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Earth’s fate hangs in balance in ‘Infinity War’

May 5, 2018

It’s quite ironic that the goal of the main antagonist of “Avengers: Infinity War” is to restore universal order by wiping out half the population in a film that is overstuffed with superheroes. But this is no comic-book-based “Cannonball Run,” filled with former celebs who have washed in on the ebb tide of their careers. No, “Infinity War” features no fewer than 11 Oscar-nominated actors sharing screen time, some with just one scene. 

Regardless of your opinions when you exit “Avengers: Infinity War,” you have to be in awe of the cinematic experiment Marvel has concocted over the course of a decade and 18 films. You can look at any number of franchise pictures that simply coast on familiarity, but Marvel often took gambles and still managed to weave within the series a common narrative thread that has led to this film. 

As it stands, “Infinity” is not the strongest film in the canon, nor does it stand alone well to the uninitiated. (But seriously, why would anyone want to start their entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe here?) That said, for fans, it pays off 10 years of buildup in some very meaningful ways and drops the mic at the conclusion with jarring confidence that will resonate for the next 50-some weeks until we get to this journey’s true end.

Directed by the same team that provided the franchise with some of its best outings (brothers Anthony and Joe Russo of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Winter Soldier”), “Infinity War” opts to give most of its screen time to its villain, Thanos (played by a CGI-d Josh Brolin), who looks like the offspring of McDonald’s Grimace and a sperm whale. This could have been a huge mistake, as Marvel is perhaps not known for providing its heroes with the most memorable miscreants. (Does anyone even remember Malekith? How about Ronan the Accuser?) With Thanos, they have finally learned from “Black Panther’s” paw prints and given us a more-realized reprobate who has purpose and actually feels like a genuine threat. Like a nihilistic Lucky the Leprechaun, he seeks out all his magical charms, called “Infinity Stones.” Instead of marshmallow stars and clovers, the stones give him control over different facets of the universe: time, space, power, mind, soul, and reality, which he hopes to use to restore universal balance by eliminating half of creation.  The final two stones are located on Earth, which leads Thanos to make a cosmic pit stop and encounter such familiar faces as Bruce Banner/Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo), Doctor Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), Tony Stark/Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) and the rest of the Marvel gang.  While there is no one scene in which all heroes share the camera’s eye, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely manage to make the most of their pairings. In particular, Stark and Strange struggle to shove each other’s egos out of the picture in delightful ways, and Thor’s newly minted comedic chops (last displayed in “Thor: Ragnarok”) are perfectly suited for his adventures with the “Guardians of the Galaxy” clan. Others have memorable lines and/or scenes (such as Tom Holland’s refreshing spin as “Spider-Man”), but there is far too much the film needs to accomplish to stay with anyone else for too long, as Earth’s fate hangs in the balance.

It culminates in a pummeling “finale” that will keep internet discussion boards choked with theories for a while, and while it may not feel satisfying, it does offer more than enough entertainment to make its 2.5-hour runtime race by. Even though filmmakers are touting this as its own entry, it feels like Thanos himself directed, and we are only getting half the picture. Personally, I am fine with that, but I have a feeling that after the next installment is released, there will be a screening of both parts merged together, which will feel much more complete. Sure, it may be five hours in total runtime, but after spending a large part of this decade in the dark with one or more of these heroes, it’s a small price to pay.

 

  • Rob is the head of the English and Communications Department at Delaware Technical Community College, where he teaches film. He is also one of the founders of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society and is lead entertainment writer for Influx Magazine. Email him at filmrob@gmail.com.