‘Avengers: Infinity War’ has one decent Squidward joke and lots of silly punching
It’s been a long time since I was moved to any sort of emotional response by a Marvel Studios movie, so bland and flavourless have they become as their budgets and grosses grow larger. Yet there were two moments in Avengers: Infinity War when — like every other normie in the cinema — this boy got goosebumps, and both were provoked by superb unleashing of Alan Silvestri’s “Avengers Assemble” theme. You see, in April 2012, I was still a wide-eyed young man who loved comic-book entertainment unironically, and thought Joss Whedon’s The Avengers was a goddamn delight. The years have passed, I have lost my sense of wonder you may argue, and I basically hate these movies now. But, fuck, I love that Silvestri theme.
My entire enjoyment of Infinity War, which really isn’t a proper feature film by any traditional criteria, was based on nostalgia for my adolescence, which was — it depresses me to say — defined more by being naively excited about Marvel movies than it was by partying; I’ve always enjoyed the marketing buildup for MCU output more than the films themselves, and Infinity War is all buildup. Just as the narrative hits the ground, it literally ends, and I am hit once again with the sad realisation that this series of movies will never,
But in the scheme of the franchise, which has an output rate of approx. 3 movies a year these days, Infinity War is the most enjoyable team movie Marvel Studios have made since the first Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, throwing false grandeur at the screen at such a frantic pace that some of it simply sticks by chance. Structurally, directors Joe and Anthony Russo owe a great deal to TV’s Game of Thrones, which mastered the sort of multi-strand storytelling this movie relies upon to fit all of its characters onto the poster.
In New York, our scientists meet our sorcerer as Tony Stark and Bruce Banner team up with Doctor Strange. In space, Thor pops in to visit the Guardians of the Galaxy. And from Edinburgh to Wakanda, the crew who stood against Stark in Civil War try to save The Vision from Thanos. Oh yeah, Thanos: the big purple alien mo-capped by Josh Brolin who is effectively this film’s protagonist. He’s surprisingly well-animated, but very unexciting to write about. He’s by no means the least enigmatic villain this franchise has produced, but I’d personally rather have Michael Keaton or Robert Redford spooking the heroes in this movie.
Luckily, Thanos has a couple of groovy henchmen, one of whom is played by Carrie Coon, the best actress of her generation, who actually gets a fair amount to do in this movie; a more compelling version of the act Cate Blanchett attempted in Thor Ragnarok. Coon’s involvement is interesting, since a significant plot-point in Infinity War is ripped straight from The Leftovers, the masterpiece that kickstarted her career. You’ll know what I’m referring to when you know.
Elsewhere, the most memorable moments of Infinity War for me are the silly things that I can mentally pen witty tweets about: Tony Stark’s Squidward joke that almost had me squealing, a brash William Hurt hologram (cue Andy Samberg shouting “That’s so expensive!”), Tobias Funke hiding in The Collector’s gallery, The Collector (Benicio del Toro) himself being as phenomenally jarring as he was in Guardians, Peter Dinklage in a suitably ironic bit of casting, the ridiculous use of strongly Irish-accented Kerry Condon as Stark’s A.I. voice and the surprise return of an MCU villain I didn’t think we’d ever see again.
The actual “important stuff” — mostly punching and/or stabbing — doesn’t interest me as much. Of the film’s action and Patented MCU Banter, the Guardians stuff is predictably the most fun; they’re used better here than they were in James Gunn’s indulgent Volume 2, and Dave Bautista’s Drax — I can safely say now — is probably my favourite current MCU character (other contenders: Rocket Raccoon, Nick Fury, Doctor Strange, War Machine).
When Thanos and another character make a rendez vous to a nighttime planet landscape that looked like nothing else in the film, I suddenly realised that it would — theoretically — be possible for these movies not to look like shit, if Marvel put the slightest bit of effort into cinematography and storyboarding. Only the New York streets of the first 20 minutes look anything close to plausible scenery, and it does serious damage to the film when no other locations are the slightest bit appealing.”Fantasy” isn’t an excuse; The Last Jedi was overflowing with stunning and original settings. But when you’re throwing the Iron Man characters (just a dude in a hi-tech suit, remember) together with Spider-Man stuff, a bunch of weird aliens, a Norse god and World War II heroes, your aesthetic continuity is bound to get muddled. I guess that’s what the people want?