There was never any doubt that Disney’s superhero goldmine “Avengers: Infinity War” would make a lot of money. The only suspense was in seeing how much. Turns out more than any other movie ever for an opening weekend and it should easily top $1 billion by its second weekend. That’s a lot of money.
With a budget of nearly $400 million, “Infinity War” is easily one of the most expensive films ever made. Marvel Studios swings for the fences in framing this as a through-and-through event picture – a culmination of their decade-long and nineteen movie strong Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a gargantuan production with as many moving parts as big special effects (and that’s a lot) and a massive cast that will require a scorecard and pencil for those not well versed in Marvel’s vast movie landscape.
Anthony and Joe Russo are tasked with directing this juggernaut of a story based on the screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The Russo brothers are a good fit as they helmed two of Marvel’s best films: “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War”. Markus and McFeely penned all three Captain America movies in addition to the not so hot “Thor: Dark World”. Thankfully “Infinity War” is much more in line with the Cap movies than their Thor misfire.
You could say all of the recent MCU movies have been setting up for this intergalactic crisis. Through various passing dialogues and end credits scenes we have been introduced to Thanos (Josh Brolin), a despot of unshakable conviction scouring the universe for the six magical Infinity Stones. The one who wields all six stones will gain unlimited power to bend reality with a snap of their finger. You could say this is Thanos’ movie and it seems that Brolin has more screen time than any other character.
“Infinity War” has a lot on its plate and a ton of narrative threads to bring together. That means characters crossing paths often for the first time. This can be pretty satisfying and a lot of fun for followers of the MCU. The aftermath of “Thor: Ragnarok”, decisions made in Wakanda, lingering tensions from “Civil War” are just a few of the past storylines that influence Markus and McFeely’s script. On top of that the film does a pretty incredible juggling act in giving each character their moments. Only a handful of characters are missing and the movie doesn’t do the best job of explaining their absence.
The ‘Phase One’ big hitters are all here. Robert Downey, Jr’s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, and Chris Evans’ Captain America are major players (although Cap seems back-burnered a bit). Surprisingly the Guardians of the Galaxy have just as much screen time and play equally significant roles. Overall it’s cool to see characters like Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) all given meaningful story angles. But again, the true centerpiece is indeed Thanos and we are fed morsels of information which give form to his motivations and mindsets. Brolin is quite good presenting a villain with more on his mind than the generic quest to rule the universe despite what it may look like on the surface.
While “Infinity War” is plump with plot, the Russos offer just as much CGI-fueled PG-13 action. The scenes shift between feverish hand-held camerawork and bigger digitally enhanced polish. I can already anticipate complaints from those tired of the superhero genre and it’s big action formula. This film certainly doesn’t stray from that. But I go back to this being an ‘event movie’ and I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit to being thrilled by some of the large-scaled battles and big character moments.
Another big piece is the humor which has become a signature of the overall MCU. “Infinity War” definitely has some big laughs and the audience I sat with really went with it. It does clash just a tad later in the film as things begin to get dire. Still this is where some of the characters really shine (Dave Bautista’s Drax is nothing short of hysterical).
All of this is worthy of conversation, but what most people will be talking about is the ending. It’s truly a gutsy move by the Russo brothers and company but I’m a bit mixed on its effect. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil a thing, but let’s just say it felt unquestionably inevitable especially for a film clearly framed as the first of a two-parter. For me that has definitely effected the impact since first seeing it. Nevertheless, in those moments I was captivated and glued to the big screen.
The fact that “Infinity War” managed to pull off such a feat especially in the face of earth-shattering expectations deserves praise in itself. This is a mammoth-sized movie in every possible way and simply making it all coherent is impressive. “Infinity War” does much more than that. It’s a thrilling, funny, emotional, rip-roaring crowd-pleaser that serves as a fitting culmination of their decade-long buildup. Now let’s see if they can pull it all together in a satisfying way. We will know next May.
VERDICT – 4 STARS