Review: Avengers: Infinity War

Score: B

Director: Anthony & Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt

Running Time: 159 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

You can breathe a sigh of relief. They pulled it off. Aside from a few notable dips (looking at you, Thor: The Dark World), the Marvel Cinematic Universe is engineered for success, or at least too big to fail. And for its big finale, the Russo Brothers balance the two dozen or so characters in this epic, planet-hopping showdown.

But in two-and-a-half hours, there's literally no time for anything else. That means it never gets bogged down, but the assumption that the work of all character development is done (aside from a character here and there), is a misstep. The emotional lynchpin of the biggest film in the franchise is between a witch and a robot. Paul Bettany (as Vision) and Elisabeth Olsen (as Scarlet Witch) act the hell out of their scenes, giving the best performances in the film. But for a series that has mostly shied away from all but the most cursory, chaste romances, it seems a little late in the game to get us this invested in characters that weren't even around three years ago.

While the film works, it restricts itself a bit. There's a ceiling on how good a movie that's 95 percent fighting can be. And since most of the combatants are CGI, that also limits how visually impressive the fights can be. Even though the Russo Brothers are at the helm, the brutal, kinetic action scenes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier have been replaced by one animated thing smashing into another animated thing. But damn if that already iconic shot of Cap holding back Thanos's gloved hand isn't stunning.

There is much earned cheering throughout, as beloved heroes make their grand entrances, new characters pop up and one truly surprising cameo takes place. And yes, as expected, some major characters die. Yet it's hard to know which, if any, of them will appear in the next Avengers movie or future Marvel projects. Remember, the Infinity Stones have the ability to alter reality and time, so some (or possibly even all) of these characters may have their resurrections.

That means I'm torn on the big finale. This is either the gutsiest ending of any modern blockbuster, or a prelude to an emotional cop-out. It's the first real cliffhanger the MCU has ever had, and it packs a wallop. But the very nature of this carefully plotted out series means that previously announced sequels would all but confirm this character and that character are coming back.

In interviews, the directing duo said they looked to '90s crime films like Out of Sight and 2 Days in the Valley. That's laughable since there's no heist or double-cross element to any of this. It's just fighting (and losing) against Thanos as he picks up another Infinity Stone. But I think the key to understanding the ending, whether definitive or not, is a later film: Memento. By no means does Infinity War have the twists and turns or narrative conceit of Christopher Nolan's breakthrough. What it does have though is characters who tell you exactly what's going to happen, and when it does, you're left in your seat in denial. "Surely that can't be what happened," you might think to yourself.

It's hard to properly review Infinity War, because until the follow-up drops next summer, we won't know if the film is as audacious as it seems. So for now, I'll split the difference and say I was sufficiently entertained. I'll know in a year if that gut punch left a bruise.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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