It’s been nearly six years since the first Avengers film was released, and three-and-a-half years since Avengers: Infinity War – which would be released in two parts – was announced. And as more and more pieces of the MCU have come together in the meantime, the prospect has looked more and more exciting. The Avengers was radical enough in bringing six heroes from five films together, but now there are so many more players in this universe, and in Avengers: Infinity War, they were all going to meet each other! Unless they were an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Or a Defender. Or the Punisher. Or Hawkeye.
Meanwhile, Thanos (Josh Brolin), who was teased at the end of The Avengers and made a few small appearances in subsequent films, finally steps up properly to establish himself as this universe’s ultimate bad guy. His goal is to extinguish half of all life in the entire universe, thus creating his idea of perfect balance. To achieve the power he needs, Thanos must acquire the six Infinity Stones: two he already has by the time the introductory scene is over, two are hidden in space, and two are on Earth. And so, most of the heroes we’ve come to know – from Iron Man to Doctor Strange, from Spider-Man to Black Panther, from Thor to the Guardians of the Galaxy – find themselves coming together to stop Thanos before he gets every Stone and becomes invincible.
Is the film fun? Most certainly: Marvel Studios know how to satisfy their audience by now. The action is enjoyable, as is the experience of watching meetings between characters who have never interacted before. The Guardians of the Galaxy provide most of the comic relief, from Peter Quill trying to sound as manly as Thor, to Teenage Groot making “I am Groot” sound as snarky and petulant as he can. The almost-infinite cast ends up dividing into several groups, and sometimes when one group’s current scene is over, it’s a long time before we see them again; the film’s two-and-a-half hour runtime is a little draining. But good use is made of the time: of all the characters who actually appear in the film, nobody gets noticeably shafted and everybody gets something cool to do. Thanos, now that he’s fully in the spotlight, is an excellent villain: not only is he very intimidating, but he’s not just a generic evil force like, say, Ronan the Accuser – he’s made to feel like a person, who sees himself as the good guy and is sometimes even a little emotionally vulnerable, especially in his scenes with his foster daughter Gamora.
Yet there is something a bit dissatisfying about Avengers: Infinity War. Yes, there are a few surprises here and there: a character who last appeared years ago makes a cameo, as well as a certain actor whose presence surprised me. (Hint: he’s appeared in a Marvel film before, but not an MCU one.) And as far as killing off recognisable characters goes, it’s a bit of a bloodbath. But the novelty of this sort of crossover has worn off to a degree, and even though it’s raising the scale compared to The Avengers, it doesn’t feel nearly as special as that film did. Certainly the action is nothing you haven’t seen before. Nor is this a film for interesting character development: these characters had their previous films to talk about their feelings. Mostly, it’s action scenes interspersed with the characters talking about what they need to do next. And that’s not bad – the action always has a purpose and no single scene feels like it goes on too long. It’s just nothing new.
So don’t expect anything revolutionary when you watch Avengers: Infinity War. You should, however, get another good time at the cinema; Marvel Studios are a safe pair of hands at this point. Rating: 4/5.