Avengers: Infinity War ★★★½

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You’re going to fall into two camps when reading an Avengers: Infinity War review. Either you’ll be reading this prior to the film, well aware of the potential spoiler that will eke out between little details and deft descriptions. Or you’ll be reading this post-screening, with the explicit intention of reading something fresh, innovative and interesting about the future of the series and the shocks that we all feel after the post-credits sequence has ended. Let’s get this out of the way: watch the film first, and then read the reviews. There’ll be no sugar-coating of words or an effort to curb the secrets in this take on the biggest movie of the decade. Spoilers lurk below…

My own experience with Marvel has always fluctuated. Until Captain America: Civil War, the series seemed to guarantee a popcorn-and-pop adventure with only irritating arrogant heroes to mar the experience. The third Captain America movie changed that, with poignant subplots that alluded to themes of nuclear disarmament, rehabilitation and the consequence of war. In fairness, Captain America: The Winter Soldier had a deeply unexpected turn of events in the final reveal, as SHIELD became null and void, when the management turned out to be agents for the bad guys. Since Civil War, only Black Panther managed to truly tackle any real world significance, with the villain, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, delivering a final line that will resonate for years to come. Infinity War, in that respect, has a lot to live up to. Could it be the fun and games of the majority of Marvel offerings? Something that can only really be considered a ‘good’ film, but never a ‘great’ film. Or will this be a tale that not only balances the enormous cast carefully but also speaks to us in a manner that directly affects our viewing of the world?Days after viewing the Thanos attack on the Universe, I’m drawn to the former – this is a high-standard of entertainment that Marvel are immensely successful at creating, but little else. Thanos (Josh Brolin) may be the knot that pulls all the other MCU players into a single movie, and perhaps there are parallels to Trump in his arrogance, power and (here come the spoilers) his success in achieving his goal, but even I find that a bit of a stretch. But let’s try and run with it: In those final moments, as dust dictates the unknown future, we can recognise that helplessness. The irreversible nature of a democratic election, that comfortably ignores millions of disillusioned citizens, still produces a result. The result on screen is the outcome we never wanted to see. When a teenager, lost in space, with dreams of a heroic future is held by the billionaire Iron Man, who fears he has played his cards completely wrong, is a heart-breaking moment. T’Challa, the majority of the Guardians and, we assume, half of mankind are gone forever. Or are they?

We know they are not, don’t we? We know Black Panther, a hero who has made more money at the box-office than any Batman, Spider-Man or Superman, will be back. Spider-Man, it was reported, will shoot the majority of his next film in London so… ashes to ashes; dust to deleting-the-final-moments and replacing them with a more financially-savvy future, I suspect. There’s arrogance in assuming that how we approach the series, is how everyone does. The true audience of all Avenger adventures are kids. We, the adults tapping into our inner nerds, catch the trailer quick and read the info as it comes. We saw Thanos’ “message” reminding us to not spoil and we’re reading reviews after watching the film. Ten-year olds are imagining the future in the playgrounds. They are talking, at length, over the dinner table with their siblings. They, sincerely, do not know the future. Our own cynical, though probably accurate, expectation that dust-deaths mean no-deaths are not necessarily in the mind of the kids. It’s OK to remember that, like so many comic book films, it’s not exclusively for us. Equally, it must be said, hiding film spoilers in the playground isn’t going to happen. If the kids haven’t seen it this weekend, they’ll be told on Monday morning. And another thing: considering all the classics – Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, et al – all “survived”. Is it possible that the reverse is true? Those who vanished will return, while those left on planet Earth are, through sacrifice or fate, going to lose their lives. Just a thought.For the meantime, we can enjoy the relentless battles and constant combos of heroes that Infinity War provided us with. It might have taken minutes before Stark, Spider-Man and Strange were catapulted into space, and the vast majority of the cast remained in the vast solar system with them, but at least Wakanda was our earthly location. The abyss of space, the metallic sheen of a robo-suit and clunky interior of a spaceship can become almost an animated film in its heavy reliance on CGI. When a film is grounded on earth, at the very least, it is expected to look like something we recognise; it feels real. But, whatever planet we are on, and whichever characters are talking to each other, we know green screens and a beefed-up laptop fuels the visuals of this particular Marvel film. Then there’s the completely animated Hulk who, strangely enough, isn’t really hulk. But we do see Bruce Banner looking a little off-colour intermittently.

Thankfully, we can rest assured that Infinity War is place-setting. The infinity gauntlet was always going to be collected. The stones were always going to be in the palm of Thanos’ hand (imagine if he didn’t collect all the stones?). Our guesses that Iron Man or Captain America would be written off has turned out not to be true. Ant-Man, Wasp and Captain Marvel, the characters who lead the next two Marvel films respectively, did not even flash on screen. How do they fit into the equation? I’m hooked in for their separate stories and my only passing thought that “half the world could be destroyed” has, unexpectedly, come to pass. Temporarily perhaps, but a fresh and unexpected move in any case. Kevin Feige and Marvel could do anything and they made the worst possible event play out. We still don’t know the order of the Phase 4 films, or even the title of next year’s Avengers sequel, but they took the series to a place that we can’t clearly navigate our way out of. We are in the palm of their hands and, rather than a cheap Part I and Part II ploy to ensure our attendance, they’ve guaranteed it through the simple, lingering question: how can this situation be reversed? It doesn’t matter if the potentially profound world-consequence was left to a post-credits sequence, or how the fighting began to blur into a mash-up of non-bloody gory horror-monsters and bearded men, Infinity War still entertainingly melded the stars of the screen into one major plot that began ten years ago in Afghanistan.

It’s a huge accomplishment, and the finale will be akin to Vader’s confession in The Empire Strikes Back, and we were privileged to experience it on the big screen with no idea where it is going. In a year, it all changes, but until the next one we can bathe in the pleasure of a series that has satisfying high-stakes and continues for infinity.