8 May 2018

Avengers: Infinity War Review

In the age of sequels, reboots and franchising of intellectual properties, hyped-up movie finales can be so common that the importance of them feels diminished. With many series such as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and The Hobbit receiving conclusions split into multiple films, it's easy to see how the impact of such an event can feel unsatisfying. Despite having a few strong recent hits in Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, the fear of Avengers: Infinity War being a disappointment was valid.

With the Marvel Cinematic Universe, things have behaved slightly differently than other franchises. Much like the comic books, characters can pop in and out of different pictures at will, creating interesting situations and premises. Infinity War is not the finale for a story that began only a few movies ago. The premise has instead spent a decade being built-up, with eighteen films and several TV series to hype up the pinnacle of this story.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo – who also directed the latter two Captain America movies – Avengers: Infinity War fits in towards the end of Marvel's Phase 3 timeline; immediately after Thor: Ragnarok, two years after Captain America: Civil War and four after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It sees the paths of each character interweave with each other as they must team together to stop Thanos (Josh Brolin), a cosmic being who must acquire six Infinity Stones in order to put an end to the universe.
After having written the Captain America trilogy and Thor: The Dark World, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely return as screenwriters for this film. With the task of balancing the 40-plus character catalogue, each hero and villain shares a comfortable amount of screentime to the point where it never feels overcrowded. With the conflict between the Avengers and Thanos acting more as a frame for the tension of the story, the relationship between the mad titan and his daughter, Gamora, feels closer to the soul of the film. After being teased in several prior post-credit scenes, his introduction in Infinity War packs a punch as we receive full understanding of why he is a villain to be feared. 

The group efforts of the screenwriters and directors results in a well-rounded villain. As coldly nihilistic and malevolent as his principles might be, we begin to see his motivations aren’t for personal power but a psychopathic sense of responsibility. In fact, it even feels like Thanos is the main character of the film, as so much time is spent on his backstory and personal moralities. Speaking about his character in an interview with The Upcoming, Brolin said, "What I like about Thanos is he's presented in one way and then the reality is a lot deeper than what people are expecting. So we'll see if he's just the villain, and we'll see if he's likeable and if people understand his intention from other perspectives. I think it's all up for interpretation which is very exciting."
Each sequence flows along well as we get a decent idea of how each character reacts to the events surrounding them. There are certain heroes - such as Doctor Strange or Spider-Man - that even feel more comfortable and skilled in their roles than they did in their origin films, and seeing how well they unite with each other and others creates many fascinating interactions. The Russos did an excellent job at presenting balance in this film, which is shown through the use of alternating between different perspectives and giving as much screen-time to the villains as they do the heroes.

I've always been really impressed with the computer-generated imagery in Marvel films, but for Thanos it felt like an even bigger leap from what was already achieved. This can partly be attributed to Josh Brolin's stellar motion-capture performance, but also with the visual effects work by California-based studio Digital Domain that has significantly raised the bar on what the standard for VFX-led big budget films should look like. Every subtle movement in Thanos' body and face is perfectly captured, with minute detail being depicted in a very clear way. 

Additional visual effects were created as a collaborative effort between Industrial Light & Magic,  Framestore, Method Studios, Weta Digital, Double Negative, Cinesite, Rise, Lola VFX, and Perception. In many ways, it feels like Avengers: Infinity War is a large-scale crossover behind the scenes as well as onscreen. "We come from a big Italian family and we like to create an environment on set where everybody feels welcome," Anthony Russo said in an interview with Flickering Myth, "that's critical for us. We work as a team, and the collaborative nature of the filmmaking process is elemental to what we do, and it's what we love about it."
It's important to note that Infinity War and its sequel won't be a definitive end to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but will instead wrap up the Infinity Stones sage as well as the stories of the current lineup of characters like Captain America, Iron Man and Hulk, paving the way for new heroes such as Doctor Strange and Black Panther to take over. With Marvel Studios having movies planned up to 2025 (and possibly beyond), it's evident that this was the best method to adapt a shared comic book universe.

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