The Hippo


May 27, 2020








Avengers: Infinity War. Courtesy Photo

Avengers: Infinity War (PG-13)
Film reviews by Amy Diaz


 All the heroes assemble in Avengers: Infinity War, a solid part one of a two-part story that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building to for 10 years.

When we last left our heroes … actually, this movie picks up at roughly the end of some five or six heroes’ movies. Most immediately, I suppose, we see what happened to Thor (Chris Hemsworth) after the end of his movie. The massive ship carrying the remnants of Asgard is boarded by Thanos (Josh Brolin, somewhere under all that purple CGI; it’s either Peter Quill or Tony Stark who calls him Grimace – I feel like it’s more if Grimace and the Devil’s Tower formation from Close Encounters of the Third Kind had a baby who got really into Highland games-style heavy sports). Thanos is now, no kidding, not messing around, collecting those Infinity Stones we’ve been hearing about for so long. The Asgardians, you remember, had one of them and he’s come to pick it up.
It is from this scene that Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is bifrosted away to Earth, where he meets Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). All Banner-ed down to human size at the end of his journey, Bruce warns Dr. Strange that Thanos is coming to Earth, where two of the Infinity Stones — the one Strange wears around his neck and the one in Vision’s (Paul Bettany) head — are currently located. Dr. Strange portal-travels with Bruce to find Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and they are all in New York City when Thanos’ henchmen arrive in a spacecraft. Seeing the trouble from a school bus on the bridge, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) quickly changes into Spider-Man garb and swings off to lend a hand.
Meanwhile, another set of Thanos henchmen is going after Vision, who is having a romantic getaway with Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) in Scotland. The baddies very nearly have Vision until help arrives. Soon, both sides of the fractured Avenger family come together — Natasha/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) — and head to Wakanda for some technical assistance in disabling the stone in Vision’s head without killing Vision. King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is happy to help, even providing Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) with a new arm, even if Okoye’s (Danai Gurira) idea of Wakanda being more active in the world was less “welcome the Avengers and the trouble they bring” and more “send a team to the Olympics.”
But back to Thor. After Thanos departs, Thor is left for dead with the wreckage of the Asgard ship. He is picked up by one Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). You’ll recall that his crew also has some experience with Thanos, especially Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Peter’s squeeze and Thanos’ adopted daughter. Thor’s plan is to go find a weapon that can kill Thanos, a quest that Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) agree to participate in while Peter, Gamora, Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) head to Knowhere, another known Infinity Stone location. 
Other stuff happens too but that’s probably already too many plot details and any more surely come with spoilers.
There are a lot of moments I found particularly enjoyable in this sprawling movie:
• The discussions of Thor’s manly handsomeness and the observation that he is like, to paraphrase, “a pirate had a baby with an angel.” 
• The Tony/Spider-Man relationship — Peter always calls him “Mr. Stark” — which actually gives the movie one of its most impactfully emotional moments.
• Dr. Strange as an arrogant counter-weight to Tony’s arrogance. The “lotta chefs in the kitchen” result of putting a bunch of alpha superheroes in one story could have ended up in something like a catch-phrase-off but I actually think the movie juggles all these team-leader characters fairly well.
• Plus Dr. Strange is a more enjoyable character than I remember.
• Teenage Groot is fun in small doses. 
• I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of “Wakanda forever” or the sheer bad-assery of the Wakandan warriors. 
This movie has so much ground to cover, so many people to include, so many stories to lace together that I think it can’t help feeling like it bulges with stuff. Though not sleek and tight, I do actually think this movie pulls all its elements together fairly well and keeps the show going. Though long, the movie really is using its 149 minutes well — there wasn’t a lot of what felt like filler. The action sequences have energy and there are memorable fighting moments (a scene where Black Widow and Okoye team up to take on a Thanos lackey, for example) mixed in with all the CGI smash-bam. 
We get the comic patter, as usual with a Marvel movie, but having watched it done so awkwardly in Justice League, I appreciate how organic to the characters and the tone it is here. And I think it gives the movie lightness and helps us from getting weighed down by this massive cast and the overarching threat of the annihilation of trillions of the universe’s inhabitants. 
At points in this movie I did try to consider whether this is a movie you could see without having seen a previous MCU movie. I’m sure there will be people showing up to Game of Thrones finale parties for the pizza, having never spent a minute in Westeros, but similarly I think if this is your first experience with Marvel characters you will have a lot of questions that the movie isn’t going to bother answering. But you don’t have to be an MCU expert to have fun here. If you caught, say, one Iron Man and one other movie, say the first Avengers movie or Guardians of the Galaxy, that is probably enough information to get you through. There are some moments of exposition that could help casual fans find their way and provide people who have seen all the movies some refreshed context for all that the characters have been through. 
While not among the very best of the Marvel movies, Infinity War is quite good, even above average among movies in the wide sci-fi/comic book/superhero/action “genre” category. For fun (during the wait for the post-credits scene, of which there is one at the very end of all the credits) I found myself wondering if this is an achievement in film-making, say, of the Oscar nomination variety. This movie sews together half a dozen other characters’ sagas and weaves in several significant characters as supporting players, all with their own backstories and musical cues and many with their own home-base settings. It pulls together 10 years of story reasonably well. It has some believable stakes. It has a decent villain whose villainous plan is a more interesting answer to the “what will you do with absolute power and why” question than most of the comic book movie villains’. 
I get that this movie has jokes and characters in colorful supersuits but how is this not a massive filmmaking achievement? Or, put another way, how is The Darkest Hour a better movie than this? (Answer: It’s not. Don’t even get me started on Infinity War versus Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.) I’m not saying this should definitely be on next January’s Oscar list (Black Panther, on the other hand, should definitely be on the best picture list) but this movie really juggles a lot (much like, say, Dunkirk). And while it might not have all the artistry of the “serious fil-um”-type films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when you stand back and look at it, is impressive and wasn’t a pre-ordained success. I hope its accomplishments don’t get lost in all the vibranium gadgets and otherworldly creatures. 
Ultimately, Avengers: Infinity War is not quite as knock-your-socks off awesome as Wonder Woman or Black Panther — it has too many characters and stories to keep going to be able to have quite that impact. But it keeps all those plates spinning well, leaves the right amount of plot threads dangling for next time and tells a story that is able to balance humor, action and genuine emotion and keep up the energy for the two-and-a-half-hour runtime. It is a solid chapter that hangs together and has me very eager to tune in to the conclusion in about a year. B+
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references. Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo with a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Avengers: Infinity Wars is an hour and two minutes and distributed by Walt Disney Studios. 

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