Avengers: Infinity War has 19 characters and runs 149 minutes. Within that runtime, Joe and Anthony Russo have created an audacious story; and in telling this boldly human story, it has proven me wrong.
I was wrong.
In geekdom, we argue over the virtues of movies based on comic books; which universe is better than the other? Which character is the greatest? I had these same discussions with friends when I was younger, but over a different set of franchises and in a galaxy not so far away.
The debates will rage. For the moment, let’s talk shop about the Russo Brothers’ Avengers: Infinity War.
One of the most important aspects to note about Avengers: Infinity War is its run time. At 149 minutes, the prospect of spending that much time in a theater seat is daunting at best. I’m here to say that the pacing of the film is such that it doesn’t feel like 149 minutes. Yes, stay through all the credits! Especially — YOU, you who makes this the event spectacle it is intended to be. Does the story telling suffer because of its length? Yes, there are some areas where the story could have been tightened up just a bit and there are other areas where the story tramples over itself.
These are but minor nitpicks because the cast is a veritable who’s who of the Marvel Universe, and the story sets each of them up to have a moment without taking away from another. The film is set two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War. The Avengers are broken up and spread out when Thanos (Josh Brolin) returns to Earth in search of the Infinity Stones. An early scuffle finds Tony Stark/Iron Man in a quandary, something that afflicts him throughout the story. I appreciated Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance here because the character is humbler and less self-centered, something that plays well into the “father-son” relationship he has established with Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
Vision (Paul Bettany) is off the grid with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). In an early fight scene with Thanos’ henchmen, the Black Order, who are trying to abduct him, we can start to finally see the power of these characters. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is key to this scene and I think it paid off handsomely. In Thor: Ragnarok, Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) was a joy to watch because the character is so emotionally conflicted, and that continues here as it plays into Ruffalo’s natural humor. Inevitably, this scuffle leads the disbanded faction of the Avengers to Wakanda, where T’Challah (Chadwick Boseman) greets them with open arms.
In a moment of cheekiness, there is an exchange between T’Challah and Okyoe (Danai Gurira) as the Avengers descend in which they discuss T’Challa’s decision to open the kingdom to strangers. Okyoe jokingly says, “I thought we might host the Olympics. Maybe open a Starbucks.” This touch of humor, which permeated Black Panther, is on display throughout the film, but I was particularly fond of the banter here, because it grounds the danger ahead and the seriousness of the story.
On the opposite end, Thor’s story line picks up after Thor: Ragnrok. The Sons of Odin continue to battle Thanos. Chris Hemsworth is in the same emotional place as he was at the end of Ragnarok. This serves two purposes in the film; the first is his interaction with the Guardians of the Galaxy, especially Nebula, Groot and Rocket; together they work with Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to stop Thanos.
The story in Avengers: Infinity War is centered around Thanos, whether our heroes are trying to stop him, or to fight his legions. There’s an underlying theme of limited resources, something that is very much on Thanos’ mind. There’s a moment in the film where we see his benevolence and it makes him very human. It makes his interaction with Thor, which is central to the film, so much more powerful than other entries in this universe. Hemsworth’s performance is central to our journey in this story, our investment.
As I was writing this review, I came across an article in Collider in which Joe Russo referenced The Godfather when giving Brolin direction on the characters’ motivations. Much like Don Corleone, the strength of the film lies in Thanos’s emotional state. Brolin delivers this and much more.
I mentioned earlier that I was wrong.
There is a common sentiment that these films work because of the hero’s journey. Anthony and Joe Russo have created an environment in Avengers: Infinity War that doesn’t allow for heroes. Instead, it is about the emotions that make us human. Certainly Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the screenwriters, deserve a lot of that credit: to get 19 characters/actors involved is a feat unto itself. To get all of them a moment of their own is the overstuffed spectacles that legends are made of.
If you don’t have your tickets yet for opening weekend, make sure to get them now. You can see it in 2D, 3D, Dolby Cinema, IMAX and IMAX 3D. No matter how you see the film, this is the moment where I was wrong. And I’m proud of that. Check out Avengers: Infinity War.
Marvel Studios Avengers: Infinity War is rated PG-13 by the MPAA.