The Marvel comics have a history of plot lines featuring incomprehensibly powerful beings, normally gods of some kind, that have come from outer space with world destroying capabilities. These epic tales of our regular mortal heroes taking on cosmic behemoths do not work so well in the cinema; they’re just too silly. When they made Galactus the bad guy in the second Fantastic Four movie they had to change him from a frowning giant in a silly purple hat to a gas cloud for there to even be a chance that he would translate to the screen. To be honest, they don’t work on the page that well either. The story of Thanos and the Infinity Stones, which is the set up for the Avengers next outing, is equally ridiculous so we will have to see what they do with that.
I wrote these words two years ago in my review for X-Men: Apocalypse. The good news is that unlike that movie, Avengers: Infinity War handles the story around its unbeatable mega villain really well with Marvel once again showing the other studios how it’s done. Thanos, the all powerful antagonist here, is still pretty preposterous but he is not ridiculous. Key to this is his strong characterisation but also beneficial is the way they have been slowly building up to this point for some while. This is the nineteenth Marvel Cinematic Universe film (in ten years they’ve nearly equalled what Bond clocked up in fifty five) and Thanos was introduced in the sixth movie. The Infinity Stones that he is collecting to gain the power to execute his cataclysmic plan featured for the first time in number four so this has been a long time coming. Audiences have been able to get used to the idea of a big blue alien and a hexad of mystical rocks so it is all much easier to swallow. This also makes it the least successful as a stand alone movie but believe me when I say that fans, both casual and die hard, will be rewarded.
By making Thanos so freakin’ formidable it also avoids the MCU trope of having the hero fight an alternate version of themselves. After Iron Man v Iron Monger, Iron Man v Whiplash, Hulk v Abomination, Cap v Red Skull, Cap v Bucky, Ant-Man v Yellow Jacket, Doctor Strange v Kaecilius, Thor v Hela and Black Panther v Kilmonger it is great to see someone that needs all of them to take him down. They are pretty much all here too. Short of three notable absences (one in their own movie in August, one presumably back on the farm and one in Westworld) the whole gang has returned. In fact not only the gang but most of their gangs too. Alongside the Avengers, the Guardians and that wizard we get Idris Elba’s Heimdall, Benedict Wong’s Wong, Okoye, M’Baku and Shuri from Wakanda, Pepper Potts, General Ross, Peter Parker’s buddy Ned and of course Loki. It is incredible how the directors Anthony and Joe Russo and their writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have managed this huge assemble. They make it look easy but it won’t have been and it is probably the movie’s most spectacular trick. There are new characters in the mix too, most notably disciple of Thanos Ebony Maw and dwarf Eitri but there are surprises in store there so I won’t say any more. Some of the new players, particularly Thanos’ other generals, don’t make quite as much of a mark but I’m splitting hairs.
All of the favourites get great things to do in the sprawling plot. Thor juggles comedy and tragedy beautifully earning his Shakespeare in the Park nickname. Iron man and Spider-Man continue their interesting relationship, as do Bruce Banner and Hulk, and Peter Quill once again proves to be the universe’s biggest idiot. There are a number of epic fights and the action takes us all over the cosmos.
What then of that plot? Here I am going to stay dutifully tight lipped but I will say that the way Captain America: The Winter Soldier turned the wider MCU upside down has nothing on what happens here. In the same way the writers of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D show had some tricky stuff to manage after that film I am sure that some of the people behind some of the already greenlit sequels will be wondering what they have left to pick up here. This isn’t like other films that might have one big ‘he is his father’ or ‘he’s actually a ghost’ type spoiler, Avengers 3 drops an entire armoury of bombshells. It certainly goes to places no movie like this has gone before and despite that title it feels pretty conclusive. Of course it won’t be, in a year’s time with Avengers 4 we will get to see what is beyond infinity but for now it all feels quite final.
Is this one for the kids?
The levels of violence are typical of the other eighteen movies in this series but this is quite a lot more emotional. Under tens might end up wondered what they just saw. Fortunately the usual balance of humour is there too.
The Ripley Factor:
With so many characters in the film no one of any gender really gets the lion’s share of the action. Scarlet Witch gets some significant moments and Gamora is important, in fact they are the only ones with any real power against Thanos, but despite one all girl scrap Black Widow and some of the other women are a little marginalised. Fortunately you get the impression that the balance will be massively redressed in the next Avengers film but I won’t say more about this either.
Go see for yourself.