Avengers: Infinity War opens with a distress call—actually a massacre, off-screen. And it’s only fitting that after Marvel’s most outrageously hilarious movie comes tragedy. I’m referring to Thor: Ragnarok, of course, which ended with Thor, Loki, Heimdall, Hulk and the rest of the Asgardians aboard The Mastermind’s fancy ship. They all survived Ragnarok—saw Asgard burn to the ground—only to have their refuge cut short by Thanos and his henchmen, the Black Order.
Yes, Avengers: Infinity War takes off right after that Ragnarok stinger. By the way, I remember someone complained that Ragnarok shouldn’t be a comedy, that everyone should have died in the end just like in the comics. My dear friend, you had Thanos’ mercy, your wish has been fulfilled. Are you happy now?
Of course, Infinity War is also, more or less, a direct sequel to Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2—none of which required viewing prior (in case you missed them) except for the last one. Civil War‘s great divide was summed up by Tony Starks with “we’re not in speaking terms”; Spider-Man, who tried so hard to impress Tony only to reject his offer to become an Avenger in the end, now becomes an Avenger; and Killmonger, the most important character in Black Panther, you don’t really need to know to understand this movie.
Why it’s prerequisite to watch the Guardians then? Because the jokes might go over your head and your reflexes aren’t as fast as Drax’s. Also, so that you would know who these assholes are.
For those who’ve watched all the previous 18 MCU movies, Avengers: Infinity War is like a one big third act—all the stakes, all the near-death or near-miss scenarios that were sorely missing in most of the previous movies, and all the heroes and formidable foes coming together into one mega movie climax. It’s an all killers no fillers affair. Yes, the whole film feels like one big superhero movie climax, with all the movies since that Avengers mid-credits tease, comprising the first and second acts, the long and winding, sometimes disappointingly average, sometimes surprisingly fresh, multiple movie build-up.
For a movie packed to rafters with characters, sub-plots, multiple split-ups and team-ups, having a story that’s coherent, streamlined and even keeled is nothing less than impressive. That Infinity War is able to sustain its high energy, that the multiple shifts in tone never felt jarring, and that the pathos to jokes ratio is well-balanced, even more.
Though it’s still not an outright knock out punch to the guts. Nor a deadly ax to the heart. Why? Because a movie this big, with a cast and story this huge, needs probably another half an hour only so the overall story progression doesn’t feel rushed. Like The Dark Knight or Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends, Avengers: Infinity War‘s overall arc does feel rushed. And that’s something Avengers 4 will hopefully improve on.
As it is, the movie just moves on with a rhythm that’s almost left unchanged throughout the movie, treating every skirmish, every death, every wounded hero or villain (both physically and emotionally) with almost equal importance. As such, Captain America’s behind the train introduction felt sweeter than Thor’s unexpected mid-battle entrance. While thoroughly surprising, Thor’s surprise return felt less climactic than it should be, just one brief moment in an already busy third act.
Vision and Wanda get the spotlight their story needs while Iron Man’s relentless fight and last-gasp attempts to stop Thanos seemed like a lesser act of sacrifice even though that wasn’t the case. There are parts or scenes where I wished the movie had lingered on a little longer; like the one with Thanos and Gamora on Vormir and the one when Peter Parker “doesn’t feel so good” on Titan.
But but but, as an action-adventure movie, Infinity War is a fucking monster, it’s a beast, a Mad Titan, just like the purple big bad meanie at its center. The actions are better than anything on The Russos’ previous MCU efforts, though some scenes were still shot too close and the fight in Wakanda is simply “LOTR did that already so there’s rarely anything new about it.” But the fights on Titan were “awesome” like those in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, “cool” because of Spider-Man, and “mind-blowing” for Doctor Strange’s mystical psychedelic tricks. And Peter Quill’s “really good” plan promised in the trailer is pricelessly stupid/brilliant.
I only wish there was more of Stark’s new fantastic nano-tech suit, which he could turn into almost any weapon he wills (maybe he could turn it into a Proton Cannon next time). And where was Quill’s Zune when he needed it? While the battle in Wakanda feels like a B-side compared to Titan, it has Thor and Wanda finally showing that they’re among the strongest Avengers. And Thor’s funny. (“I see you’ve copied my beard.”) But Drax still had the funniest joke. Cap and Black Panther? They did just fine but they were upstaged by Bruce Banner who definitely had a blast inside the Hulk. Buster.
In the end, there isn’t really much to complain about in Infinity War. Making it was an enormous task to begin with and I generally like what the makers of the movie achieved here. It’s more than 2 1/2 hours long and I actually wished it was longer. No one’s saying it’s “the best MCU movie yet” or “the greatest superhero movie since…” and I’m fine with that. It’s better than I expected, that, I’m sure. And I like it better than Captain America: Civil War. Or Logan.