This review will not contain any spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War, but you will know more about the movie after reading it, such that you might make general assumptions and/or guesses about what might happen. If you want to stay blissfully unaware of anything at all surrounding the movie, then please watch it before reading this. If you don’t mind knowing non-specific information about structure or tone, then read on my friend!
I love this movies to pieces. It’s not the most rewatchable or funniest Marvel Movie. It’s not the most badass or the best written. It’s certainly not the most narratively cohesive. But it is the boldest. It is ambitious and artsy, in it’s own way. This movie is a literary epic — the hero’s journey. Except the hero is Thanos, and the only person who thinks that he’s the hero is himself. Thanos is, undeniably, the main character of this movie. Whether you agree with him or hate him, he is your narrator; your guide. It is his success or failure that matters to the movie — not that of the Avengers.
I think that’s going to be hard for some people to swallow. Following the villain certainly makes for a bleak and dark movie. Don’t get me wrong, there are quips and jokes all along the way, but the emotional core of the movie is devoid of joy. It is instead replaced with a sober sense of duty from a man (or alien in this case) who entirely believes in his mission, with no apologies and the utter conviction that it will be worth any cost.
Thanos is played brilliantly by Josh Brolin, with subtlety and grace. The CG is weighty and consistent. You never quite feel for him, but the movie challenges you to, at least briefly, consider his position. You never stop rooting for the Avengers, but you might just stop completely hating Thanos by the end. Like his own mission, the desire as a viewer to see Thanos vanquished becomes resignation of the inevitable more than the goal of the movie.
If you can accept that the Avengers (and company) are simply supporting characters to a Thanos movie, then I think there’s a lot more enjoyment to be had. The way the characters are mixed together provides a lot of fun, and is very reminiscent of huge comic book crossovers. Sometimes, there’s just not room for everyone to shine, and it has to be enough that Bucky Barnes was there in the 3rd panel on page 11. Some characters get that treatment here, but no one is completely left in the background. Everyone gets to do something cool, or at least say something funny.
Thor has a surprisingly large role in this movie (and it’s the Ragnarok version of the character, so it’s awesome). The way he gets on with the other characters he meets provides the biggest laughs of the film. It’s also great fun to watch the enormous egos of Tony Stark and Dr. Strange clash, while Spider-Man stands idly by, uncomfortably trying to help. Most everyone else ends up together in Wakanda (as can be seen in the trailers), and although there’s a lot of great action that goes along with this, there is very little character work done there. At this point, though, you don’t really need Captain America to have a character arc. You know what he stands for and who he is. This is not the movie for exploring that further.
It should also be said that the Guardians of the Galaxy are integral to the plot, especially Gamora, who we all know is the adopted daughter of Thanos. I was glad to see that fact used meaningfully in the movie, rather than just being a bit of character backstory that had no role. So, if you’re a fan of the Guardians, take heart knowing that you’ll get a pretty heavy helping of them.
And that ending. Man. I can’t talk about what happens (though it’s no surprise to comic book readers), but it is wild. The theater I was in seemed confused as to whether to clap at the end or not. And I think that’s perfect. By the end, you may forget who you’re rooting for. Also — stay til the bitter end for a pretty fun little post credits scene, teeing up the next big thing in the MCU.
I loved this movie for its ambitions. It’s not perfect. It juggles a lot, and undertakes huge tonal shifts in service to each character. The necessity of focusing on Thanos leaves some characters with no real character arc, but no one is left with nothing to do. For me, that was okay. I’m comfortable with the risky bold move of making Thanos the main character and using the pantheon of existing characters as support to that story.
I think the biggest risk that this movie faces is that it’s not a comedy; or a superhero movie. It’s not about a ragtag bunch of heroes learning to work together to save the world. That story’s been done. This is something new, which can sometimes scare people away when they expect a certain thing. But for me, I think Avengers: Infinity War is a breath of fresh air and experimental storytelling that deserves a lot of credit for at least sticking the landing.