PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

'Avengers: Infinity War' Is a Huge Payoff for Marvel Fans

Josh Brolin as Thanos (© 2018 - Marvel Studios)

CGI monsters, shiny rocks, population control, the entire Marvel cast -- this superhero film has it all.

Avengers: Infinity War
Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Marvel Studios

27 Apr 2018 (US) 26 Apr 2018 (UK)


Perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay Avengers: Infinity War is that it doesn't disappoint. Ten years and 19 films in the making, there are seemingly limitless ways in which directors Anthony and Joe Russo might have stumbled in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's (almost) grand finalé. Indeed, they juggle multiple storylines and dozens of superheroes in the service of a surprisingly emotional denouement.

It's difficult to comprehend the scope of Avengers: Infinity War. Your brain is tempted to re-assemble the puzzle pieces strewn across dozens of post-credit Easter eggs and dangling plot threads. Luckily, this meticulously constructed universe coalesces into a simple story about superheroes trying to stop a CGI monster from collecting shiny rocks.

The powerful purple Titan named Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) -- teased countless times in other Marvel outings -- finally emerges from his donut-shaped spaceship to raise a little hell. He needs to collect the six Infinity Stones in his magical gauntlet in order to become a god. What are Infinity Stones? As explained by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in a mercifully brief expository break, they are remnants of the Big Bang; stones that contain the essence of Space, Reality, Power, Soul, Mind, and Time. To possess them is to have dominion over all things. Think of it like collecting all six of the vintage 1988 California Raisin dolls, only with more carnage and less racism.

The Brothers Russo let you know immediately they aren't fooling around, as they throw Thanos directly in the path of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). It's a grim, withering sequence that introduces the full scope of not only Thanos' power but his particular brand of madness. He's obsessed with tipping the "Universal scale toward balance". Basically, he wants to snap his fingers and annihilate half of the Universe's inhabitants. Delightful rush hour traffic implications aside, the Avengers aren't copasetic with this extreme form of population control.

Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man (© 2018 - Marvel Studios)

The whole gang assembles to obstruct Thanos. And when we say "the whole gang," we mean everyone who has ever appeared in a Marvel film. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely probably needed a NASA computer to calculate the balance of screen time amongst these iconic characters. With the possible exception of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), they do a remarkable job of giving each character a chance to shine, no matter how briefly. In the writer's defense, nobody knew Black Panther would induce more hysteria than The Beatles when the script for Avengers: Infinity War was being penned.

This is a film about choices. On multiple occasions, characters are forced to decide who will live and who will die. Sometimes even pacts are made to do the unthinkable if things go catawampus -- which never happens in the movies! Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) are plagued by the moral choices that a monster of singular obsession like Thanos is incapable of comprehending. Marvel has always understood this conflict is what forms the emotional core that keeps their larger-than-life characters relatable.

That's not to say that Avengers: Infinity War is a dour affair. Far from it. The wisecracks arrive with welcome regularity, thanks largely to the contributions of Guardians of the Galaxy alums Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). The filmmakers do a nice job of taming the anarchic spirit of James Gunn's creation while still delighting in Quill's unjustified bravado and Drax' deadpan nonsequiturs. Even with the Universe at stake, it's impossible not to laugh when Thor earnestly bids the Guardians, "farewell and good luck, morons."

It's this focus on character dynamics that prevents CGI trickery from overwhelming the frame. The Russos do a wonderful job of choreographing their action set pieces, ensuring that each skirmish crackles with dramatic heft. When people are fighting, we actually care about the outcome. They even manage to create a few memorable visuals, as when Thor must re-ignite the massive foundry within a dying planet's core. It's the kind of goosebump-inducing moment that you don't expect from a movie teeming with spandex and leather.

Benedict Wong as Wong (© 2018 - Marvel Studios)

The flaws here are mostly inconsequential. Thanos's henchmen (whose names only matter to comic book enthusiasts) are complete zeros; motion-capture creations that do nothing but glower and die at the appropriate times. The score, too, by Alan Silvestri is so overwrought as to be distracting at times. The efforts of the writers and directors are more than adequate to punctuate the emotional moments, but Silvestri insists upon making these crescendos painfully obvious. Some of the sequences feel overly long, as well. True, this isn't a film that requires the same ruthless editing efficiency of a Christopher Nolan mind puzzle, but we should never be asking, "Whatever happened to Iron Man?" because Thor's story is running long.

The battle in Wakanda (teased heavily in the film's trailer) is the closest Avengers: Infinity War comes to becoming a bore. Thousands of faceless, poorly articulated CGI baddies converge upon the city to be swatted away like so many irritating insects. It also sets in motion a series of tactical decisions that won't make Black Panther a candidate for Secretary of Defense anytime soon. Still, none of these weaknesses are particularly detrimental, even if they feel especially noticeable in a film that gets so much right.

It's true that darkness permeates Avengers: Infinity War, but it's also a masterfully crafted popcorn movie. Audiences have invested a great deal of time and money into these beloved characters, and Marvel is paying off that loyalty with one hell of a show.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.