Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Rated PG-13, 149 minutes
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Cast: Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., Zoe Saldana, Tom Holland, Scarlett Johansson, Karen Gillan, Elizabeth Olsen, Josh Brolin, Carrie Coon, Chris Evans, Pom Klementieff, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston
It’s been ten years since Marvel Studios began leading audiences down a golden paved pathway in their cinematic universe. These past ten years have been filled with character-driven journeys and epic, explosive escapades. And like any good decades-long adventure, it’s also been filled with mistakes from which to learn and grow. What the powers that be have done with AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR is a fitting amalgam of their maturity. Equal parts exciting and exhausting, the film’s resonant emotional crux and solid supervillain are unfortunately outweighed by an overwhelming amount of ambition and scope.
Since the first AVENGERS film, Thanos (Josh Brolin) has been making his fearful, intimidating presence well-known. His ego-centric quest has caused him to lay planets to waste. But, of course, that’s not enough for him. His latest acquisition is a “gauntlet” – a gold Nintendo Power Glove-like accessory – whereby which will be studded with multi-colored “Infinity Stones,” gems that control high-concepts like space, time, reality and soul. The trouble is these stones are spread throughout the galaxy. It’s now up to the Avengers to stop Thanos from gathering those crystals and thus gaining ultimate control over everything.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, along with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, are given the Herculean task of finding an effortless balance between the characters in this massive ensemble and the need for the big action-driven set pieces. Given the grand scale of this action-adventure spectacle, it creates almost an impossibility that this could ever be achieved. And with the exception of a small handful of the characters, many are dealt short shrift narratively. At least the filmmakers were able to carve out small moments for the characters who don’t have much dialogue to shine during the action-packed sequences.
It’s frustrating that, time and time again, we’re constantly ahead of the characters – not just with how they know each other, or how they don’t, but also what’s at the core of their relationship dynamics. There’s one pivotal moment in particular where the emotionality of this film’s build up deflates because we’re ahead of the action. They can also do better when it comes to the female characters here. A few of the powerful women are sidelined, relegated to pining after their men. One female character, though charged with a hefty portion of the emotional beats, services two male arcs.
While the narrative can be a bumpy ride, the filmmakers put most of their stock in crowd-pleasing moments like when beloved characters sport improved tech-enhanced suits, or when they acquire new props (there’s a great one here), or even when surprise cameo appearances occur. Humor is still a crucial key quality – as is its tangible amount of melancholy and sadness.
That said, unlike many of the stand-alone films from which these superheroes came, there’s not a lot of gravitas pulsating through the undercurrent. Sure, we can identify with standing tall against injustice and a megalomaniacal, dangerous dictatorship. However, because we know how things go in this particular universe (that death means nothing, that consequence rarely occurs and that there’s a formulaic pattern to each AVENGERS movie) the message delivered isn’t as forceful as it should be. There will certainly be those who will over-inflate the drama, but only time – and the sequel – will tell if that reaction is warranted.
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR opens on April 27.