Way back in 2016, there were only two teams we worried about: Team Iron Man and Team Captain America. A document that basically stripped the Avengers of saving the world or universe as they pleased had torn our heroes apart. “Captain America: Civil War” was also the last serious Marvel movie as most of the solo flicks dove into the comedy realm. “Avengers: Infinity War” returns to its hard-action roots with a well-rounded villain most Marvel fans have been waiting to see again. It has also brought out another team: Team Thanos.
Since “Avengers: Age of Ultron” landed in theaters in 2015, there have been seven character movies released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, introducing new main characters like Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and giving the core set of Avengers a time of separation. These actions (read: blockbusters after your money) have all led to Thanos (Josh Brolin) a chance to take what he has sought for so long — infinity stones to complete his shiny, powerful glove. It’s his wrath that forces Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) to try to save the world again as the large Purple One starts stone collecting.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo manage to give 27 (yikes!) characters more than five lines of dialogue and some action in this 2½-hour tentpole, and their names are crammed onto the encompassing movie poster. In a way, Marvel fans are rewarded as they see their favorites altogether on the big screen — unless you are a fan of Ant-Man because his sequel is out in July. But with all this togetherness comes nostalgia, loss, confusion and another wait for the next Avengers sequel. We return to Doctor Strange’s hideout in New York, Black Panther’s Wakanda, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision’s (Paul Bettany) love nest in Scotland, and the sterile lab of War Machine (Don Cheadle) for a few minutes. Each visit is disrupted by one of Thanos’ minions trying to get an infinity stone. If the good guys overpower them, then Thanos steps in.
Introductions are short, but that’s where the comedy bits fit in, like Peter Parker meeting Doctor Strange, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) getting to know the “Guardians of the Galaxy” crew and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) greeting Capt. And since most of these characters drop into the frame and immediately start battling the baddies, “Infinity War” is not a good place to start watching MCU titles. There are at least 12 other movies you should see before watching this one.
But with all the heroes taking up the canvas, there really is only one character that shines — Thanos. For several Marvel films, Thanos has been stationed in the end credits as a looming force that will bring doom onto the universe or he has been the subject of a sibling rivalry between his daughters Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana). There are dazzling but disturbing flashbacks of how Thanos adopted Gamora while destroying her planet when he didn’t have any infinity stones. His mission is to evaporate half the universe, and to do so he must have all the stones. To hear Thanos wax poetically about his diabolic plan is like listening to Karl Marx read his “Communist Manifesto” out loud or Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce in “Captain America: Winter Soldier.” It sounds good at points and then you remember that communism — in Marvel’s case, terminating half of the universe so that the other half can survive — is a terrible idea. Thano’s plans mean death and destruction for several planets, multiple populations and a few of our favorite heroes. After investing so much into this cinematic universe, you may feel like you’re losing half of your family at once. And with two movies coming before the fourth Avengers movie set for next year, who knows if all these deaths are real or not.
Yet, as the Russo brothers try to get to the audience’s heartstrings and tear ducts with “Infinity War,” their $400 million budget blockbuster runs slightly off from the direction of the solo acts. The vibe and lightheartedness are in short supply, but Parker’s annoying behavior are on full display. And Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is just as arrogant as ever, and unfortunately he’s stuck on a planet with Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spidey. Yes, there’s one planet big enough to hold their egos.
Also, if you have had the trailers in heavy rotation, like our heroes, about 50 percent makes it onto the screen.
“Avengers: Infinity War” is a good attempt to turn Marvel back around to its action roots, and for those who like that direction, that’s cool. But for those who like the funnies, you will feel like you have had your heart ripped out of you at the end. And then those who like bad guys. You will be joining me on Team Thanos where the uniforms are purple and gold and only half of the players get game time.
3.5 out of 5 stars
“Avengers: Infinity War” is the culmination of a decade of world-building and character development in what may be Marvel Studios’ best superhero team-up yet. The 19th film in the comic book franchise unites more than two dozen superheroes from all corners of the MCU – and beloved by filmgoers – in an exciting and emotional rollercoaster of an adventure. The superhero epic subverts expectations, delivering a game-changer for the franchise.
Returning directors Anthony and Joe Russo (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War”) achieve a complex balancing act between the original Avengers with more recent additions to the MCU. The flick improves upon previous films while leaving audiences wanting more.
When “Infinity War” begins, Thanos (Josh Brolin), the purple, smiling villain who has lurked behind the shadows of the Avengers’ adventures since 2012’s “Avengers,” is front and center. The methodical Mad Titan has a plan to rid every planet of hunger amid dwindling resources – but it calls for killing half of the universe’s population.
Thanos is on a mission to collect all six of the Infinity Stones – power, space, reality, time, mind and soul. Once he has all six stones on his Infinity Gauntlet, he can decimate half of all life with a simple snap of his fingers – unless the Avengers can stop him. From across the vast reaches of space, Earth’s mightiest heroes join forces to try and prevent the biggest threat they’ve ever encountered from ending life as they know it.
“Infinity War” excels at integrating characters from across the MCU. With a running time of more than two and a half hours, the well-paced story has enough time to breathe. It doesn’t feel rushed or overstuffed like 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” It transitions between superheroes and locations more smoothly than 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.”
From its spectacular visuals to sweeping action, “Infinity War” is a feast for the senses. This is one of the best movies I have ever seen in 3-D. The vivid colors are right out of a comic book as the war against Thanos occurs on different fronts. The film does a great job of showing how each superhero’s individual powers work in conjunction with the others.
The crisp cityscapes of New York – the home of technological genius Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), eager teen Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and powerful sorcerer Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) – give way to the bright spaceships carrying the Guardians of the Galaxy – Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Groot (Vin Diesel), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Drax (Dave Baustista). This is the first time the wildly popular Guardians have interacted with the other Avengers. The lush fields of Wakanda, showcased in this year’s massive hit “Black Panther,” bring T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), his loyal bodyguard Okoye (Danai Gurira) and brilliant sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) into the superhero fold.
“Infinity War” features terrific performances from its star cast, most of whom have grown comfortable in their roles for the better part of a decade. The film benefits from 10 years of character growth in a franchise that has sought to explore its super-powered protagonists as people first.
The film continues to explore the father-son dynamic between Iron Man and Spider-Man established in “Captain America: Civil War” and last year’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” After debuting in the film that launched the MCU, “Iron Man,” the character of Tony Stark is still evolving as he learns to tackle this new role. Having been in space since “Age of Ultron,” The Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) rejoins the group with lots of questions while battling an internal struggle between himself and the big green guy.
On the run since his fight with Iron Man in “Captain America: Civil War,” a grizzled Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is drawn back into the Avengers to help defeat Thanos, along with his dream team from 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”: Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). Since Cap has been off the grid since “Civil War,” “Infinity War” should have utilized the First Avenger more.
A lot of the fun of “Infinity War” is watching characters interact with each other for the first time. Iron Man quickly butts heads with the similarly brilliant but arrogant Doctor Strange. Their banter is fun to watch as Stark, the old guard of the Avengers, confronts a new addition in Strange, who got his own movie in 2016. After encountering the Guardians in space, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) strikes up an unlikely friendship with Rocket Raccoon. Hemsworth shines as the God of Thunder continues to find himself after losing his home planet of Asgard and his eye in last year’s “Thor: Ragnarok.”
The parental issues at the heart of the “Guardian of the Galaxy” films progress further in “Infinity War.” The film explores the heart-wrenching relationship between Thanos and his resentful daughter, Gamora. Saldana gives a stirring performance as Gamora challenges her father on his nihilistic ambitions. As Thanos, Brolin plays one of the most well-rounded villains in the MCU to date. From his point of view, Thanos is the hero of the story, while the Avengers are the villains trying to thwart his merciful plan to spare the universe from suffering.
The stakes are high in “Infinity War,” and the film doesn’t pull its punches. “Infinity War” strikes the right balance between Marvel’s trademark humor and serious drama. While “Thor: Ragnarok” undercut some of its dramatic moments with ill-timed jokes, “Infinity War” keeps the light comedy separate from its darkest moments.
Every war has casualties, and those in “Infinity War” are shocking. The film delivers a gut punch that will have fans anxiously awaiting its follow-up a year from now.
“Infinity War” is an epic success for Marvel. It ties together a decade of characters and relationships while making viewers both laugh and cry. Stay tuned for an after-credits scene that will help us get through the long wait for the May 3, 2019, sequel.
5 out of 5 stars