'We're under assault' we hear over a black screen before we're taken to the bridge of the ship last seen at the end of "Thor: Ragnarok." Many lay dead and more will join them as Thanos (Josh Brolin) secures what has been hidden in the Tesseract, one of six stones representing Time, Mind, Space, Reality, Soul, and Power. Should he possess them all, he will be the most powerful being in the Universe and his mission is to wipe out half of it to stem overpopulation in "Avengers: Infinity War."
"Infinity War" make take up directly where director Taika Waititi left off, but directors Anthony and Joe Russo ("Captain America: Civil War"), while injecting some of the levity we've come to expect from Avengers banter, give us something far darker. They and their "Civil War" screenwriters have also given us a cliffhanger, a movie split in two despite having ditched the idea of a 'Part 1' in the title. You may have heard that a number of familiar faces meet their ends here, but I'm far from convinced most won't be returning.
While these films have been flooding the market, you've got to hand it to über-producer Kevin Feige whose grand design comes into sharper and sharper focus. The Avengers movies are the crown of the franchise, but every individual sideline, no matter its tone veering comedic or dramatic, has been building up to something. And Thanos isn't just another villain intent on destruction, Brolin shading him into something more complex, even somewhat sympathetic. There is plenty more to explore in Thanos's evolution.
The Avengers we find here are still at odds, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) not having spoken to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in some time. After assaulting the Asgardians and capturing the Space stone, Thanos and his Black Order continue their mission, coming up against various configurations of Marvel Superheroes. Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) head to the Sanctum Sanctorum, joined by Spider-Man (Tom Holland) just in time to battle Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) in pursuit of Doctor Strange's (Benedict Cumberbatch) Time Stone, but Banner cannot get the Hulk to come out of hiding. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), bound together by the Mind stone, are found meeting up in Edinburgh by Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon). Meanwhile the Guardians of the Galaxy find a debris field - and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) - whom Starlord (Chris Pratt) is happy to see leave with Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) - finds a lone Eitri (Peter Dinklage) to forge a new weapon. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) will remember her adoption by Thanos and his search for the Soul stone will reunite them along with sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Vision is brought to Wakanda along with Rogers, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) where Shuri (Letitia Wright) attempts to disentangle the stone from his makeup, but the clock is ticking as Thanos's hordes descend.
It is the relationship among all these characters (which also include Loki, Winter Soldier, The Collector, Pepper Potts and War Machine, but not Hawkeye or Ant-Man) that gives the franchise its spark. There are romances, bromances, rivalries and the father and son dynamic of Stark and Parker (who gets a cool new Spidey suit courtesy of Stark Industries). Thor's designation of Rocket as 'sweet rabbit' makes for an interesting dynamic and there is plenty of amusing interplay (even if Okoye's aside to T'Challa about having expected a Starbucks in Wakanda is unfortunately timed). It is in the individual plot propulsion that these films suffer, another blurry CGI battle a necessary evil, Doctor Strange's surrender for Stark hard to wrap one's head around.
If "Thor: Ragnarok" amusingly stripped Thor back to his basics, "Avengers: Infinity War" dramatically decimates its entire world. Stay for the stinger which doesn't provide any answers but injects a note of hope.
The Earth, nay, the entire Universe, is in danger of destruction and genocide at the hand of brutal and powerful despot, Thanos (Josh Brolin). He is on a mission to posses the six Infinity stones and the ultimate power they possess to dominate all of the worlds. The Avengers, and a few other familiar friends, will join forces to stop Thanos at all costs in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Let us just say I am only an occasional visitor to the Marvel Universe and its plethora of super heroes and other inhabitants. That said, I was hardly prepared for the relentless bombardment of, I stopped counting at 20, main characters, CGI effects, violent action, humorous bantering and the answer to the question on many fan minds: Who dies?
I promise not to give anything away. Not that it matters, because you probably already saw “Avengers: Infinity War” and know the answer to that question. If not, you probably had a “friend” spoil for you. But, that is not what it is all about. It is all about entertaining the audience and that is what the vast collection of filmmaking talent does quite well.
As I said, there are a whole bunch of characters on board for this MU mega-opus that mashes together the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy crew – and, I am sure the fans will tell me, many other Marvel references, like Spider-Man. But, with so many superheroes and other players – Thor, Rocket Raccoon, Loki, Star Lord, the Hulk, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Falcon, Captain America…the list goes on near infinitum – directors/brothers Anthony and Joe Russo and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFreely take a page from the last “Star Trek’s” playbook in there story-telling.
As the main plot unfolds and all of the characters are introduced, the filmmakers smartly split the players up in to smaller groups, each with their own subplot. This makes for more stories and more funny and dramatic character developments – my personal favorite is Thor, Rocket and Groot and their mission. I am sure you will have your own favorite combo.
Usually, I am ambivalent about the next entry in the Marvel Universe but, this time, I had a lot of fun with the action and amusing banter and did not mind being inundated with CGI or the 2+ hour run time. One big problem I have with the whole franchise is the famous end-of-movie sequel teaser – there were nearly 10 minutes of credits (time for a bathroom break) that I sat through to watch an advertisement for the NEXT in the franchise. Well, it is for the fans, I guess. I give it a B.
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