It's PG-13. That part isn't surprising. What is surprising (not really) is how bleak this movie is. Listen, I don't really get upset that people bring their little kids to the Marvel movies. They are marketed to kids despite being PG-13. (See, MPAA, your rating system can really be arbitrary.) But the movie outside of having messed up content is just dark looking. I love this stuff, but I would really pre-screen this one for your kids before bringing them along. There's language. Your kids' favorite superheroes get wrecked on screen. That's a lot to process. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Joe and Anthony Russo
I saw this one Thursday night when it came out. I don't know who decided that midnight openings now start at 7:00, but as a parent and as someone who is gainfully (kinda) employed, I appreciate it. But then I had a million reviews to get through and I have to talk about Avengers: Infinity War now? I mean, there's so much in this movie. I know I have forgotten so much, but that might not be the worst thing in the world. There's still a billion things that I need to discuss because this movie rocked my face off.
Okay, it's not my favorite Marvel movie, but it might be my favorite Avengers movie. (If you want to hear my immediate reactions to the movie, you might want to check out the podcast here!) But I can tell you that this is an amazing film. It might be the gutsiest, most film-y film ever. (Remember, I can say that because I teach film. Also, no one reads this, so I could just slam on my keyboard for a while and get the same reaction.) When the Russos joined the MCU for The Winter Soldier, I was pleasantly taken back. I don't know why I was so pessimistic about these guys. I also probably confused them for the guy who directed The First Avenger, who I think also directed Jurassic Park III and that's it. But The Winter Soldier melted my face off. Then Civil War came out and they showed that they could juggle. Remember when Civil War was announced? Remember when everyone thought that no movie could juggle that many superheroes in one film without feeling overstuffed? They did it, despite what my friend Pat says. (Sorry, Pat.) I don't think I really wrapped my head around the Herculean task that the Russos had in front of them when they announced the movie. It wasn't until the first official trailer came out that I realized that this movie seemed like it was impossible to make. There were too many characters, all of who had gigantic plot points that needed to be addressed. I thought there was a good chance that this was going to be the moment that Marvel dropped the baton and called it quits. I know I wasn't alone in this. But that trailer looked so good. I mean, I haven't been that excited for a superhero movie since Spider-Man 2. But there it was. I couldn't help but be hyped for the movie. It just looked so pretty and Thanos has been teased for so long. And it looked just straight up fun. This is a weird thing to describe. The stakes were huge in this one. Marvel events tend to disappoint a lot of people in the comics because they can't get the balance between apocalypse level stakes and fun at the same time. But this movie looked like it took itself deadly seriously while still being a good time. And it really pulled it off...slash depressed me for a while after I got out of the theater.
The reason that Infinity War works when it absolutely shouldn't is the fact that Marvel accidentally Game of Thrones'd itself. The movies act like episodes of a season of television. Maybe it is more realistically two seasons of television. But you get what I'm saying. On Game of Thrones, the stories intentionally had major characters never interacting or having limited interactions. Each character's story was fully fleshed out before ever encountering another character. I always wondered what it would be like to show up at a Game of Thrones event for the actors who were part of the same TV, but never saw each other on set. The MCU is kind of the same thing. Infinity War has been teased since the first Avengers movie. There are a lot of MCU movies between here and there. Some of them have Infinity Stones in them. Some of them have Thanos in them. But they are all telling stories in the same universe. These characters are being constantly drawn together, despite their individual stories. By the time that anyone actually meets on screen in Infinity War, there's no need to catch anyone up. I have friends who really haven't seen many Marvel movies and are wondering if they could go see them. I try giving them a stack of movies to see before this one because this is the first movie that is absolutely unforgiving of new audiences. That seems crappy, but it is oddly refreshing. When a studio makes a sequel, they really want new audiences to see these movies. I can't blame them. There's a lot of money being sunk into these movies and they depend on fresh blood to keep growing. Infinity War, with its unapologetic attitude towards rookies, has done something seemingly insane. Rather than simply distancing new viewers, it is getting new viewers through binging. There are so many people who are binging the MCU right now to catch up to Infinity War because the movie is just that monumental. Imagine that sequel number 19 is the one that drags everyone to the theater. That's silly, but I absolutely love it. But back to the Game of Thrones thing, when these characters meet, it is the moment that you are waiting for. People, for the most part, get the screen time that they need to tell a cohesive story because their scenes aren't being bogged down with these heavy infodumps. They all have a common threat that has somehow interacted with their lives up to this point and they all know what they must do. Then the Russos take it a step further and combine the least likely couples. We've gotten Cap and Iron Man. Yeah, that story still needs to be told again, but I'm far more interested in Iron Man and Doctor Strange or Cap and Groot. (That line, guys. That line.) These dynamics are the opposite of Thor and Hulk fighting. We want to see that. We've seen it. We're not going to one-up it, so let's go in a totally different direction. That's the smartest choice ever.
The insane thing is that they made Thanos as a villain work. I didn't see it coming. I always find Thanos dull. He keeps creeping up into my comic book reading and I don't care for him. But the movie made him great. I don't know how you can get a guy who wants to murder half the universe with his magic glove relatable, but the Russos did it. A lot of that falls on Josh Brolin's shoulders. Man alive, he is great as Thanos. My little nitpicky thing that I'm not sure has been discussed before is that I don't know why he didn't do this earlier. Thanos is a machine. He's pretty hard to beat in the comics and the cartoons, but that's because the drawings never really communicate that he's just The Hulk + Batman. (That opening fight scene with him told me everything I needed to know about the character because that was a great litmus test.) I also binged the MCU (duh! I just wrote a million reviews on them) and Thanos seems pretty passive about the Infinity Stones. He sends Ronan the get them, which is just silly. LIGHT SPOILER: But Thanos seems to get the stones pretty quickly. Why go through all that planning if you can just strong arm your way to some Infinity Stones? I don't care because it's pretty typical storytelling. But I just want to put that one the table. In an interview, Brolin was really nervous about playing Thanos. He thought he'd be a digital mess and that it wasn't worth his time. I mean, he still did it, so so much for his artistic sensibilities. But he acts the crap out of that. I remember when I saw The Fellowship of the Ring the first time, I was blown away by the fact that a digital character could have a performance. Brolin as Thanos is perfect. He also mostly looks really great. Okay, yeah. He's digital. Everyone knows it. But c'mon. He's a very watchable digital. I wonder if that's the new way to think about digital characters. His design never really gets in the way. Okay, there was one moment where I just gasped at the Thanos design. There was a time when a vein in his head pulsed. It was so subtle, but my jaw just dropped. I realized that Thanos had a circulatory system and that made me pretty happy. While his Black Order is a little less developed than he is, I did absolutely love them as characters. The opening fights with Tony Stark and Dr. Strange are just fantastic.
It's so weird how funny this movie is despite the fact that it really doesn't have the tone for funny. There's some well written lines and some pitch perfect deliveries. My students keep quoting the movie and giggling in the halls. I agree. The lines are funny. But I also can keep in mind that the movie doesn't really aim to build around funny. Ragnarok is the last home video release and that movie is built around being hilarious. The jokes land harder because the movie is meant to leave you in stitches. The Russos allow for all of the jokes, but don't build around them. It's a really smart choice, don't get me wrong. But the way this movie is filmed just screams intensity. The movie just looks cinematic. The colors and the brightness just scream that this movie should be taken seriously. Christopher Nolan made The Dark Knight super cinematic in scale. While I think that Nolan edges out the Russos in terms of cinematography, the Russos really aren't that far behind. So there are jokes that always made me chuckle and I love, but I also never lose a moment in the film to an outright belly laugh. I can't think about how tempting some moments had to be. There have to be all these jokes that are left on the cutting room floor. These guys worked on Arrested Development. They get funny. But there had to be times in the making of this movie that they had to cut some genius material to keep the mood exactly where they wanted it. I can't even imagine the stuff that was left behind.
One of the things that kind of scared me with the reviews is that there were comments about too much action. That is a red flag for me. I get bored with too much action a lot of the time. (Stay tuned. I plan to review Bond films this summer.) The scenes they are talking are the last act of the film. It's a Marvel movie. I'm not spoiling anything by saying the last quarter of the movie is insane. It is insane. It is a lot of action and I loved it. But again, I know why it worked. There is one other massive action piece that I can compare it to and I'm ashamed that I'm making a second comparison to this franchise. The final fight sequence is the Battle of Helm's Deep from The Two Towers. That sequence is so riveting and full of so many characters that we care about that it never feels gratuitous. There are other fight sequences in this movie and only one feels like it was thrown in there for pacing. I love Age of Ultron, as I've established a few times in these reviews, but I also know that the entire bus sequence is for pacing issues. The final battle is the most well earned fight sequence I've felt in a while. I also like the fact that there are multiple battles going on at the same time, not unlike Star Wars. It's pretty great.
Thank God I've only seen this movie once or I'd go on forever. I still have things I want to talk about, but there is a tipping point to these reviews. I'd love to praise Tom Holland's performance. I'd like to talk about how much I like Banner and Hulk's relationship in this one. I want to talk about fake trailer footage. I want to talk about the few times that the special effects slipped a little. I'd love to discuss theories for the next one. I'd like to talk about cameos and deaths. There's a million other paragraphs I am itching to talk about and I just can't. I've written more than enough. All I know is that I can't wait to see this one again. It is a very full film without ever getting overstuffed.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.