By: Christian Harding (Two Beers) –
So Avengers: Infinity War is finally in theaters… Yeah. It sure is…
But seriously, if there’s any major release coming out this summer that needs no introduction from myself or anyone else, it’s this puppy. If you aren’t already on board the Marvel train by now and don’t have at least a passing familiarity with the bulk of these characters, then I truly don’t have anything to add to the conversation. At this point everyone who would really enjoy it or is planning on seeing this film already knows if they want to or not. And on top of that, those who ARE planning on seeing it have likely already have (if the record shattering box office numbers are any indication), as to best avoid spoilers and the like. The bottom line here being that if there ever was something that was truly “critic proof”, it’d be the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its current form, and Avengers: Infinity War represents that better than anything else that has come before it.
“I must collect all of the infinity d’ohs!”
So going in with all of that in mind, is the film itself actually any good?
Well, yes. In fact, it’s about as good as it could’ve possibly been, given the circumstances of its release and the army of central characters needed to all be fit into the proceedings, all the while introducing a brand new central villain that’s not only been teased for the last handful of projects, but is meant to be the culmination of the last whole decade of Marvel joints. So the fact that Avengers: Infinity War needed to balance all of that and comes across as being remotely passable is a feat in and of itself, but fortunately this behemoth is more than merely passable, but is another reliably well done blockbuster from a studio that has yet to really screw the pooch.
Quality-wise, it’s about on par with the last handful of standalone features, in that it’s solidly made, breezily paced, and generally well acted by the bulk of its enormous cast, but is ultimately pretty lightweight and shallow. At the end of the day, this one plays less like the grandiose, ten-years-in-the-making emotional climax many devoted fans of this saga were likely anticipating and comes across more like the first half leading into the big finale, where the real meat of the story is yet to come, so that this one could be a bit more focused on magical stones, space lasers, punching, tying up loose plot threads from previous entries, one-liners, etc. Whereas that’d normally be an issue, the way everything is presented makes it all feel incredibly digestible and enjoyable in the same manner that Marvel Studios has managed to get down to perfection by this point.
But Avengers: Infinity War’s greatest addition to the whole of the Marvel franchise is hands down the introduction and utilization of Josh Brolin as Thanos. Now here is a character and performance that this reviewer was honestly expecting next to nothing from, especially after half-a-decade’s worth of build up and mid-credits teasers. Yet somehow, he immediately rises to the upper trier of an admittedly weak roster of Marvel villains as of late, thanks to a combination of layered, three-dimensional writing and Brolin’s more than capable motion capture performance. In fact, one could make the argument that large portions of Infinity War are structured around Thanos in such a way that he at times comes across as the true protagonist of this story, which is a decision which most certainly works to the benefit of Infinity War. In addition to the character himself being so interesting, and the fact that there are so many other familiar, beloved heroes all fighting for proper screen-time, unifying the story around the one central element each of the numerous side plots have in common (trying to stop Thanos from getting his hands on all of the infinity stones) makes everything come together in a refreshingly organic, singular fashion.
Actual picture from Marvel Studios mere hours after Infinity War was released to the public.
Potential spoiler warning for the remainder of the review:
As much as the character balancing act being done here is mostly on point and well-handled, particularly in relation to giving the central villain Thanos proper time to develop as a real character in addition to being a credible threat, it does come at somewhat of a price, at least depending on who your favorite Marvel characters are. Because a surprising number of previously important heroes and cast members get sidelined a fair bit in the long run. For example, poor Captain America and Black Panther probably got about ten minutes of meaningful screen-time each, and that’s just a few examples. But then again, the creative minds at work are most likely saving a bunch for the inevitable follow-up, and for what we did get here, the Russo Brothers managed to cover a lot of bases. It’s just that you can’t really begrudge any of the fanbase if they feel as if their favorite characters got cheated out of some meaningful interactions.
Look, everyone reading this most likely already knows whether or not they are going to see this or not. It’s going to break every single box office record imaginable and will also probably create a few new ones along the way as well. Fortunately, Avengers: Infinity War is a pretty entertaining film on its own merits, so we’re spared having to watch another, cheap, uninspired studio dumpster fire rake in all the dough this time around. If you’ve never watched a Marvel film before and just go into this one cold, it will almost certainly come across as an incoherent, jumbled mess. But for anyone that’s been following the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since the beginning, this will prove to be a completely satisfying experience, and hopefully provides enough meat to chew on for the next year of waiting to see how it all wraps up. Until then, all I can say is “oh snap!”
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: each time Thanos gets an infinity stone.
Do Another Shot: if/when a popular hero character bites the dust (cap on this rule: three shots).
Shotgun a Beer: whenever two characters who had never met before finally cross paths.
Pour One Out: for this being the first half of the last “hoo-ra” for the OG avengers crew.