You could work at FedEx for your entire life and still say that there is a lot to unpack here for this film. In fact, there’s a fair amount of difficulty to writing this review without spoiling anything. There’s also so many characters, so many things going on, and so much information you need to know before viewing Marvel’s latest team-up flick that it makes this film the first of all the Marvel Studios films to make causal fans of the films feel like comic book aficionados.
In fact, when you really boil it down, it’s almost odd to call this a film. It’s more of a character study, and this time with the villain at center stage. It’s the “Citizen Kane” of cosmic conundrums creating chaos across a copious cast of characters.
So, where to start with this film? We got all the established heroes from the previous films: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is getting ready to marry Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is getting ready for school and the responsibilities of being Spider-Man. Captain America (Chris Evans) is in hiding from the government with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie). Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is doing magic stuff, I guess, while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) are aboard the Asgardian sanctuary ship after the events of “Thor: Ragnarok”. It’s there we see that Thanos (Josh Brolin) has acquired one of the six Infinity Stones, extremely powerful gems capable of mass destruction in the wrong hands.
Or hand, in this case. Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet is primed and ready to house all six of the stones so he can accomplish what he believes is the best thing for the future of the universe: to kill half of all current life in existence, for the betterment of all beings and the continued survival of the universe. And he will stop at nothing to obtain his goals. And under his control, an army of mindless creatures, Chitauri soldiers and his incredibly powerful henchmen who quickly become more than a thorn in the side of the Avengers.
It’s here where all the fanboy dreams come true as we not only get the Avengers desperate to reunite to beat Thanos at a mad dash of capturing and/or securing the rest of the stones—one of which housed on Vision’s (Paul Bettany) forehead and another on Strange’s person— but also the Guardians of the Galaxy, who met some of our heroes and team up to stop the big bad. In particular, Thor, now hammerless and struggling with the loss of [redacted] and [do you really think I was going to spoil the fun?] is the first to meet the planet-hopping vigilantes and is eager to find the dwarves capable of crafting him a new weapon with the ability to kill Thanos.
One member of the Guardians who has an axe to grind is Gamora (Zoe Saldana). She has some unsolved issues with Thanos, who took her from her home when she was a girl. She also has some kind of secret that would give Thanos enough information to get closer to his goal, so she urges Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) to trust her and — if necessary — kill her to keep that secret from reaching his all-powerful purple ears.
Those walking into the theatre and expecting to see everyone on screen at the same time throwing down with Thanos and company will leave slightly disappointed, as the film follows several parallel plot threads, each with a handful of heroes splitting up in the furthest reaches of the galaxy and our own world to find a way to save the universe.
Using words like ‘scope’ and ‘continuity’ to describe a Marvel Studios production is kind of like calling water wet or a kettle black, but the film showcases the dedication to the world that the cinematic universe’s creators have put into it all, making sure you know where every character is, picking them back up from where they left off, picking up loose ends and explaining relationships between characters. Everything that has set the stage for this movie is referenced and feels important.
Also, those looking to know more about Thanos — or as some casual moviegoers used to call him, the smiling purple guy at the end of the first ‘Avengers’ film — will not be disappointed. Thanos is by far one of the more fleshed out villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The whole film is focused on him, and throughout all the plot threads, flashbacks and fights, you understand who he is, what he stands for and just how big of a threat he really is. Every action by the heroes is to distract, directly fight, indirectly fight, weaken, defy or confront Thanos (or his cohorts), and the film does a great job at balancing so many characters.
This is definitely more of a set-up to a climatic, hell-raising showdown than a standalone film — in fact, as a standalone film, it’s fairly weak in several departments — but as a larger piece of a continuing, ever-expanding story, this delivers in spades. All your favorite characters as you know them are the same, and not a lot of true development or change happens with the exception of characters like Thor, Star-Lord and of course Thanos, but it’s exactly what fans will want out of the characters used, and there’s enough screen time for every character to at least have some kind of moment. Obviously, the original Avengers get more a focus, and Gamora— being Thanos’ adopted-kinda-sorta daughter— gets a lot of time to show her backstory and relation to Thanos.
The tone of the film is all over the place. However, that doesn’t dictate whether it’s apropos or not. In fact, the light-hearted humor with the drearier moments is nice and gives the film a bit of balance, keeping it from departing too far away from Marvel’s trademark style. The Russo brothers’ direction is not quite what we’ve come to know them for, but when balancing so many elements and keeping all the cards in play, it becomes more important to give important information rather than dazzle with creative cinematography.
However, one thing that does deliver is the action. The movie is primarily action, and the effects and powers thrown at the screen are quite spectacular. There’s one fight in particular with Iron Man and Thanos that had some really creative ways that limited Thanos’ ability to utilize his weapon and gave a lot of opportunities to show Iron Man’s ever-expanding arsenal of gadgets.
By in large, it’s not a traditional superhero film, but it doesn’t need to be, and given the source material it never should have been. This tale of space-faring grandeur rooted in relatable actions, characters and emotions is great at what it is and what it isn’t. Walk in to this latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and expect to leave a little different once you leave. It defies and then defines what a film in this genre can be. It’s fun, it’s quirky, and then it gets really serious, and nothing really stands out as an unusual change of pace.
Whatever is planned in the future of this franchise has found new interests piqued, new questions to be answered and new territories previously unheard of to explore. As advertised, it’s the end of the world, but it also feels like a new beginning. Anyone with at least a passing interest in the Marvel movie franchise should give this one a try.
Photo Courtesy: Marvel Studios