Film Review: Avengers Infinity War

I sit in this strange middle ground when it comes to “comic book” movies. I never grew up reading comics and I’ve never really been mad on the films. I watched the bric-a-brac stories – Michael Keaton as Batman, Andrew Garfield as Spiderman, Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier in X-Men – but when Marvel reinvented itself, unleashing the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), I just let things drift me by. I just couldn’t get excited by it all.

This means that as the behemoth of the MCU gathered momentum I was always one step behind. I didn’t bother with their early films, and I feel I should admit I’ve never seen Ironman. As time has progressed I’ve remained almost blasé about them, and the MCU. I really wouldn’t call myself a fan. I don’t really know much about the characters or their stories, but for some reason, that doesn’t stop me from going to see them on the big screen, I’m always swayed by the marketing machine.

And it doesn’t matter whether the franchise lives within the DC or Marvel universe, I’ll head down to see it, sighing slightly inside that I’ll have to sit through an ever-expanding credit roll to see a 10 second snippet about a character I don’t recognise, discussing the rebirth of a planet I cannot place, having already given over a large portion of my life to the film itself! This time it’s an ensemble piece, the MCU has gathered together their big hitters in the latest Avengers outing: Infinity War.

Sadly, bringing all their characters together has bloated the story. And with no regards to the running time Avengers: Infinity War clocks in at a staggering 160 minutes – that’s 2 hours 40 minutes – as characters come and go, story arcs discussed and dismissed, and the action jumps ’round and ’round, adding layer upon layer, setting up more and more. And that could work, but it doesn’t. It feels like it’s never going on end, there is always another line, one more thing to cram in.  It takes the pace out of the film by constantly chopping and changing and by the end of it, you feel like you’ve been through a real slog of a story.

For me, there are also too many characters involved now. The overpopulation is such that it’s just not possible for any of them to have enough screen time to really develop as characters. The actual story feels very shallow as a result, it’s now all about the surface action and needs the multitude of standalone films to piece together the individual back stories of those involved. This means that there are now so many pre-requisites as to knowledge and films must have seen before you go in that it’s all just getting messy, especially as the passage of times means a lot of the smaller details about each character has faded from memory.

It doesn’t help, either, that the increase in characters really highlights the major players that are missing (because of image rights – like the X-Men for instance). I spent large portions of the film wondering why Wolverine and Magneto weren’t there. You just cannot imagine them sitting around silently, while alien spaceships blow up half the planet! And when there’s already too many characters and plot strands to easily keep track of, starting to think about those noticeable by their absence as well, just doesn’t help.

Looking at individual characters though, Mark Ruffalo looks so out of place now, it’s not true. His expression throughout most of the film is one of boredom and there is an awkwardness in his performance that hints that he’s truly wondering why he’s still involved. Thankfully, though, Ruffalo is the only real stand out shocker, most of the performances just sludge together into an acceptable monotony that is neither offensive or memorable. You look past the “famous face” to see the required character but you’re not bothered too much about them. There are a few performances that truly shine, however. The cheeky relationships between Spiderman and Iron Man, and Thor and Rocket respectively, stand head and shoulders above the rest. They are easily the most engaging, charming and enjoyable parts of the film. Sadly though, these moments are there to provide the brief exhale of comic relief and thus, are totally at odds with the underlying tone of the film.

I believe Avengers: Infinity War is only going to be truly loved by the “comic book geeks” for want of a better expression. There is now just too much going on, too many characters involved, and too many stand-alone films that provide better, shorter and more fulfilling glimpses into specific characters to really feel like it has a place. And for all my criticisms, I think that’s a shame because, when it’s good, it’s really good and thoroughly enjoyable. But it’s just too long and too slow and shallow to really work. Even worse, however, is that the fleeting nuggets of enjoyment just remind you that you can watch a stand-alone film, that you don’t need all this padding when the concentrated version already exists. And then it ends, with a teasing cliff-hanger, and you realise it’s only part one as well!

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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