Avengers: Infinity War Is The Ultimate Superhero Movie

FTC Statement: Reviewers are frequently provided by the publisher/production company with a copy of the material being reviewed.The opinions published are solely those of the respective reviewers and may not reflect the opinions of CriticalBlast.com or its management.

Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Google icon
StumbleUpon icon
Del.icio.us icon
Reddit icon
e-mail icon
Avengers: Infinity War opens everywhere 4/27/2018.

Thanos. The name alone strikes a chord with Marvel comic aficionados. It’s like sitting at a WWE event when the lights all go out, a lone, deep bell peals, and the arena is bathed in eerie blue light and theatrical fog, signaling the arrival of The  Undertaker. When Thanos shows up in a comic book, someone is going to die. If Thanos had his way, everyone would die.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a bit different than the Marvel Comic Universe, but Thanos is still the ultimate cosmic antagonist. Up until know he’s been relegated to talking head spots, chiding Loki in Marvel’s The Avengers, putting Ronan the Accuser in his place in Guardians of the Galaxy, and so forth. With The Avengers: Infinity War Thanos finally takes center stage against the entire host of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s expansive cast. And if Thanos had his way, nearly everyone would die.

That brings us to an interesting subplot that I don’t rightly recall from the 1991 comic book miniseries The Infinity Gauntlet (I haven’t read that in at least 20 years). In the comics, Thanos is the ultimate nihilist, in love with Marvel’s feminized concept of death itself, and eager to offer her the universe in exchange for her affection. In the film—and this really shouldn’t be a spoiler, I wouldn’t think—Thanos is a bit more sympathetic. He’s actually something of an eco-terrorist on a universal scale. The universe is overpopulated. His world, Titan, and many others with sentient races are dying from each planet’s primary race stripping the planet of every essential element—water, vegetation, etc. Sound like anyplace you know? Instead of simply denying the obvious warning signs of global warming, among other things, as human government leaders prefer to do to maintain their grip power and riches, Thanos determined that the universe needs to shed half of its population. If he consciously picked planets and races to ravage and others to save, he’d be a genocidal despot on a cosmic scale. Here, he is indiscriminant. He doesn’t care who dies, it’s just in the best interest of the universe that half of everybody disappears. To achieve this goal, he assembles the Infinity Gauntlet, harnessing the primal power of the six Infinity Gems that were created in the Big Bang. When he posses them all, a snap of his fingers will eliminate the universal “problem” and he can simply settle down somewhere and enjoy the sunrise.

If you’re thinking, “What the….?!?” You aren’t alone. This film has nearly every Marvel superhero to ever appear on film and yet it is decidedly Thanos’ movie. The depth of character and subtle but important difference in his characterization is remarkable and surprising. Oh, don’t be fooled—he kills a bunch of your favorite heroes along the way. I can’t tell you who—the Russo Brothers (aka the co-directors who brought us Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War) politely asked me not to. I can tell you that everyone from The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, and more recent hits like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Doctor Strange and Black Panther are present, including supporting characters we all love like Wong, Heimdall, General Okoye, Shuri, and M’Baku. I’m not going to do an actor’s roll call, but Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Hemsworth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista and the gang get put through hell for nearly three hours, and when it’s over you’re left breathless and still hungry for more.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. Mark Ruffalo has been wonderful as the smart guy holding an inner rampaging Hulk at bay by sheer strength of will in his appearances to date, but here he’s neutered quickly. After a thorough thrashing early on, Hulk retreats into Banner’s id like a petulant child and refuses to come out when needed, forcing Banner to wear the Hulkbuster Iron Man armor from The Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron. Yes, the armor is cool, but you know what else is cool? A rampaging Hulk! Why even have Hulk around if you won’t use him, or in this case he won’t play with the team? To further the issue, when Banner discards the helmet late in the battle his head looks obviously green-screened. It’s as noticeable as when Marvel’s Distinguished Competition had to CGI a stubborn Kryptonian moustache off in a recent Warner Brothers flop. To put it another way, when Wong is more effective against Thanos’ forces than Hulk, that serves to greatly undercut the appeal of a Marvel cornerstone character. Although…now that I think about that may actually be how the story went down in the comic too. Shoot, I need to dig out my back issues tonight! OK, let’s just say that the Hulk refusing to come out was something I personally didn’t care for, but I stand by the CGI failure when Ruffalo is exposed in the Hulkbuster armor.

On the other hand, the long underrated Josh Brolin makes Thanos a deeper and richer foe than I would have expected. I assumed he would be a one-dimensional hater of all life, not an anti-hero seeking to rebalance life in the universe. His Black Order, which comes from Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity event in the comics are played by Tom Vaughn-Lawlor as the sinister Ebony Maw, Terry Notary as the hulking--See? Thanos knows that every army needs a heavy hitter!--Cull Obsidian, Michael James Shaw as the vicious Corvus Glaive and Carrie Coon as the dangerous Proxima Midnight. They are more single minded in their destruction and not given much character depth, but they certainly look menacing and give Earth’s assembled heroes all they can handle. Among the heroes, Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Zoe Saldana and Robert Downey, Jr. stood out to me for their character arcs, while Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Dave Bautista and Bradley Cooper continued to shine in their respective roles.

Anthony and Joe Russo do a masterful job of juggling a cast that dwarfs The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Harry Potter franchise while keeping everyone equally involved. It’s a shame the Academy probably won’t give them any real consideration at next year’s Oscars. With all of the surprises and “Easter eggs” they pepper in the Internet will be buzzing about the next installment is released around this time next year. They do it all while maintaining the humor and characterizations crafted by their fellow Marvel directors Jon Favreau, James Gunn, Joss Whedon, Ryan Coogler, Scott Derrickson, Jon Watts, Peyton Reed, Taika Waititi and others. Kevin Feige, producer extraordinaire, should be in line for a Lifetime Achievement Award for orchestrating a truly magnificent cinematic epic to date, with at least another half-dozen films slated to come.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0