28 Apr 2018


Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt
Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Runtime: 149 minutes
Certificate: 12A
Release Date: 26th April 2018

Matt C: The culmination of an unprecedented run of interlocking movies, Avengers: Infinity War arrives with near stratospheric expectations, the first genuine attempt at the bringing the 'event book' concept from the comic page to the big screen, drawing in a multitude of characters from the preceding 18 films(!), providing the kind of cinematic team-ups that would have been mere pipe dreams for numerous comic fans many years ago, before the rest of the world caught up.

Perhaps there was a worry that directorial duo Anthony and Joe Russo would have so many plates spinning that it would inevitably collapse into a heap, but there's a reason Marvel Studios has been so wildly successful, both critically and commercially, over the last 10 years: these guys know what they're doing. From head honcho Kevin Feige down, there's always been a pure love and understanding of the source material from the people involved in bringing these stories to the screen, so even when tasked with putting together arguably the most ambitious production of the modern age, they succeed with flying colours. While nuanced characterization was never going to be this film's primary focus (most of the groundwork has been done during previous entries in this respect) it offers an almost relentless spectacle of action and emotion, with a constant delivery of rib-tickling quips sitting comfortably alongside some genuine shocks and surprises.

"Thanos is coming!" It's a line uttered by one character early on, but really that's been the case since the mid-credits scene in The Avengers revealed the so-called 'Mad Titan' was the true architect behind the Battle of New York. Bar a cameo in Guardians Of The Galaxy, he's been a mostly off-screen presence, and the six-year wait for his arrival meant he really had to deliver on that tease; anything less than the greatest threat any of the assembled heroes have ever faced would be a disappointment.

Conventional wisdom is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a 'villain problem', but with the exception of a few lesser adversaries, that doesn't hold up under closer scrutiny. Indeed, it often seems that we're told all other villains prior to the latest addition to the franchise haven't passed muster, which is fine on a single occasion, but when the argument gets trotted out with every new release it quickly falls apart (and Loki oscillating between villain and anti-hero so often means he generally falls outside the classic 'super-villain' mould). Perhaps Thanos will finish off that argument once and for all, because not only does he quickly confirm himself as a significant force to be reckoned with and the MCU's greatest villain so far, he also establishes his place as one of the great villains of genre cinema.
Mad, in the sense that his plan to 'fix' the universe by wiping out half its population is morally abhorrent, he's no raving maniac; his determination is absolute, his calm, measured approach to what he perceives as being his destiny makes him that much more of a terrifying opponent. If his fearsome power wasn't conveyed with an undercurrent of melancholic emotion then the entire movie may not have been as effective, but Josh Brolin is extraordinary in role, the weight he provides to the villain extending beyond the physical via a masterclass of motion-capture acting, his scenes with Gamora in particular layering on complexities that his comic book counterpart never truly tangled with. 

By necessity he's the focus of the movie and obviously, with a cast as large as this, some characters get more to do than others, but every one gets at least several moments to make their mark, and it's a testament to how well the Russos and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who've been on board since Captain America: The First Avenger) juggle the different story threads that no one feels truly ignored.

After being somewhat sidelined in Age Of Ultron, Thor has perhaps the most screentime of any Avenger here, and following Thor: Ragnarok, a rejuvenated Chris Hemsworth gets to bring the right mix of humour and emotion to the table again. Robert Downey Jr., in what is possibly his penultimate appearance as Tony Stark, reminds us how instrumental he has been in setting the tone of this series, his constant need to fix past mistakes and protect the world (often in a haphazard manner) leading him further into peril than he's ever been before.
Although Avengers: Infinity War never really lets up, even as it clocks in at the two and half hours mark, it's the third act where the intensity increases to a level perhaps not seen in the MCU until now, as Thanos' plans reaches fruition, and the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance. Even with the knowledge that the as-yet-untitled fourth Avengers film will complete this story, those fully invested in this universe won't be prepared for the devastating conclusion to this movie. 

Ten years after Iron Man, all those ideas that originally poured forth from the minds of Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Jim Starlin et al around half a century ago are as potent as they ever have been. This is modern mythologising on a scale unseen outside of Star Wars, and it's not simply the excitement of the universe-spanning action that brings us back time and time again: it's the characters and the themes that resonate. It's the flaws nestled between the heroics that make the likes of Captain America, Iron Man and Thor 'human'. It's their continued desire to overcome those flaws and strive to be something better that cements their appeal. They inspire. You know they'll come back fighting, even when all hope seems lost. And you can be damn sure we'll be there too, because the fight isn't anywhere near close to being over yet. 9/10

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