REVIEW – Avengers: Infinity War – You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll walk out exhausted, but Pleased

So, I saw Avengers: Infinity War last night. And my thoughts, they are complex. Trying to put them into a cohesive review, and not be a douche like some other reviewers have been and spoil the whole freaking movie (I’m looking at you, Forbes, and whoever put the entire plot up on Wikipedia), is going to be complicated. But I will prevail.

First off, I loved the movie. It’s far from perfect, and will be unlikely to break my Top 5 of MCU films (I won’t be able to place it until I see it at least one more time), but it was a solid film that managed to surprise me many times, pull at my heartstrings far more than I expected, made me laugh as much, if not more, than any great Marvel movie should, and gave me so many crowd pleasing moments I don’t know how I managed to stop myself from jumping out of my seat on multiple occasions.

My first advice is if you care enough to be reading a review of a movie, I assume you’ll be seeing the film opening weekend and with a crowd of fans. If so, if you don’t already have plans to see the film a second time, or maybe even a third, you should make those plans now. The laughs and crowd pleasing moments in the first half of the film especially are so plentiful, that there were many times I couldn’t hear any of the dialogue because of the crowd’s reaction to a previous line or moment. Because the film has so much to get through, and doesn’t want to be an extended Lord of the Rings movie, there isn’t time to leave beats between jokes or after a favorite character meets another favorite character for the first time. So you’re going to miss a lot. Not so much that you can’t follow the story, but I’d still like to know what it was that was actually being said.

As for the story itself, having talked extensively with friends or on the Pop A La Carte Podcast about what I expected to see in the film, I honestly didn’t think it could surprise me as much as it did. I feel now like I may have underestimated screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and the overall creative team at Marvel Studios, led by Kevin Feige. Because while there were definitely moments that I predicted almost exactly as they appeared in the film, the majority of the film surprised me in ways I didn’t expect. Even many things I vaguely predicted or speculated about happened in new exciting ways. The real surprise came in the way Infinity War made me feel for characters I never felt very connected to in the past, while still giving me moments I loved with the characters I was connected to.

That said, the film has a lot of characters, and so serving them all is difficult. In the end, a lot of them get minimal focus and it will surely frustrate those who are fans of theirs. It is to be expected, and so I suggest people prepare themselves for it now. Your favorite is likely to get shafted. It’s just in the nature of the game. Even some of the characters who are the leaders of the MCU, or are maybe the most profitable, don’t feel like they get enough screen time. The Russo Bros said beforehand that this film was largely about the journeys of Gamora and Thor, and that’s definitely true. Many other characters get a lot of screen time, but perhaps not many lines or even development. But Avengers films really aren’t meant to be big on the character development, that’s what the standalones are for.

Infinity War has three main plot lines that are evident from the trailers. They center on the characters surrounding Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America. The weakest of these three storylines is the story around Thor, because it spends much of the film so apparently disconnected from the real fight against Thanos. I must admit to finding myself reverting back to my original pre-Ragnarok feelings of boredom with Thor’s storyline, even though he was surrounded by some characters who are in my Top 10 MCU character list (which will be published tomorrow). A lot of the time with his story, I just wanted to get back to the action. But the story is pivotal in the end, and when it does connect back, it’s worth it and exciting again. Unfortunately, you’ve still got to get through all the scenes leading up to the payoff, and those are tough. At one point, when we cut back to Thor’s journey I definitely found myself thinking something along the lines of “no, go back to the other story, I don’t care about this.”

As for the reason this whole thing is happening, I have to say I think Thanos is perhaps one of the best developed and believable villains the Marvel Cinematic Universe has given us so far. That may shock some, because for the general audience especially, he’s been so underutilized in the past. With vague appearances in post credits scenes, and being only really a skulking figure sitting in a chair in the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Many thought it would be difficult to get past his CGI appearance, and that weird chin. But you forget that he’s not real quickly in the film, and the motivations behind his actions are laid out in a way that not only give you everything you need to know about why he is doing what he’s doing, but you also almost come to sympathize with his actions. A lot of time is spent developing Thanos and those motivations, as it should be if he’s to be more than just some random villain thrown in just to give our characters a foe to fight (side-eyeing you, Justice League’s Steppenwolf). Sure, he’s a madman who wants to destroy half the universe. But he has a logical reason for why he has chosen the path he is on, even if he is crazy, and the time is spent to really make us understand his journey.

The film does feel very bloated at times. But that’s hardly surprising because did I mention how many characters are in this film?! There was definitely a moment when I thought when we could have used a 13 episode season of a Marvel Netflix series (whereas often those series feel like they could use 3-5 less episodes). It works, but in hands less capable than the Russo Bros, or Markus and McFeely’s, it wouldn’t have. And I guarantee you there will be things I see on repeat viewings that I either missed the first time, or was so overwhelmed by that I completely forgot them by the end of the film. I know for a fact there was a moment when a character said something the first time around and I thought, “Aha, that’s how this story is going to resolve,” and now I cannot for the life of me tell you what that moment was. It was halfway through the film, and a lot happened after that. I remember who said it though, and when it happened, so at least I know when to watch for it next time.

My only real complaint about Infinity War is that because so much is happening, and so many characters must be served, I do feel like there’s some development we missed that could have been really helpful. Mainly, I honestly believe we needed another Guardians and another Iron Man film between Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and Captain America: Civil War, and Avengers: Infinity War. And that’s largely because 2 years have passed in the Guardians timeline, and an unclear amount of time has passed for the Earth-based characters since Civil War, and that time clearly made some big changes to the these characters. Yes, vague comment is vague, but I don’t honestly feel like I can elaborate without spoiling where certain characters are in their development. And I don’t want to do that. I’ll leave it with a comment that for the other characters, I feel like Infinity War gave me enough exposition to explain what has changed for them since their last appearance in the MCU, but for the Guardians and for those characters who have been developed largely in the Iron Man films, it feels like there was a jump where I would have liked to have seen the evolution of these characters, of how past events impacted them, more than the one throwaway line that was given to bring us up to date on where our characters are and their motivations and actions in Infinity War.

That’s a minor complaint though, which was felt only at the beginning of their journey in Infinity War, and forgotten for the remainder of the viewing experience.

For the majority of the film, I was riveted to my seat. Laughing, gasping, cheering. No tears this time, though I came close at least twice. But I’ve always said I’m the person who is usually so engrossed the first time that I can’t cry. It’s on the second viewing that I fall apart. You should have seen me after watching the Doctor Who episode, Doomsday, for the second time. You’d have thought someone I love had died.

Looking at Rotten Tomatoes now, it looks like the consensus on Infinity War is that the film is amazing and exhausting, and it appears to be at 87%. I’d agree with that assessment. The film is a spectacle, as anyone would expect. A culmination of 10 years of world building, and the meeting of dozens of characters who have never met before, or if they have they’ve since been torn apart. Servicing that many characters, and expectations, while also trying to develop a story that needs to be cohesive and understandable for a general audience who haven’t scrutinized the last 18 films for every reference to Thanos or the Infinity Stones like I and my fellow nerds have. It was always going to be exhausting. Though perhaps the most exhausting part is the comedown after you leave the theater. I’ve spent the last 17 or so hours, since I saw the film, thinking about it. Trying to decipher clues I missed the first time. Make sense of where the story can go from its ending. I didn’t sleep much last night because I couldn’t get my brain to stop trying to comprehend what it had just seen, and decipher any hidden meaning. But to me, that’s the best kind of storytelling. One that stays with you long after the credits have rolled, and you’re back to your own life.

And perhaps most important of all, I can’t wait until tomorrow night when I get to see it again.

Avengers: Infinity War is in theatres from April 27th.