Avengers: Infinity War ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

This is a weird movie to try and write about. The first AVENGERS movie, whatever you think of the character choices, was an almost perfectly balanced, structured, and paced film that not only worked as the culmination of a truly audacious filmmaking experiment, but somehow worked as a stand-alone film as well. AGE OF ULTRON was messier and required more context, but still operated mostly as a sequel to AVENGERS. INFINITY WAR will make absolutely no sense to anyone who hasn't been following the entire MCU, but I don't know if that counts as a strike against it. It's a more fragmented film than I was expecting, which, again, isn't a knock -- it feels less like the single unifying film AVENGERS was and more like the continuation of all the various MCU films threaded together. The scenes with Quill and the Guardians feel very much like the GOTG movies; the renegade Avengers scenes feel like the Cap movies, and so on. What's more, the various characters are separated out into smaller, discreet groups for most of the film; a smart move, really, since having 75 characters packed into one scene all competing for the audience's attention would likely be untenable.

There's very little character development or growth among the pre-established characters here, with one or two exceptions. For the most part, they're simply dropped into the film as they existed at the ends of their respective solo films and that's how they stay. The real surprise here, with regard to character, is Thanos. Josh Brolin gives a shockingly good performance -- not that Brolin is generally bad, it's just that motion capture performances can be tricky and Thanos's design is so ridiculous, plus some part of me was expecting Brolin to be phoning it in for some reason -- and, even more shocking, Thanos is an extremely well-written antagonist. For a series that has famously had a problem with its villains, and for a villain who is so outsized and seemingly distant from the concerns of mere mortals, Thanos being a compelling character was the biggest shock of this film.

[MILD SPOILERS] I admit, I was not expecting the film to end on a cliffhanger, perhaps because I'd internalized the Russos saying awhile back that AVENGERS 3 and 4 would be discrete films. I now have a better sense of what they meant by that. It's an interesting choice to leave things where they did, though anyone who thinks THIS is the new status quo either hasn't seen too many movies (or read too many comic books), or doesn't keep up with trade news.[/MILD SPOILERS]

I'm commenting on a lot of things without assigning judgement to them. I liked this movie! It had a rocky start, but for the most part it was extremely enjoyable and satisfying. The whole MCU has been a weird and wild experiment, arguably with more downs than ups, but it's still chugging along, and I'm excited to see where it heads next.

RANDOM OBSERVATIONS, SPOILERS AHOY

- There were like 12 different fx houses in the end credits, which may account for the inconsistency in the special effects. Rocket and the Chitauri 2.0, for instance, looked amazing, while some of the compositing and CG-to-live action interactions looked terrible. Thanos picks people up a few times during the film and it always looks silly, and the composite of Mark Ruffalo's head into the Hulkbuster armor (in that second-to-last shot of the film, a supposedly emotional and powerful moment) was laughably and distractingly bad. Likewise, the dissolving characters at the end looked so stupid. The memes look better than the actual movie.

- I audibly gasped when Red Skull showed up. I'm so happy he's back (even if it was just a Hugo Weaving impersonator and not the real deal)! I'd just about given up hope of seeing him again. I hope he hears Steve is still around and comes back to Earth for some vengeance.

- "Like in FOOTLOOSE?" "EXACTLY like in FOOTLOOSE!" lolololol

- So Peter and Shuri didn't become BFFs (or meet) and Shuri didn't get to sass Tony, but she DID get to sass Bruce, so I'll count that a win. She better not have fucking dissolved; I want lots of Shuri in part 2, damnit!

- Why does Thor have to get a new eye? Let heroes be disabled, damnit.

May add more observations as they come to me!