Movie: Avengers: Infinity War
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Benedict Cumberbatch, Josh Brolin, Chris Evans, Tom Holland, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Olson, Paul Bettany, Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright, Mark Ruffalo, Danai Gurira
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Genre: Adventure Fantasy
Duration: 2hrs 29 minutes
The time has come for the Marvel superheroes to face Thanos (Josh Brolin) – the Mad Titan. He is looking to collect all six Infinity Stones and obliterate half of the universe so that balance will be restored. It’s up to the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and other superheroes we have encountered in the last 10 years via 18 movies, to stop him.
Everything about Avengers: Infinity War is big. Budget, props, cast, crew, visual optics, and the expectations. The build-up to this movie over this decade was delivered in serialized blockbuster entertaining movies. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo now create a cohesive narrative to finish this story arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that meets those expectations but never quite pushes the envelope.
Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely get to play with the fan-favourites — be it individual souls like Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) or the groups like Guardians of the Galaxy or Team Cap. They split these supers into mismatched, yet interesting teams and make them face harrowing situations. Working together to figure out their next plan to stop Thanos’ mayhem and the friction generated because of this makes up the core of Infinity War’s fun side. Doctor Strange and Iron Man/Tony Stark go head to head in the battle of wits, insults, intellect, and stylish goatees. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) uses his knowledge of pop culture to find ideas to defeat the Black Order. Two of the Chris-es (Pratt and Hemsworth) get into one-upmanship the instant their characters meet. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) delivers quite some laughs with his Hulk performance anxiety issues. But when Gamora (Zoe Saldana) has to deal with her adopted father Thanos on her own or when the rest of the Avengers on Earth — Captain America, Black Panther, Black Widow etc — have to rally around The Vision to protect the Mind Stone, the scenes make for emotional fodder. MCU catharsis also takes place. Marvel boss Kevin Feige, the directors, writers are ruthless when their purge adds to the casualties on both sides of the war.
The punchlines, zingers, fun situations, bad pickles arrive like clockwork. The movie tells you when it’s okay to laugh or feel bad. The Russo brothers have to maintain the pace of the movie while juggling these multiple plotlines. A lot has to be crammed into very little time. It’s like a butter-laden mixed paratha — there is only so much you can stuff in. The fun elements act as the butter keeping it tasty, while friendship, love, and pain remain undercooked. There are several poignant moments that fail to peak because the story has to move on. The change of scenery or realm undercuts the development of the character arc. Yes, even when it’s Thanos.
This movie is about Thanos. You get to know where he is coming from and what he is now. Josh Brolin, from the beginning of the movie, takes charge of this purple menace. From delivering authoritative, philosophical monologues, to feeling pain after losing someone close to him, Brolin brings the Mad Titan to life. Thanos thinks he is being merciful when he is inflicting genocide spanning the entire universe. You want to understand where he is coming from because we have seen this Hydra tendency in Captain America: The Winter Soldier before. But the crammed plotline undercuts the audience emotional response. The Russo brothers assume that viewers have kept up with all the MCU movies, therefore, a lot of emotional moments between two superheroes feel rushed and underdeveloped. This is why characters like Captain America, Black Widow, Black Panther feel gravely underutilised. Others like Shuri, Winter Soldier/White Wolf, M’Baku, Falcon, War Machine, provide cameo service. That’s the price one pays when the scales of production and story are of mammoth proportions like this.
Having said that, the movie delivers a fun experience. It takes you to places it hasn’t gone before. Elements like seeing a Game of Thrones cast member being larger than life; instant bonding and solidarity between female members of the Avengers (while the men are busy with their dick measuring contest); Bruce Banner behaving like a PhD student in front of Shuri, only add another layer of entertainment. Opulence is the buzzword and the movie presents a polished product. It meets expectations and that’s about it. The last half an hour of the movie is spectacular in every way. Twists and turns hit you full speed and a massive cliffhanger (a rather hopeful one, if you are damn convinced about the ‘Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives’ sentiment) leaves you wanting.
The film follows the Marvel formula to the T. Towards the end of Infinity War, we reach the breaking point when the hero (so many of them here) of the story is brought face to face with his inadequacy. The next Avengers ride promises to be a thrilling one, packed with the redemption journey and ultimate win.
Critic’s Ratings: ***1/2