The Avengers was a film that really shouldn’t have worked, but much to everybody’s surprise, it did. Joss Whedon masterfully handled the first superhero team-up ever witnessed onscreen. Not only did it successfully cap off Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but it also told its own story about a group of very different people coming together to save the world. That can be easy to do when you only have six characters to worry about, though. The second team-up installment, Avengers: Age of Ultron showed what could happen when you now have more characters and storylines to cover. It ends up being overstuffed and not as engaging, but still a decent film. What happens when you triple the ante, though?

In Avengers: Infinity War, big, bad purple guy Thanos (Josh Brolin) is ready to do some cleansing and bring balance to the universe by wiping out half of its population. In order to do so, he needs the six Infinity Stones, each one lying in the hands of our various heroes introduced over the past few years. With Thanos on his way to Earth, it’s up to Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), and fifteen other heroes that would take too much time to mention in order to stop him. 

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, not really. Unlike the original Avengers film where we only had six heroes and one storyline to focus on, this one practically triples that. Since we’re on film 19 here, there’s naturally a lot more ground to be covered since everything that’s been building up is finally coming together. The Guardians of the Galaxy meet up with Thor. Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man are all working together. Captain America and Black Panther are joining forces. There are a lot of elements that needed to be united and I applaud the filmmakers for their ambition. However, everything here didn’t seem to add up to a cohesive whole.

Since we have so many moving pieces and so much ground to cover, the film really ends up being a mess. When you’re juggling multiple storylines and characters in one film, you’re bound to jump back and forth between narratives. What matters is how well it’s paced. With Avengers: Infinity War, we’ll spend a half hour in one storyline, a half hour in the next, so on and so forth. A character will be kidnapped by a baddie in one storyline, and then we cut to different story for the next half hour. My engagement is then broken and I’m forced to focus on something different, so when we come back to the other thread, I’m thinking, “Oh yeah, he was kidnapped. I forgot.” Since the narrative is all over the place, the tension feels lost and I wound up not caring after a while. The timeframe really confused me as it seemed to take place over a few days, which means some characters would be stuck in their one location during that time. I know it’s a comic book film that requires suspension of disbelief, but a much faster pace and structure would have alleviated these problems.  

Because of this, I felt like I was watching three different movies condensed down to a 149 minute runtime. It was like some weird fan edit you would find online. When it first cut to the Guardians of the Galaxy flying through space with some rock music blasting, I felt like I was suddenly watching something completely different. This is also when the film suddenly becomes much more comedic, so when we get back to more serious matter, the tone seems to be all over the place. The MCU has become known for tone issues, though, constantly undercutting the more dramatic moments with cheesy jokes. I’ll give credit here that not only did the jokes land more often, but a lot of the dramatic moments were allowed to be dramatic. However, I didn’t really feel much for them since it all felt so disconnected. Most of the characters have their own little personal arcs, but there are so many characters and so much plot stuff going on, there’s never enough time devoted to any of them. 

The most compelling thing about it is surprisingly the weakest link in the majority of these films: the villain. Since Thanos is the only character who really crosses through all of these storylines, he’s the one who gets the most to work with. We’ve seen glimpses of who Thanos truly is here and there, but now they’re finally able to explore him and show him why he’s such a huge threat. He has his motivations for what he wants to do and although it involves the deaths of trillions, he believes it’s truly for the greater good. His adoptive father-daughter relationship with Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is fleshed out more too, making him feel like a fully realized villain. He’s incredibly deadly and imposing, but you understand him as a character. He’s really the glue that holds the whole film together. Josh Brolin owned the role too, with some great mocap and voiceover work. 

Just like all of the other films in the franchise, the rest of the cast is stellar. If there’s one thing they’ve gotten right pretty much every single time, it’s the casting of these characters. It’s always fun to see Robert Downey, Jr., this time doing a lot of sarcastic verbal sparring with Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Star Lord (Chris Pratt). Every actor feels completely comfortable in their roles and they’ve fully embodied these characters, so it’s admittedly fun to see them come together and interact. Elizabeth Olson, who is an excellent actress, also seems to have ditched her ridiculous accent from the previous films, making her character a lot more believable this time around. Also, Peter Dinklage playing a giant dwarf was quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve seen in years. Still, there’s just so much going on here that it’s pretty much nothing but these characters participating in action sequences together. The action scenes are done much better here than in Captain America: Civil War, where we’re actually able to see our heroes doing a whole lot of cool stuff to show off their powers, but it all ended up feeling empty. 

I wonder, though, could they have really done it any better? Avengers: Infinity War isn’t a standalone film. It’s supposed to be what all of these previous 18 films were building up too, with all of these different characters converging together. It was bound to be messy, but with some tighter pacing and structuring, as well as a more balanced tone, it could have been a much more engaging film. With how this ended, though, it seems the narrative for the next, and [allegedly] final, Avengers installment will be a lot less cluttered. Luckily, we have Thanos coming back, so things actually seem somewhat promising. I guess we’ll find out next year.


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