How do you review a movie the whole world wants to talk about but doesn’t want to talk about?

By giving people choices. So here, reader, is a choose your own adventure review. Navigate below for as little or as much feedback as you’d like. Please note: no portion of this review discusses anything that would qualify as an actual spoiler for the film, nor does any portion of the review detail anything more than you’d see in a typical movie review. But for some, less is more until you’ve seen it.

Level 1 Review, e.g.

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DID YOU LIKE THE MOVIE, YES OR NO? THAT’S LITERALLY ALL I WANT TO KNOW.

Yes. I honestly had no idea how Marvel would fit so many characters into one movie, but they’ve managed to solve the Rubik’s cube of gracefully stuffing most of their cinematic universe into the confines of only 2 hour and 40 minutes.

Level 2 Review, e.g.

SO WHAT DID YOU LIKE OR NOT LIKE ABOUT IT? NO PLOT DETAILS, PLEASE.

One of my bigger concerns with Avengers: Infinity War was that, despite it being one of the final chapters in a long series of film, it’d waste too much of its running time filling in the blanks for people just tuning in. I’m happily surprised that this wasn’t the case at all. The film picks up right around the time Thor: Ragnarok ends, and it makes no effort whatsoever to catch up viewers on entries prior. I imagine anyone walking into this without knowledge of the franchise would feel like they were watching a season finale to a TV show they’d never seen, which is a bold but necessary choice to make for a film like this. (If you haven’t seen the previous movies, I’d recommend catching up on as many as you can).

And as you might expect from previous Avengers outings, the real joy and excitement of the movie rests in seeing your favorite heroes interact with one another, often for the first time – both in small moments of banter and in large scale battles. It’s hard to describe the tone of Infinity War, because the premise is dark and foreboding, but it manages to move at an even clip and doesn’t spare an ounce of the humor we’ve come to expect from the MCU.

The other big concern I had walking in was how Thanos and the MacGuffins of the MCU, the Infinity Stones, could support the weight of such a major effort. Thanos has mostly up to now been borderline silly and far from threatening, in my mind, in the brief appearances he’s made in other films. Here I’m torn on whether he works as intended. He’s threatening enough, but Infinity War in some ways tries too hard to make Thanos a compelling villain, quite suddenly, and I’m not sure the emotional or story beats with him worked for me – I think more of his backstory could have been told in previous entries, such as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, so there’d be less character building to do. Here I’d have preferred less of him, because the heroes are who we’re really invested in up to this point.

Level 3 Review, e.g.

TELL ME EVERYTHING (BUT ALSO: DON’T REALLY TELL ME ANYTHING, OK?)

The basic plot of this film is shockingly simple: Thanos is on the hunt for the Infinity Stones so he can enact some population control on the universe. He feels the universe is prone to overcrowding, leading to a scarcity of resources and poverty for many, and wants to solve that problem with the Infinity Stones. So he’s on the move to collect them all, which means the film takes place in several different areas across the universe, and basically everyone in the MCU is trying to stop him. The result is a spectacle of a movie, with conflict after conflict followed by small beats to plan and have casual banter.

I was impressed with the way the movie set up its protagonists – in Avengers: Civil War we basically had two separate sides working against each other. Infinity War takes the approach of setting up three main groups of protagonists and weaving them throughout. The way some of these heroes were bundled together was easily my favorite part of the movie, particularly the chemistry between certain Avengers and certain Guardians of the Galaxy.

As with any A/B/C subplot situation, some plots fare better than others. The lower point of the movie for me involved a fetch quest that comes near the end of the film – one of those subplots that starts to stall the momentum of a film that is otherwise firing on all cylinders. Also, as much as I love Peter Dinklage on Game of Thrones, that was not the case here. I’m surprised his scenes didn’t end up on the cutting room floor.

Meanwhile, the rest of the movie and its many moving pieces deliver, particularly because Infinity War has what so many other MCU films have lacked: stakes. Besides occasionally offing a minor supporting character like Agent Coulson (and then not really letting him be dead, anyway), audiences previously have spent most of these films knowing exactly who will walk away safely. While that’s true to some extent here, there’s a very real feeling that we’re reaching an end of sorts, and not everyone will make it out alive.

Lastly, I compared Infinity War to a season finale rather than a series finale, and it’s an important distinction. There’s another part to this story coming one year from now, and though I was hoping Infinity War would feel mostly self-contained, it’s only half of a complete story, and like any season finale, it’s painful to know we’ll have to wait a full year to get the conclusion. But so far I’m impressed with how much Marvel managed to fit into one story, and I think the structure of these films and their TV-like narrative have proved how well long term franchise investments can pay off if they’re well thought out and executed rather than handled piecemeal.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Thanos doesn’t think there is room enough in the universe for everyone? The infinitely expanding universe is too small?

  2. Thanks for not comparing it to a Paul Thomas Anderson movie. Slate critic Sam Adams has vowed to throw a brick at the next reviewer who makes that comparison.

  3. “The basic plot of this film is shockingly simple”

    Shockingly simplistic. The film was a repetitive snoozefest. It was the same conflict over and over and over and over. “Fight Thanos!” “No, protect the gems!” “No, kill me to protect the gems!” 10 minutes worth of concept stretched over two and a half hours.

    Whenever comic fans watch these films, the critical centers of their brains turn to mush.

  4. “Whenever comic fans watch these films, the critical centers of their brains turn to mush.”

    Exhibit A: Skip, who expresses contempt for 99 percent of superhero movies but can’t help seeing them all, apparently on the first day of release.

  5. Holy crap George, people are really comparing this to PTA? Because it has a big ensemble? Why don’t they go for Altman while they’re at it too?

    It’s a very fun time btw, just got out of it a little bit ago. That Hannah and I can talk over dinner about these characters that I grew up loving is a dream come true for me.

  6. I really thought they did a good job with Thanos. Many genuinely shocking moments, though in good comic book fashion they’ve left themselves an out. ATM, I’d rate it in the lower half of MCU movies, but the larger the cast the more viewings it takes for me to settle on an opinion.

  7. The problems with the film are that it is pretty repetitive, with the whole “hero refuses to kill one person in order to save half the universe” thing happening THREE times, and Thanos becoming the “Big Poochie” of the MCU. Remember when they first announced Infinity War as a two-parter and then reversing course when people starting complaining about it? Well, this is definitely still part one of two but a little restructuring and a lot less Thanos could have prevented that.

    On the other hand, it is still a lot of fun and amazingly well-constructed for what it is.

    Mike

  8. “Infinity War has what so many other MCU films have lacked: stakes.”

    And I have to disagree with this. If anything, the film lost me a bit by going so far over the top that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief. Whoever dies “for real” in the next one is going to be slightly undercut by seeing everybody and their brother get ash-puffed into nonexistence in this one.

    Mike

  9. My problem with this movie (and I had a lot of fun watching it) is the way the character of the Hulk — and especially Bruce Banner — is so different from the way he was written in the previous films. He’s not smart. He’s not scientific. Mark Ruffalo is never less than a terrific actor, but he is given nothing to work with here.

    Also (and I hope this isn’t spoiler-y, but warning) if I was the parent of young children, I would not take them to this until the second part comes out.

  10. About halfway through, I thought “OK — Thanos == R’as Al Ghul”. (Hell, they both have super-assassin daughters.)

    Which is actually a clever bit of adaptation. Thanos of the comics is, boiled down, your crazy god-like supervillain. It’s tough to make much of a character who’s prime motivation is getting down with Death.

    The whole “I have to kill the universe to save it” theme plays a lot better, I think.

    (And I really enjoyed the movie; plus, I thought the conclusion was a hoot, but I suspect I’m in the minority. The audience I saw it with appeared to be gobsmacked; they were absolutely quiet after the final scene, and sat through the entire credits sequence for the stinger.)

  11. SPOILER The Hulk was clearly visible in the trailers as participating in the climactic fight … Yet, all we see if Hulkbuster Banner. What happened?

  12. Kyle: I think the PTA comparison is coming from fans’ tweets rather than legitimate reviews.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/avengers-infinity-war-review-fan-reaction-marvel-sequel-captain-america-iron-man-thanos-a8319501.html

    Your comment made me wish Altman was still around to direct a “revisionist” superhero movie, the way he made a revisionist private eye movie (The Long Goodbye) and Western (McCabe & Mrs. Miller). I’d love to hear the fanboy reaction to the overlapping dialogue, slow zooms into scenes, and mournful Leonard Cohen score!

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