Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War (USA, 2018) is a non-stop juggernaut of Shock and Awe

The last ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building up to this, Avengers Infinity War, and this film is nothing short of a non-stop juggernaut of a blockbuster that refuses to hold back its punches. Strap yourselves in because this may turn into a blithering emotional crazed over-analysed mess… but I promise this is a spoiler free review.

So in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, comic book movies have now become a huge thing. This is thanks largely to Marvel Comics being adapted for the screen by Marvel Studios, beginning with Iron Man running right up to the recent Black Panther and introducing a whole slew of characters along the way. Many of these we’ve become invested in, so the biggest challenge facing Infinity War was how to squeeze that many characters into a film 150 minutes long, without doing those who we’ve grown to love a disservice. In order to achieve that, very early on our characters are split and paired up with others that they have not crossed paths with before. Without giving too much away, some of these pairings are pretty genius and it’s a shame that we’ll probably only get them in Infinity War and Avengers 4: As Yet Untitled… but we’ll make the most of them whilst we have them.

Doing this also enables the screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely to keep the pace throttling along quite nicely. Speaking of pacing, the film pretty much picks up where Thor Ragnarok and Black Panther left off and comes bursting out of the gate pretty quickly. So if you haven’t seen either of those …. who are we kidding of course you have. In fact this movie expects that you’ve seen all of the previous MCU instalments, particularly to enjoy the character meet-cutes and dynamics. But from an exposition standpoint. the film manages to dish up the need to know info fairly quickly, so if you haven’t seen them all, it’s not a big deal.

Thanos (Josh Brolin) is a big purple alien dude, he’s a megalomaniac who enjoys collecting Infinity Stones and causing mass genocide. Standing in the way of his fun is Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Peter Parker/Spiderman (Tom Holland), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), King T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Peter Quill/Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany). This isn’t all of them but these are definitely the key players who make a dent in the screentime. Thanos intends to use the power of the Infinity Stones and his Infinity Gauntlet to restore balance to the universe, because overpopulating the entire galaxy has resulted in a depletion of natural resources and poverty and suffering. It’s not a fun job having to wipe out half the galaxy but Thanos believes he’s the one with the will to do it. Of course it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Guardians Of The Galaxy to stop him, but will they be strong enough to defeat the tyrannical titan?

We had been warned by director brother duo Anthony and Joe Russo to expect some damage and fans will no doubt come out of this movie reeling. The Russo’s weren’t kidding, people die, and they’re not background extras. However it’s interesting that certain stakes are meant to feel high, but it’s hard to completely feel that emotional resonance when we (as the viewing public) know that there are more stories to come. This was something that sat a little awkwardly with me whilst watching, mainly because the initial shock of it works but then if you think about it, the logic doesn’t quite compute.

Nonetheless, this barely detracts from the film because counteracting the darker moments they manage to drop some great comedic beats in there. It’s nice to see that the self-referential nature hasn’t worn thin and still manages to have audiences laughing. The standout performances going to Downey Jr, Holland, Saldana and Hemsworth for me, all of whom made my heart hurt in ways anew.

Visually this really pops with colour and vibrancy, clearly taking a few steps forward from Doctor Strange and Thor Ragnarok that were both spectacular to watch. We were fortunate to watch it on an IMAX screen too, and considering that the film was specifically shot using the IMAX Arri 6K Alexa camera, it makes a difference on the aspect ratio. Alan Silvestri returns again to provide the musical score and it’s a joy to hear him blend all the notes and themes of all of the characters together. In other words, this is the sort of film that defines the term “cinematic experience”.

Avengers Infinity War manages to not only raise the stakes but also sucker punch you with shock and surprise. This is no small feat considering that we are now 18 films deep into the MCU and feel like we could have seen it all. We now have to wait with eager anticipation until next year for the conclusion to this story (with Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel filling the gaps between now and then).

Also friendly PSA: you’ll need to stay to the very end of the credits for that special little sting.

Review Score: FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 150 minutes

Avengers: Infinity War is in cinemas now.