actually hard to take in. Don’t tell me you never fantasized, even just for a second, about erasing half of the human race (spare yourself and your loved ones) at a snap of your finger. The earth will suddenly be a more sustainable planet to live in, right? I guess I feel like Thanos some days, growing increasingly impatient and cynic, looking for quick solutions in this problem-infested world. Thanos believe he’s the hero in his story and I can’t blame him for that.
That makes Thanos as arguably the best MCU villain to date. The Mad Titan’s quest for the infinity stones boils down to an end goal we can all relate to: addressing overpopulation in the midst of scarcity. (The same goes for Killmonger’s plan to liberate the black race in Black Panther). Thanos is the center of the story here; we finally get to know his back story and explore his estranged relationship with his adoptive daughter Gamora. He feels loss and burden but he is more driven than ever to finish what he started, even if it costs him everything. Actor Josh Brolin has the enviable task of giving weight and dimension to this purple giant and the resulting motion-capture performance ends up affecting.
But of course, Thanos is not the main reason why you’ll buy a ticket for this film. You’re here for the cast ensemble. Because Infinity War is also a story of how alliances are formed among the heroes we used to see in MCU’s standalone films. Some of them might not like each other, but with the fate of the universe hanging in balance, they’ll do what they have to do. Like a hit rendition of “We Are The World” brimming on the edge with your favorite artists, this film gives the same amount of feels. Look, that’s Tony Stark and Doctor Strange clashing egos! That’s Star-Lord exuding an unnatural amount of machismo in front of Thor! That’s Bruce Banner awkwardly bowing down to King T’Challa! That’s Okoye fighting side by side with Black Widow! Okay, I’ll stop now. This film makes MCU fans hyperventilate in ecstasy, it’s essentially a fan service but it’s never done cheap and meaningless.
Much like Iron Man’s slick nano-tech suit upgrade, we see how the main characters have evolved significantly since the first time we saw them: Tony Stark flirts on the notion of settling down, Peter Quill and Gamora are finally being honest about their feelings and so are Wanda and Vision, Thor is now a god searching for a purpose after the destruction of his home Asgard in Ragnarok, Steve Rogers has embraced his moral compass in the face of institutional corruption, and so on. Yes, some of the minor players get the shorter end of the stick and mostly serve as comic-reliefs or extra set of hands during the explosive third act, but it’s hard to get mad for those little things given that the film has an overwhelming amount of characters. Marvel has done most of the job in the past and deservingly earned its fan base in the process. Hence, exposition here is at a minimum, it’s now time to witness how these character arcs come together.
And with like 30 characters or so vying for their screen time in this film, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are given the daunting responsibility of threading each one into the narrative all while incorporating ten years’ worth of mythology into a solid script. Could they have done better? I can’t really say, but in the hands of a clumsy writer, Infinity War, at best, will end up looking like a crowded souvenir photo. Thank God it’s far from that case.
It also works hugely thanks to the competent directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who helmed Captain America: Civil War. It’s tough to play with characters coming from tonally different films and make them work as a cohesive whole. The Russo brothers maintain momentum all throughout: Infinity War moves briskly like a roller coaster traversing from one other-worldly set-piece to another, featuring jaw-dropping small to large scale action, peppered with playful banters along the way. It takes you to highs and lows that you can hardly gasp for air. Still, the whole ride never feels too long that you may find yourself buying another ticket.
Plot-wise, Infinity War is perhaps the most straightforward film in MCU and there’s no shame in that. Still, those who haven’t done their homework and watched at least the “essential” MCU films will be short of having a rich viewing experience. (If you’re on crunch time, do check this recap.) This movie in fact does not mainly aim on bringing new audiences to the ship but it’s more dedicated on serving the fans, especially the old-timers who has been there since 2008 when Iron Man changed the film industry for good. The film stands weaker on its own hence it should be treated like a season finale of a prestige TV series played on the big screen with a humongous budget. If you’re not caught up, some of it won’t make sense.
In the film’s final 15 minutes, all the thrills turn into tension, then into dread. It left me shell-shocked to the core and all that’s left in my heart is an eerie calmness, a counterpoint to all the spectacle showcased earlier. Much of the hype of Infinity War rests on who will survive and who will die in this epic chapter but the reason why we really care about these heroes is that Marvel made us believe and invest in them. The iconic characters reflected through the unforgettable performances from its actors allowed us to follow them up to this foreboding dark conclusion. Come to think the beauty of it, this generation of fans all over the world are now experiencing this level of complex emotions in unison.
Marvel has set a highly ambitious goal and hits its mark. For that, I am extraordinarily impressed.
5 out of 5 stars
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is now showing in PH cinemas.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Don Cheadle (James Rhodes/War Machine), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Stephen Strange), Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spiderman), Chadwick Boseman (King T’Challa/Black Panther), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Paul Bettany (Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch), Anthony Mackie (Wade Wilson/Falcon), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/White Wolf), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Dave Bautista (Drax), Bradley Cooper (Groot), Vin Diesel (Groot), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Benedict Wong (Wong), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Winston Duke (M’Baku), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Benicio Del Toro (The Collector), Josh Brolin (Thanos) and Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord). Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, from a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
Runtime: 2 hours, 36 minutes