Written By: Paul Burke
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Production Company: Marvel Studios
Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Producer: Kevin Feige
Scriptwriters: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Main Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin and Chris Pratt
Released: April 27 2018
Running Time: 149 Minutes
“When I’m done, half of humanity will still exist. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.” – Thanos
So it finally comes down to this. After 10 years, 18 movies and $14,835,337,104 box office takings, we finally reach the end of a journey in which the relatively small Marvel Cinematic Universe took a chance on its “lesser-known” characters after selling its big names and became a trend setting, star-making cinematic behemoth. Before 2008’s Iron Man changed the superhero rule book, a cinematic universe – in which separate films all take part in the same world/universe/reality with common threads and cameos – was not even a thing, just your sequels and prequels.
But one extra scene hidden amongst the credits (another once rarely-used movie trait now also given a popularity boost due to Marvel), a scene that apparently was meant as a half-joking Easter egg for the fans, created excitement and lit a spark. Could Marvel do what we have never seen before outside of the comic book page and unite these characters and stories to create even bigger pieces of cinema? Once Avengers: Assemble hit theatres and became a critical hit and the third most successful movie of all-time, we had emphatic confirmation that it could. And so the great cinematic universe rip-off amongst all franchise Hollywood had begun. But Marvel got there first and they did it better than anyone. And that was only Phase One.
Here we are six years later, seeing out Phase 3 with Avengers movie number 3. The Avengers themselves: Earth’s mightiest heroes, brought together to protect the world and fight the battles no-one else could, are split. It has been years since the epic conclusion to the excellent Captain America: Civil War in which our contrasting leads, the faces of the MCU, Iron Man and Captain America, battled it out for political and then personal reasons. They have not spoken since with the Captain technically a fugitive. What could bring them, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, the Guardians of the Galaxy and many more together? On their own (and in their own movies), they stop world-ending threats. What it has taken is a threat to the entire universe.
One of the commonly accepted downsides of Marvel’s successful procession of film work is that the villains of the piece are often weak characters, unremarkable plot points and often unforgettable. There are some exceptions like Loki, and to a lesser extent the complex Ego. But in the background of it all has been the shadow of Thanos. A creature of immense power whose story is linked to the Infinity Stones, which are the Marvel Universe McGuffins that have driven and linked many of their stories. He craves their incredible power to fulfil what he believes to be his destiny, and that is to wipe out half of all life throughout the universe. He is a huge threat, and it takes a huge movie to tell us that; one that is 149 minutes long with 20+ main characters.
You see Thanos craves balance. To him, the universe is lacking in it, and he has deemed it his purpose to go from planet to planet and indiscriminately eliminate half of its population. Occasionally, he will pluck a member of that planet to serve by his side as his “children” who like to preach to their soon-to-be victims about how lucky they are to die for Thanos’ mission. His favourite child has always been Gamora, who is well-established to us fans, and we see how the importance of balance is to Thanos as it is the first thing he teaches her.
Balance is quite possibly the key component to Avengers: Infinity War. It drives the villain, but it’s also about the balancing act that the directors, the Russo brothers, did with the tone, going from well-delivered laugh-out-loud comedy to devastating seriousness, which was very impressive. The balancing act didn’t stop there either, because they had all of these characters and scenes to keep us up-to-date with, while moving the plot along and keeping it so that no moment or person went on too long. Yet when it needed to stop and breathe, when we needed to see the fear, the torment and the internal suffering, the characters were allowed time to show it. Including, somewhat surprisingly, Thanos.
This is where Thanos bucks the trend of Marvel films. He isn’t on the sidelines, so we can focus on and introduce the heroes because we already know them now. He’s front and centre. Unlike other villains, he is also a three-dimensional character. We learn his philosophy, we see his genius and even his pain. He is fully realised, and credit to Josh Brolin in giving us an enigmatic monster we can understand. Huge credit too must go to the special effects. A standard in these movies, yes, but Marvel have faced some small criticism for their rushed CGI work. Considering 18 movies in 10 years, that can hardly be a surprise. Here, though, Thanos and his alien children look effortlessly realistic. Credit Marvel for bringing in the wonderful WETA Digital to use the same technology that worked so brilliantly in the recent Planet Of The Apes trilogy.
I must say that I am a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is probably obvious so far in the review! I feel it important to mention this, however, because this has been made very much for the fans. Those who aren’t as well-versed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe probably would not have the same understanding or emotional investment as the fans do, but if you are jumping on now due to the buzz or are an uninterested parent or partner dragged along by a fan, there is still fantastic action and comedy to keep you entertained, not to mention a handy dose of exposition early on to help them along. Fortunately for the fans, there are plenty of them leaving Marvel to focus on making them happy, and when all of the impossibly high hopes they had are matched like they are here, they will see it again and again. In fact, with the inclusion of some pretty substantial shocks, it manages to surpass expectation.
It has taken Marvel’s biggest and best-looking film to date to live up to its biggest, baddest villain. Dread him, run from him and prepare yourself for shock and awe; Thanos has arrived. Finally!
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding: The End Is Near