Wednesday , 20 June 2018

Space and time for everyone in Avengers: Infinity War – review

There’s been a disturbance in the force. No, wrong franchise. Space, the final frontier. Nope, still not right. But actually, they both apply to Marvel’s latest superhero mega-mash-up, Avengers: Infinity War. The culmination of 18 films spread out over the course of the past 10 years, this long-awaited build-up has led to many expectations and speculations. While some may be met and others not, there’s no question that Avengers: Infinity War is a sprawling, massively entertaining and emotional motion picture event, the likes of which we probably won’t see again…..that is, until next year when its sequel, currently, Untitled Avengers Film is released. While everyone on Planet Earth should have seen the film by now, as is custom here at the Gore 4, we’ll try to be as spoiler-free as possible in discussing and analyzing the movie.

One of the toughest things to do when writing a review for a film is coming up with a catchy, maybe witty, yet descriptive title, and one that doesn’t give away too much, at least if you’re a responsible journalist. (And yes, despite what some may think, these reviews and commentaries amount to journalism, imsho, as opposed to being considered simply ‘blogs.’) There’s no place to warn readers of a spoiler alert before the title of a review. It’s too late, baby. That said, the above title aptly describes Avengers: Infinity War on a couple of levels. Anyone following the previous films knows that the concepts of space and time are factors, with the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor movies taking place beyond the confines of our solar system, and the first Captain America set during WWII and Doctor Strange dealing with the bending of time. But how does one take a very large number of characters, many who have taken center stage in their own movies for years, that were helmed by a variety of different directors, and fit them all together into one cohesive and satisfying film? It’s a task maybe as daunting as fighting an all-powerful alien bent on destroying the universe, or at least half of it.

By the way, that pretty much sums up the basic plot of the movie. Thanos, the big bad first introduced in a mid-credits scene in the first Avengers movie in 2012, and seen again briefly in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), takes the spotlight here, as he attempts to wield the most powerful object in the universe, the Infinity Gauntlet. This metallic glove reaches its full potential once it contains the six Infinity Stones – Space, Mind, Reality, Power, Time and Soul – enabling its bearer to become omnipotent. In Thanos’ case, he wants to use it to eliminate half of all life, restoring, at least in his mind, balance to the universe. Being that Thanos is Nebula’s father and also Gamora’s adoptive father, that makes the Guardians especially important in this mega-inter-galactic team-up. Aside from T’Challa, aka, Black Panther, and his sister, Churi, this makes for the only familial relationships in the saga, and it makes up a key core to the movie. Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) is certainly one of the more interesting villains to pop up in this or any other cinematic universe. While he is predominantly a cold-hearted monster hellbent on achieving his goal at all costs, and he kills indiscriminately with no sense of remorse, there is an emotional depth underneath that thick purple hide. To him, eliminating half of all life in the universe, culling the herd, so to speak, will only benefit the other half. As resources become depleted at an unsustainable rate, he sees this as the only way to bring about a sense of order throughout the galaxies. Believing only he can do this, he bears an enormous weight upon his extremely broad shoulders. Whenever our own beloved Earth reaches a tipping point, something will have to give, and often does, in the form of famine, disease or natural disaster. Isn’t Thanos’ method quicker and more humane? The next time you’re stuck in endless traffic on a Friday evening, ask yourself if this might not be such a bad idea after all.

What makes Avengers: Infinity War so compelling, beyond the extremely high stakes at play, is seeing such a vast array of favorite superheroes come together in various combinations and team-ups. It’s what made the first Avengers such an anticipated event after four years leading up to it. Here, it’s been ten years and there are a great deal more people to pack into one film. So, beyond Marvel mastermind, Kevin Feige, much credit must go to directors, the brothers, Anthony and Joe Russo, and screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. (A special shout-out to Jim Starlin, who created the Infinity Gauntlet storyline in the comics, which informed much of the film.)  The Russos had previously helmed Captain America: Winter Soldier and its follow-up, Civil War, the latter which brought all the existing Marvel characters together (minus Thor and the Hulk), and introduced us to the current Spider-Man and Black Panther, so they have experience in giving everyone their due, which is no easy task. Here, everyone from the original Avengers, Iron Man, Cap and Thor to the newer ones, like Doctor Strange, Peter Quill and Scarlet Witch, get their time in the sun, or moon or spaceship or wherever they may end up. There’s a good deal of time spent in Wakanda, which we just visited a mere three months prior in the colossal hit, Black Panther. It’s great to see this fantastic place again – it’s difficult to think of another film series featuring a setting and characters with so little time between screen appearances – and see it become so pivotal to the outside world. Needless to say, all the actors here are marvelous (pun intended), from veterans like Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans to Scarlet Johansson and Elizabeth Olsen. The Chris’, Pratt and Hemsworth continue off their previous outings in providing much of the comic relief as Star-Lord and Thor, along with Ruffalo and Holland as the Hulk and Spider-Man. It’s worth noting who’s missing – Ant-Man and Hawkeye, the former set to star in July’s Ant-Man and the Wasp (supposedly set before the events of Infinity War) and the latter, who, to be honest, wasn’t missed at all, but may still play an important role in the the next Avengers. As Thanos, Josh Brolin brings menace, strength and pathos to the role. As one of his hench-women, an unrecognizable Carrie Coon (FX’ Fargo) portrays the lethal and awesomely named, Proxima Midnight. And in one of the most inspired bits of casting, Peter Dinklage plays Eitri, whose gigantic size dwarfs Thor and company as they seek his assistance.

On a side note, it’s interesting that a number of these actors are appearing in other major movies this summer. Brolin plays Cable in Deadpool 2, released a mere three weeks after Infinity War. Pratt returns to the land of the giants in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, due June 22nd. And Paul Bettany (Vision) is also in Solo: A Star Wars Story. A special credit must go the lovely and talented Zoe Saldana, who has not just this one, or two, but has three major film franchises that she continues to be a part of, with another Star Trek on the way, and several more Avatars. it’s a truly remarkable achievement.

So, when the dust settles at the end of Infinity War, what are we left with? With its sequel due next May, it’s not a spoiler to say the film ends on a cliffhanger. In that respect, it can be compared to The Empire Strikes Back. That film is regarded by many (not this reviewer) as the best of the Star Wars‘ films. As for where Avengers: Infinity War will fall after all is said and done, only time will tell. But despite the open-ended conclusion, the film is exhilarating, heartfelt, beyond action-packed, hilarious and extremely satisfying in many ways. While audiences wait impatiently to see how it all plays out in the Avengers’ sequel due May of 2019, we have Ant-Man and the Wasp to look forward to on July 22, where the Quantum Realm may play an important factor. And next February, we will be introduced to a new Marvel superhero in the aptly titled, Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larsen, in what is the company’s first female-led film in this MCU. Set to take place in the 1990s, there is no doubt that she will be playing a vital role in the next Avengers‘ movie and beyond.

Now, what else can be said about the Marvel Universe? It’s pretty clear that with mega-hit after megaerer-hit, Marvel can do no wrong. Their carefully thought out and planned cinematic worlds have culminated in arguably the greatest superhero movie of all time. These are characters audiences love and cherish, and ones you root for to the end. Alas, DC, which has had enormous success with the original Superman and Batman films, the Dark Knight trilogy and last year’s Wonder Woman, has yet to achieve Marvel’s level of success when it comes to bringing their superheroes together. Infinity War grossed more in its first weekend, domestically, than last year’s DC team-up, Justice League did over its complete run, and Infinity War‘s domestic total box office may very well end up exceeding JL‘s worldwide total. Those are pretty amazing statistics. And Marvel has plenty more characters to play with that we haven’t seen yet. (Not to mention their TV counterparts, from Daredevil and Jessica Jones and company on Netflix to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., renewed for a sixth season on ABC.) So as actors’ contracts expire and their characters’ stories come to an end, others will appear to fill the void and carry on. With an endless source of material to derive from the comics, and the possibility of adding X-Men and others to the mix when/if the Disney/Fox merger finalizes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going nowhere soon, except to imaginative and breathtaking worlds all across the cosmos. Excelsior! (You knew Stan ‘The Man’ Lee had to make his cameo somewhere.)

— words compiled by Brian de Castro

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