By HEATHER TURK
Front Row Features Film Critic
A cinematic event 10 years in the making, Marvel’s big, bold, superhero extravaganza “Avengers: Infinity War” is finally here. Now the question everyone wants answered is: Was the highly anticipated film worth the wait?
Of course! This isn’t a DC Comics movie, after all (oh yeah, we went there).
Even with a near 2-hour-and-30-minute runtime, directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s (“Captain America: Civil War”) action-packed “Avengers: Infinity War” never feels bloated. After all, it has a lot of ground to cover and a lot of characters to introduce (to each other, that is—Marvel Cinematic Universe [MCU] fans, audiences will quickly find out, are much more in the know than our favorite superheroes).
Picking up moments after the mid-credits scene for “Thor: Ragnarok” left off, “Infinity War” reunites audiences with the Avengers’ Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in space as the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin) stops their ship on his quest to track down the five remaining Infinity Stones—powerful gems that when united can be used to destroy anything and anyone—that have eluded him. As “Ragnarok” viewers might recall (there have been 18 Marvel films to keep up with), it was alluded in the movie that Thor’s mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who is also onboard the ship, has the Tesseract the Space Stone was hidden in. Thanos, who already has the Power Stone, has come to add it to his Infinity Gauntlet. He now wants the four other Infinity Stones—the Time Stone, which Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has; the Mind Stone, which Vision (Paul Bettany) has; the Reality Stone, which The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) has; and the Soul Stone, which Thanos’ estranged step-daughter-turned-guardian of the galaxy Gamora (Zoe Saldana) apparently knows its location—so that he can finally have all six and become the most powerful being in the universe.
Along the way, not only do old friends-turned-enemies reunite to stop Thanos no matter what the cost, but also many Marvel superheroes team up for the first time to stop the genocidal maniac from having the ability to wipe out half of the universe’s population with the snap of his fingers.
While writing a movie that features the heroes of several popular films, including the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series, “Black Panther” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” might seem a bit overly ambitious, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (the “Captain America” films, “Thor: The Dark World”) prove they are completely up to the task. Sure, not every beloved Marvel hero from the MCU makes an appearance in “Infinity War,” but most of them do—and you can bet the rest likely will assemble when 2019’s “Avengers 4” picks up after the carnage of “Infinity War.”
Saying there is carnage is hardly a spoiler, as fans know walking into the theater that the stakes are high. Thanos has been hyped as Marvel’s ultimate big baddie, although Brolin plays the role with such earnestness that viewers likely will find themselves liking Thanos much more than expected. Still, fans know that not every superhero in “Infinity War” is guaranteed to be in another Marvel movie. What makes “Infinity War” so good—for the most part—is that all bets are off with regard to each character’s fate. Even if you think you know who lives and who dies, you don’t, and for that, “Infinity War” is sure to have even the most macho Marvel fan tearing up during the film.
Luckily, with wise-cracking, smart-ass characters like “Guardians of the Galaxy’s” Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and “Iron Man’s” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) close by, “Infinity War” balances most of the shocking, heart-wrenching moments on-screen—which includes more of Thanos and Gamora’s emotional father-daughter backstory—with some genuine laugh-out-loud comedy. One of the best things about “Infinity War” is seeing some of these Marvel superheroes interact for the first time (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t take long for Doctor Strange to call Tony Stark a douchebag). While two of the film’s funniest moments involve early exchanges with Star-Lord and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and “Captain America’s” Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and “Guardians of the Galaxy’s” now-teenage Groot (still voiced by Vin Diesel), the film is peppered with plenty of comedic moments, especially whenever “Guardians’” scene-stealing Drax (Dave Bautista) is on-screen.
Truthfully, “Infinity War’s” only major flaw, other than the fact the film flies by all too quickly, is that MCU fans already know which characters ultimately will continue in the MCU in 2020 and beyond, and which actors’ contracts are up and more than likely concluding their superhero run with “Avengers 4.” This takes away from the impact of some of the characters’ destinies in the movie, as audiences leave the theater questioning if the death toll ultimately will be quite as high after “Avengers 4,” and who will end up risking their lives for whom. Like Superman’s “death” in the dreadful “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” fans likely will walk away from the film knowing that Marvel couldn’t possibly have killed off some of the characters it looks like they did…right?
In the end, it’s going to be a long year until fans ultimately get all of the answers they’re going to have after watching “Avengers: Infinity War.” Even those who are familiar with Thanos’ story from the comic books will be left wondering just what direction the MCU will take the Avengers because of some events that transpire in the movie, which isn’t all that surprising. After all, that’s exactly what Marvel has become best known for over the past decade: crafting well-written stories and characters that always keep fans coming back to the theater for more.