Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers Infinity War poster.jpgThe Gauntlet has been thrown

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Running Time: 149 Minutes
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Terry Notary, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Carrie Coon, Michael James Shaw, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Letitia Wright, Jacob Batalon, William Hurt

It's all been building up to this. The past 10 years has seen a variety of comic book characters stand apart on their own, join together to fight unique threats, take adventures in various corners of the galaxy, and eventually scatter. With the impending threat of Thanos, an intergalactic warlord hell-bent on destroying half of the universal population through gathering the six Infinity Stones, it's time for them to reunite once more, for their greatest threat yet.

The vague nature of that synopsis is intentional, as this is a film gone into knowing as little about the plot as possible. Marvel's social media campaign has implored fans to keep the films occurrences a secret, as directors Anthony and Joe Russo have crafted a film difficult to delve into without encountering spoilers, but is wonderful to experience unfold before you. Granted, it'll pay off more to those who've been through thick and thin with the franchise, but from personal experience, is far from impenetrable to those with limited exposure to these characters.

Having been teased since the mid-credits scene of 2012's The Avengers, a big question would be whether Thanos would disappoint after six years of build up. Thankfully, this isn't the case, as we're treated to not just one of the MCU's best villains, but one of the best villains in cinema. From early on, the film is eager to showcase how much of a threat he is not just to the Marvel heroes, but to the entire galaxy, while treating him as a fully formed character. Instead of being characterised as a one-note madman who merely revels in destruction (looking at you, Steppenwolf), we're given the opportunity to understand his point of view, as well as what drives him. Josh Brolin is more than up to the task, delivering a compelling, yet nuanced, portrayal of a Titan willing to do whatever it takes to achieve what he believes is right.

Image result for avengers infinity war youtubeInterestingly, the screenwriters have chosen to frame Thanos as this films lead character. It serves to follow his exploits to unite the Infinity Stones and ensure his character is well rounded, which leads to this wonderfully realistic motion-capture creation encountering numerous franchise stalwarts. Even when the Titan is not in the scenes, his presence is certainly felt, and his shadow looms large over the ensuing scenes.

In spite of a 149 minute running time, the length is never really felt. It may contain such a gigantic cast, but each character somehow manages to get their own great moment. We're given enough to understand how their mindset, and how life has treated them since the last time we saw them. Unique combinations are put to screen, allowing for a great rapport to form in their own special ways. No character is left shortchanged here, but there are a few clear standouts. Chris Hemsworth continues on the strong work he showed in Thor: Ragnarok, as his character tries to persevere, despite being clearly affected by prior events.

There's a prominent role included for Zoe Saldana, who gets her meatiest role in the franchise to date. She sets out to prevent her adopted father from achieving his own personal victory, no matter the cost, and this allows viewers to get a glimpse into their history. It's a gripping relationship that can rightly be called abusive, as no matter how much the Titan seems to care for his adopted daughter, it's obviously a traumatic time for her.

Returning after delivering two of the franchises most acclaimed entries, the Russo Brothers make it clear that a bigger cast doesn't phase their handling in the slightest. The film may jump between characters, but it straddles the line between genres so well that it doesn't feel like a tonal clash. The serious moments are given room to breath, and are never undercut by the moments of humour (which prove to be VERY funny). The action scenes are also very well crafted, allowing to showcase the various fighting styles between each of the combatants.

But, to paraphrase from another blockbuster franchise owned by Disney, this does not go the way you think. There's a need to subvert what is expected by audiences, as the film veers into unexpected directions which will surprise audiences. How it plays into next years Avengers 4 (which was once titled Infinity War: Part Two), we'll have to wait and see, but for the time being, Marvel Studios have certainly been audacious, and ensured viewers will be clamouring for the follow-up.

The culmination of 10 years of cinematic storytelling, it could've been easy for the film to fall short of its aspirations. Thankfully, Avengers: Infinity War provides a compelling tale which subverts expectations, to shocking degrees. If you believe you're prepared for Thanos, his quest, or how it'll affect this franchises heroes, think again.