Some Assembly Required
Saying that a film doesn’t fall apart under its own weight is rarely considered a big deal. For Infinity War, it’s about the pinnacle of high praise. The Russo Brothers (who directed this installment, as well as The Winter Soldier and Infinity War) had an absurd amount of characters, stories, jokes, visuals, action sequences and arcs to stuff into one movie – and somehow, they actually pulled it off. Infinity War may lack the tight cohesion that elevates certain MCU titles to the top of the pack, but its greatest strength is its presentation of so much content in a way that’s not just well balanced, but incredibly satisfying in its own.
Some of the mega team-up titles in the Marvel lineage (such as Age of Ultron or Civil War) were among my least favorite, as they often felt bloated and tonally inconsistent. Infinity War manages to solve this issue by breaking up its daunting 149-minute runtime into a series of smaller stories with a few characters occupying each. Infinity War wastes no time getting into its story, which begins mere moments after the ending of Thor: Ragnarok. This is also a film that is completely dependent on the audience being familiar with these characters. The decision to not give any of the protagonists extended development allows that focus to instead shift to Thanos, who’s given more backstory, motivation and emotional resonance than most comic book movie villains – Marvel or otherwise.
The Beginning of the End
Making a completely CGI alien villain is easy to pull off, but making them feel like an actual character is where things get tricky. Compared to something like Steppenwolf from the Justice League movie, this is absolutely night and day. In terms of its unconventional narrative that breaks down into several simultaneous B-plots, Infinity War functions in the ways that The Last Jedi failed, by balancing everything and keeping it consistently engaging – as well as leaving on a note that genuinely excited to see what happens next. The simple fact that Infinity War compartmentalizes everything is the reason why it works as well as it does.
Infinity War is better than it has any right to be with the amount of story it needs to tell. Even at two and a half hours, it doesn’t drag at almost any point. The action was cohesive and incredibly creative, with characters that have never been on screen together combining their abilities that are equal parts ridiculous and entertaining. The idea of Rocket Raccoon swinging on the arm of the Winter Soldier while spinning in circles shooting aliens sounds absurd – and it is, but by that point, you’re completely on board with it. The fast shifts from dark to comedic felt mostly natural, especially during moments where we know what’s happening can’t be undone. The humor works, the action is exciting and the pacing is consistent. It’s more a thrill ride of fan service and shocking moments than a typical film, but Infinity War exceeds where it needs to, and I’m completely on board to see where it goes from here.