Friday, April 27, 2018

Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

As a far of the genre, I'm in awe of Infinity War. I think I can say that without spoiling too much. I can also say the movie looks absolutely stunning, the action sequences significantly raise the bar on what live-action blockbusters can pull off, and the interactions between heroes and villains are wonderful.

Obviously, you expected most of that from the trailers. But we can't go on without talking a little about spoilers. Note that said talking about spoilers. That's different than including spoilers, though be warned, even a fairly high-level discussion about the experience offered by this movie and its somewhat unique relationship with spoilers, may spoil some aspects for some people.

But I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Because, depending on your background around comics, the level of knowledge you have about the stories Infinity War is based on, and how closely you follow Marvel's long-term plans... you may want a little preparation.

The litmus test is a bit counter-intuitive: the more you know about the source material, the less information you should seek out beforehand. If you know who Thanos is, what he's after in the comics, and what happens along the way, you've already read more of this article than you should before seeing the movie.

To put it another way, the source material is a sort of spoiler, albeit one you may be better off having some experience with. That's not to say this is a straight adaptation - it isn't - but understanding what's happening on-screen versus what's happened in the comics may provide some welcome context.

If you're just a casual fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you may want to know, for example, that this is essentially the first half of a two-part project, the second of which is slated to come out next summer, when we'll also get the next Spider-Man installment.

At this point, I'd advise seeing the movie before reading further, no matter who you are. I'm not going to go into details, but I am going to say some things that might let longtime fans connect some dots.

Starting with my main takeaway from Infinity War: this is easily the ballsiest thing Disney's ever done. Hell, it may be the ballsiest thing ANY studio's ever done. Because, while die-hard nerds like me may have some idea of what's coming next year, it was pretty clear hearing the audience react that most of them did not.

I never want to hear another complaint that these movies play things too safe. This was perhaps the least safe movie imaginable, to the point I'm a little worried they made a major miscalculation. The MCU is the largest franchise in history, and Disney's taking an astonishingly risky wager on how the public will react. We won't know whether it pays off until next year. For what it's worth, I really hope it does.

So. Was it any good?

It was great. It was incredible. The Russos pulled off something absolutely unbelievable, delivering a cosmic superhero story on a scale grander than we've ever seen a live-action movie pull off. This thing is as surreal as the Guardians movies, as funny as Homecoming, and as tense as The Dark Knight. In one film, they fully refuted the notion that genre needs to be visually dark to have weight.

Because... my God... this has weight. Maybe too much. It leaves you feeling uncomfortable and shaken. That was clearly the goal, but... kudos to Disney's executives for green-lighting this. I hope they don't come to regret it in the next few years. Regardless of what happens in the next movie, they may have already ostracized a number of fans.

Infinity War juggles two dozen characters better than most movies can handle three or four. With only one exception, I felt like everyone got their due. Unfortunately, that one exception was a personal favorite - I was a little let down with their portrayal of Gamora. But pulling off a cast of this size with only one misstep is nothing short of amazing.

We've never had a blockbuster like Infinity War before, in more ways than one. The movie succeeds on a level that was previously unthinkable. I'm grateful to the Russo brothers for making it and to Disney for not stopping them. But I can't help but wonder if the rest of the world is ready for this movie.

I certainly hope so, because they're clearly going to see it.

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