Monday, April 30, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of one helluva ride over the past decade or so. There’s not much of an intro I need to make for this film cause if you’re anything like me, over the past 10 years you’ve been devoting yourself the cult of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You’ve shunned all non-MCU Marvel films aside from Logan, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Deadpool. DC and their DC Extended Universe is nothing more than a hollow imitation with Zack Snyder’s bleak mind turning everything black and white. Not to mention the Dark Universe was put to death, thankfully, before they made “Dracula vs Wolfman: Supernatural Brawl.”

Marvel has meticulously crafted a world with fully fleshed out characters and interconnecting storylines that, while lighthearted and mostly safe and superficial, were all intended to lead where we are now. There have been ups; Iron Man, Captain America: Winter Solider, Guardians of the Galaxy and there have been downs: Iron Man 2, Thor 1&2 and The Incredible Hulk. But for the most part, despite if you think the MCU is “dangerous for filmmaking” or think “it’s just a superhero franchise,” it’s been working and successful for a decade.

This is a much different format than how I usually do reviews, but this is very different than any other film in the MCU. Avengers: Infinity War is set directly after the events of Thor: Ragnarok, and Thanos (Josh Brolin) is beginning to acquire the rest of the Infinity Stones that he doesn’t have. It is up to nearly every superhero we’ve seen thus far to band together to save the earth and the rest of the Universe from Thanos’ evil plan.

When I say “nearly every superhero,” I mean that in the most literal sense of the words. With the exception of Ant-Man and Hawkeye, I think I noticed just about every living member of the MCU/Avengers getting their time to shine throughout the run-time of the film. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Hulk, The Guardians of the Galaxy team, Loki, Dr. Strange, Scarlett Witch, Vision, War Machine, Falcon and Bucky Barnes and that’s not even counting side and supporting characters. To go into this think that it wouldn’t be a giant mess, you’d be nuts. It was one of my concerns going into the film, how are they going to juggle about 40 million characters and it not be a confusing mess? But to my, and seems like most of the worlds, surprise, it was competent and quite easy to keep track of.

It was one of my concerns going into the film, how are they going to juggle about 40 million characters and it not be a confusing mess?

This film doesn’t really have a plot. It also doesn’t have character building, since they’ve been doing it for the past decade. This is the mysterious Thanos’ film and boy did they deliver. The one constant MCU complaint is a villain that is one-note and lame. Side note: If you’re not familiar with the MCU, from probably at least Avengers: Age of Ultron onward, it’s going to be a confusing mess. Even without seeing Black Panther (the film) yet, I feel as if I know the character since he’s been in a lot of other films to this point. Which is why I think a lot of critics are being overly harsh towards the film. They’re not getting people who have been soaking in the series for the better part of a decade, and they may likely be people who just go see films to review them. But, for someone like myself, who has seen nearly every film in the MCU, and know and have grown up with these characters, this is easily the MCU’s most grandiose film to date.

This is why Thanos’ was so important to this film, he’s been the mysterious bad-guy that they’ve been talking up forever. The biggest bad guy in the universe and they need to keep an eye on him cause what he’s plotting is massive. Well, that finally arrived in Infinity War. You want to know the story and motives behind the MCU Thanos’, well you get it. He’s easily the most interesting a fleshed-out character in the film (not hard to do), you know exactly why he’s trying to do the insane thing he’s trying to do and learn that he’s not doing this on a whim and he has reasons why he’s doing this. They may be malicious and insane, but they are valid reasons that are in-line with his character. Not only that, he’s not hesitant to take what he wants. We don’t just learn about him and why he’s doing what he’s doing. He does it. Thanos goes out and takes what he wants and does what he wants to further his cause. Josh Brolin voices the all CGI mastermind perfectly. Thanos isn’t just a bad guy, he’s a father, has emotions (and shows them) and is trying to achieve a life-long goal. This is the Thanos origin story with The Avengers fighting throughout space on the side. Even his lackeys are very strong threats and are presented as such. They are actually pretty cool in their own rights. Everything Thanos-related was done so well.

Thanos goes out and takes what he wants and does what he wants to further his cause. 

Speaking of The Avengers, the movie is titled that right? So, what exactly are they doing? They’re broken up and rearranged into fun little teams that are trying to prepare to stop Thanos. Thor, Rocket Raccoon and Groot go off on a deep space mission to get Thor’s hammer back. Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Star Lord, Drax, Mantis and Nebula are on Thanos’ home world (with Strange in possession of the Time Stone) waiting on his arrival. While, Captain America, Widow, Black Panther, Wanda, Vision, War Machine and the rest of the people above I didn’t name, are in Wakanda trying to figure out a safe way to get the Mind Stone out of Vision’s forehead. These three teams are what keeps this movie from being a cluster of a mess. Combined with the Thanos’ story, these three distinct story-archs intertwine effortlessly through each other. This is a long movie, but for the most part there’s not a lot of down time and nothing feels overly long. If it was just a mindless mash of heroes fighting Thanos and his army, for two hours, with quips everywhere this film would not have worked. But having the people we’ve come to know have small stories throughout the runtime, while we get to learn about the biggest villain we’ve yet to fully see, it just works.

I saw this in 3D and it’s fine. I don’t think seeing this in 3D vs 2D impacts the film at all. Some greenscreen stuff stood out a little more, but I’m so used to noticing bad greenscreen, I’d have noticed either way. The 3D enhances the stellar CGI of Thanos, who is all CGI, all the time, but still prefer my films in 2D. There’s some iffy spots with him, but overall, he looks superb. This goes with most all of the CGI in this film too. Everyone looks great and even with some shaky cam during action scenes and the abundance of CGI, it’s never really noticeable. Marvel put their A-team on this film. This is a CGI-fest, you shouldn’t be surprised about that if you’re watching it. But it is the best CGI we’ve seen thus far in the MCU.

Thanos rained a moon down on the battlefield, while elsewhere Thor and Wanda flex for the sake of flexing.

The action is some of the best in all of the MCU as well. It’s not just “RAWR I CAN PUNCHER HARDER THAN YOU” or “RAWR I CAN SHOOT THIS BEAM HARDER THAN YOU.” Well it kind-of is for the Wakandan fight, but any fight involving Thanos quickly devolves to having to try and use some sort of strategy because Thanos lifts and doesn’t skip leg day. Hell in almost the entire movies, he doesn't even have all of the Infinity Stones and is still terrorizing all the heroes. The best part of action comes with all of the unlikely pairings of characters, some we’ve yet to even see meet each other in the MCU. The fight with Thanos on his home planet is amazing. Dr. Strange is epic, the CGI for the magic being flung between him and Thanos is gorgeous. The whole fight between the heroes and Thanos is expertly executed and feels like it’s right out of a battle-oriented anime. Thanos rained a moon down on the battlefield, while elsewhere Thor and Wanda flex for the sake of flexing. I mean, Thanos took this page out of the ol' anime playbook and it was awesome. The rest of the action is your standard MCU affair, but the new pairings of characters and situations give you a reason to pay a little more attention than you might normally during an Avengers flick.

Thanos took this page out of the ol' anime playbook and it was awesome.
I’m kind-of at an impasse with this review because I think I’ve touched on everything I want to touch on. While on the other hand I want to just keep going and think I'm forgetting so much stuff since I want to give the film a rewatch. (I’m assuming if you’re reading this) You know all the actors for everyone I’ve mentioned, which is why I didn’t bother to list out every actor. The film is well over two hours, and for someone like myself, who has been invested in this series for a decade, the time flew by. There’s not much in the way of music aside from the score, which is fine. This is also a film that, while lighthearted and has the vintage “MCU quips,” is very much a darker film that what most are used to in the MCU. There are a couple of wonky moments, that I initially thought were really ham-fisted in there, but when you consider a few things Dr. Strange says, it all makes supreme sense. I loved the whole presentation and progression of the film. The shock value moments don’t hit as hard (because most of us know the line-up of films to come) I applaud Marvel for taking risks with the plot and characters.

If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe you’re going to love this film as it’s the culmination of a decade’s worth of build-up. If you go into this to just watch the latest summer blockbuster, you’ll likely be confused and disappointed. If you don’t like superhero films or are a hardcore DC fan, you’ll find ways to hate this. But to hardcore nerds, like myself, that have been watching and growing with these characters over the past 18 films, this is a more than adequate film that has given us everything we’ve been hoping this build up would lead to.