Avengers: Infinity War (2018) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): An ambitious but mixed cliffhanger

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“Avengers: Infinity War”, the 19th feature film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), attempts to be a big, ambitious cliffhanger for whatever will come in the next year, but it does not entirely work well as trying to juggle too many different things together during its 150-minute running time. While there is nothing particularly wrong in its individual moments, they do not cohere well with each other to become something truly distinctive and impressive on the whole, and the resulting mediocrity is a disappointment compared to the vibrant style and personality observed from some of recent MCU movies.

Like “The Avengers” (2012), “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), and “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), the movie is filled with numerous superheroes, and it surely surpasses the predecessors in terms of quantity. Besides nearly all of the Avenger members presented in the previous three films, we also have 1) Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) from “Doctor Strange” (2016), 2) a group of oddball space rogue characters from “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) and its 2017 sequel, and 3) T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) from “Black Panther” (2018), and 4) a bunch of substantial supporting characters from all the MCU franchises except the Ant-Man series. I did not count them all, but, according to others, there are total 76 main characters in the film, and that is certainly quite a huge group to say the least.

The villain against whom our bunch of heroes come to fight together is a big bad alien named Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin), who was briefly introduced in “The Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”. For his deranged Malthusian plan on the whole universe, he is determined to have all of six powerful stones called ‘Infinity Stone’, and, as shown from the opening scene of the movie, nothing seems to be capable of stopping the advance of him and his ruthless minions.

Because, as some of you already know, two Infinity Stones happen to be on the Earth, Thanos sends his minions to the Earth. After fortunately learning of this dangerous situation in advance, Dr. Strange and his friend/colleague Wong (Benedict Wong), who have protected one of two Infinity Stones, immediately approach to Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). As shown from the trailer of the movie, these three guys and Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) soon find themselves confronting a big threat from the outer space while New York City and its citizens are thrown into panic, and we accordingly get the first major action sequence in the film.

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Meanwhile, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and other several Avenger members also get involved in this circumstance. After Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are attacked during their secret romantic meeting because of the Infinity Stone on the forehead of Vision, Rogers and his colleagues go to Wakanda for getting some important technical help from T’Chlla, and Rogers is certainly glad to meet again his old friend Bucky Barnes/White Wolf (Sebastian Stan), who has been protected and cured there since what happened in the finale of “Captain American: Civil War”.

There is also a subplot involved with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who is luckily rescued by the gangs of “Guardians of the Galaxy” after his confrontation with Thanos. Once he sees that he needs something as mighty as his hammer which was destroyed in “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017), Thor instantly goes to a certain place somewhere in the corner of the universe, and we get some amusement from the gradual camaraderie between him and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who accompanies Thor along with Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel).

In the meantime, the other members of Guardians of the Galaxy including Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) try to track down Thanos, who is quite formidable in many aspects although he does not collect all of six Infinity Stones yet. While effectively exuding steely menace and authority, Brolin also brings Shakespearean pathos to his fanatic character, and he is particularly good during the scenes involved with Gamora, who is, this is not a spoiler at all, his stepdaughter and still struggles with her conflicted feelings toward her abusive stepfather.

The movie tries to roll all these subplots into one big package, but it does not succeed much while notably failing in several aspects. Trying to be as grim and serious as demanded by the story, the screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely also tries to lighten up the mood with the constant supply of quips and wisecracks from not only Stark but also several other characters, but these two contrasting sides do not mix well together, and this resulting discord is sometimes quite distracting. In addition, the movie handles most of its characters merely as pieces to be moved here and there without much development, and that is one of the main reasons why the finale is not as impactful as intended.

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Directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, who previously directed “Captain America: Civil War”, keep things rolling via a series of big action sequences, but these action sequences mostly lack style and personality. They are certainly well-made, but they feel numbingly repetitive with scattershot editing and shaky camerawork, and that monotonous aspect is only more highlighted by a few good moments which do show some style and personality. For example, I enjoyed the unbridled fun of a sequence unfolded in a sort of space blacksmith’s shop, and I also liked how several main characters attempt to overpower Thanos at one point later in the story.

The cast members of the movie try their best as filling their respective spots. While Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch have numerous moments for wielding their sardonic wit as usual, Chris Hemsworth shows more of his humorous side which was wonderfully utilized in “Thor: Ragnarok”, and he clicks pretty well with Bradley Cooper in their comic interactions. In case of the rest of the cast members, most of them are under-utilized to say the least, but Zoe Saldana and Elizabeth Olsen manage to leave some impression even though there are not many things to do for them.

Unlike “Black Panther” and “Thor: Ragnarok”, recent MCU movies which tried to do something different than usual and succeeded more than expected, “Avengers: Infinity War” seems to be merely content with bulking up itself within its genre boundaries, and the result is a product which is a little too bland and long for me to care enough about its story and characters. Because of the lack of synergy between its assembled elements, I guess I can do a simple calculation based on six recent MCU movies released after “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015). I gave 3.5 stars to “Black Panther”, 3 stars to “Doctor Strange”, “Guardians of Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017), and “Thor: Ragnarok”, and 2.5 stars to “Captain America: Civil War” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017), so the average score is 2.9 stars, and I accordingly give “Avengers: Infinity War” 2.5 stars. If you do not agree with me, please do your own math and then decide whether you will watch it or not.

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