Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Steve Englehart, Steve Gan, Bill Mantlo, Keith Giffen, Jim Starlin, Larry Leiber, Don Heck

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Chis Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Tom Holland, Elizabeth Olsen

Cert: 12

Ten years in the making, Infinity War is a testament to the ambition and capability of modern day film-making, forever raising the bar for future blockbusters.

To review Avengers: Infinity War isn't just to review one single film - it is to review the culmination of the biggest and most ambitious crossover in the history of film, one that has been wildly successful and has undoubtedly redefined the movie industry. After ten years and eighteen movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has arrived at Infinity War. A two and a half hour visual masterpiece that brings together everything that has preceded it. It is a landmark film that marks a historic day for the world of cinema.

Infinity War amounts to a decade's worth of trial and error. Past MCU films, particularly the ensemble films, have had their highs and lows; Age of Ultron (2015) was over-stuffed with one-liners, Captain America: Civil War (2016) was too monotone. But each film has been a learning curve for the franchise and Infinity War has evidently been taking notes, studying each one, listening to the fans and adapting accordingly, combining the best elements from its predecessors and coalescing them into a worthy continuation, and then some.

Infinity War finally surrenders something that the MCU has been teasing for more than six years now. The introduction of the franchise's main villain Thanos, played by Josh Brolin. The masterminds behind the MCU have made some inspired casting choices over the years, and this is right up there with the best of them. Brolin utterly owns this film from the first scene to the last with his calm but commanding delivery. It is immediately remarkable how much Thanos dominates the film; his presence is continuously felt both on and off screen.

Infinity War does a swift and skilful job of giving Thanos some real depth to his character, deftly exploring his motives and his relationships to other characters without calling upon swathes of distracting exposition. Previous MCU villains, such as Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011) or Hela (Thor: Ragnarok, 2017), have been very two-dimensional, only seeking power and caring very little for anyone but themselves. Thanos, however, has a sense of accessibility, and perhaps even a likability to his character. Previously, only the title heroes have received such depth, and it is refreshing to see such an intriguing and complex villain. By the time the credits roll, it is clear that Infinity War is really Thanos' film.

Attention is not an unlimited resource, however, and that which has been afforded to Thanos has therefore been syphoned off from elsewhere. In this case, 'elsewhere' takes the form of those who have been saving the day on our cinema screens since 2008 - the heroes. In an attempt to provide a wealth of context around our villain, The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, and all the other title characters are under-explored, with only one benefitting from any development. The Avengers, arguably the frontmen for the franchise, are introduced gradually but often unceremoniously, denying them the chance to indulge in many dramatic entrances. Two years have passed since the events of Civil War, and yet we receive no explanation as to what has happened during that time. Few of the big names get a chance to develop throughout the film, and they are mostly confined to bad-ass action sequences. Fortunately, ten years of context has meant that a close look at these recurring characters is not vital or even necessary for this film to be successful, but it is an odd experience to watch a superhero film with such a limited focus on the superheroes.

Fundamentally, it turns out that Infinity War isn't the film we thought it was going to be. It isn't a climax, nor is it really the bi-annual ensemble movie that we have grown accustomed to since Avengers Assemble (2012). But that's okay. Infinity War is really laying yet more groundwork for some momentous conclusion. It is a vibrant and thrilling arena in which characters can meet and mingle, where they can fight the good fight and suffer the hazards of war, but the real cohesion and the real fight will take place during Infinity War's successor. Initially it feels as though Infinity War never quite hits the spot, never quite managing to generate the goosebumps, but the chosen approach is ultimately the best move for the franchise. An attempt to tie up the events of the last decade in one film would be foolish, and would not justify the colossal effort which has been put in so far, nor would it properly reward the loyalty and devotion of the fans. It is a grown-up decision to make, perhaps a result of a decade's worth of maturity; Infinity War doesn't give the audience what they want, but it gives them what they need.

In one line: The scene has been set in the most spectacular of ways; Infinity War places Marvel at the top of the cinema food chain long into the foreseeable future.

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