Illustration by Leo Gordon
It would be an understatement to say that Avengers: Infinity War has been a highly anticipated movie. It held a massive advertising campaign, and the theater I visited was packed. While nothing revolutionary, it lives up to most of the hype and is one of the best superhero films I’ve seen.
The plot of Infinity War is not complex. A tall, purple, CGI alien, Thanos, is worried about overpopulation, and so he decides to destroy half of all life in the universe in the name of “balance.” To do this, he must collect six “Infinity Stones” which wield incredible (some would say infinite) power. Naturally, men and women in brightly colored costumes must fight him off.
To be honest, the plot doesn’t really matter in this kind of movie. It’s just an excuse to show off CGI superpowers being used by superheroes that Marvel Studios have been building for the past ten years. Fortunately, the superpowers are extremely entertaining and make up for the lackluster plot. Most of the movie is a series of fights between these different characters taking place between different planets, emphasizing that the stakes are not merely bound to earth. Each fight is filled with raw intensity, and the directors make it clear that real lives are at stake — no more killing a character only to bring them back. Thanos means business.
The movie’s dialogue and acting standout as well. Most of the cast gets in some funny jokes, and the more emotionally charged moments are handled well. But to be honest, it doesn’t add much to the movie. Not much time is spent on dialogue, and what little lines we do hear don’t do much for the story.
The one exception to this is Josh Brolin’s performance as omnicidal villain Thanos. As a villain, Thanos seems so over-the-top and evil that he couldn’t possibly be a realistic character. One would expect him to just be a punching bag for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. But despite the extreme CGI and the convoluted schemes, Brolin lends the character of Thanos a surprising humanity. Here, Thanos comes off as a tragic figure. He truly believes himself to be the hero, and is doing what he views as “the right thing.” If not for the fact that he plans on killing trillions, you almost have to like him.
Like the best superhero movies, Infinity War embraces its own absurdity and runs with it. Characters often frame events in humorous ways, pointing out that as cool as all this is, it’s kind of silly. For example, two heroes who use magic are referred to as “wizards.” At critical moments humor is drawn from how Bruce Banner has trouble becoming his supernatural alter ego, The Hulk.
All of this talk about wizards and angry green giants might be a little difficult for the average viewer to understand. Characters include Norse gods, a talking raccoon, a sentient tree voiced by Vin Diesel who can only say one phrase, the monarch of a fictional African country, literal wizards, a thinking robot with superpowers, and a darker, edgier, Captain America. Viewers are expected to know most of these characters from the previous eighteen movies set in the Marvel Universe. Because of this, I wasn’t especially saddened by the dramatic deaths of fan favorite characters (yes, many of them do die). If this is your first time watching a Marvel film, you will be confused for much of the movie, especially early on, but just because a movie is confusing doesn’t mean it can’t be good. The real heart of Infinity War is seeing people with cool superpowers kick butt with said superpowers. It makes this movie better if you’re a longtime Marvel fan, but you don’t have to recognize the inevitable Stan Lee cameo or understand the intricate backstory to enjoy Infinity War. Besides, by the conclusion of the film you have a good sense of most of the major players.
Infinity War isn’t a masterpiece. It doesn’t exist to make a point about society or to make you question everything you know about the world. In its most simple form, it’s an exciting summer blockbuster. And that’s all it needs to be.