Kernel Rating: (3.5 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 149 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. If you’ve seen one Marvel film, you can guess what will be in this one: lots of action violence, with massive fights, scenes where planets are destroyed and many people are killed, some fan favorite characters are killed in various ways (including being stabbed or thrown off a cliff), you see corpses floating through space, and people are tortured; as always, much of this is bloodless, but the torture and the large-scale massacres seem more intense than preceding Marvel films. Also some kissing, some sexual tension between a few characters, a variety of sexually themed jokes and coarse language, some cursing, and someone giving the middle finger.
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is almost unwieldy, with its universe-hopping plot and its characters from various corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe convening together to fight a common enemy. But as always, the strength of this deep cast and their ability to balance deep stakes and snarky humor is the finest example of what this massive undertaking gets right.
By Roxana Hadadi
By their very design, each “Avengers” film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe grows in size and scope. “Avengers: Infinity War” jumps between planets, pairs unlikely characters together, and finally unveils a villain who legitimately threatens the entire universe and all the heroes in it: the Avengers on Earth, the Guardians of the Galaxy in space, Thor and Loki with the survivors of the destroyed planet Asgard. But the fun character beats and a few exciting action sequences are coupled with a lot of exposition and numerous disparate storylines, and “Infinity War” while offering up a variety of charms also fails to build an interior rhythm that lives up to its super-high-stakes plotting.
“The Avengers” brought together most of the Marvel characters who had received their own standalone films (Captain America, Iron Man, and the like) and assembled them into a super-team who bantered, bickered, and saved the world. “Age of Ultron” raised the stakes, adding in new characters and another world-threatening plot, and “Captain America: Civil War” kind of operated as another Avengers film, with many members of the team facing off against each other and dividing the team up for good.
“Infinity War” picks up two years after “Civil War”: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”) is engaged and trying to leave the superhero life behind; Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland, of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”) is living his teenage life in New York City; and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, of “Doctor Strange”) is protecting the Sanctum Sanctorum in NYC. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans, of “Gifted”), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, of “Captain America: Civil War”), and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie, of “Captain America: Civil War”) are on the run. Vision (Paul Bettany, of “Captain America: Civil War”) and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen, of “Godzilla”) are in a relationship, while James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle, of “Iron Man 3”) is still working with the U.S. government.
Everyone is scattered, but when Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, of “Thor: Ragnarok”) crashes through the Sanctum Sanctorum and warns that “Thanos is coming,” the Avengers realize that something very dangerous is threatening their world—again.
Thanos (Josh Brolin, of “Only the Brave”) isn’t an entirely new entity: He sent the trickster god Loki (Tom Hiddleston, of “Thor: Ragnarok”) to Earth in the first “Avengers”; he planted nightmares in Tony’s brain years ago about the deaths of all his friends; and he’s on a quest for the Infinity Stones, six elemental gems that harness the power of different things: space, reality, power, soul, mind, and time. When he has them all, he can enact his plan of destroying half of life into the entire universe to restore balance—which he’s done to other worlds before reaching Earth.
To stop him, the Avengers will need the help of various heroes from the rest of the universe, some they don’t yet know exist—like the Guardians of the Galaxy, including half-human Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt, of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”) and Thanos’s adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana, of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”)—and new allies, like those in Wakanda, including T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, of “Black Panther”). They’ll need to work together to protect the two Infinity Stones they have on earth: the mind stone, which is what gave Vision life, and the time stone, which is in Doctor Strange’s protection. If Thanos gets those, the world as they know it is over.
The greatest asset of the “Avengers” films is its cast, and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have a fun time aligning certain characters together: Tony Stark and Doctor Strange rub each other the wrong way, each with ego to spare; the silly humor of Thor (Chris Hesmworth, of “Thor: Ragnarok”) goes excellently with the snarky scumminess of Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper, of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”), whom he keeps calling “Rabbit”; the self-assured warrior woman Okoye (Danai Gurira, of “Black Panther”) gets along quite well with the similarly skilled Black Widow; and of course, the friendship between Steve Rogers and T’Challa is defined by genuine affection and mutual respect. Plus, Brolin is an excellent villain; once you accept the goofiness of his CGI appearance, the inspiration for his plan and the feelings he has for adopted daughter Gamora are persuasive and effective.
The best scenes are those in which the characters are able to riff together and play off each other, like when preparing for a massive battle sequence or when certain people who haven’t seen each other in years reunite. But the massive scale of this story means there are a lot of introductions and a lot of conversations getting people on the same page, and that gets repetitive after a while when it keeps happening on planet after planet. But the action sequences, which directors Anthony and Joe Russo showed a deft hand for in their preceding Marvel films “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War,” are mostly well-done, especially the final battle that returns us to Wakanda, the setting of “Black Panther,” the best Marvel film to date.
It’s up and down throughout “Infinity War,” but the final 20 minutes are impressively done, giving undeniable emotional weight to a franchise that often seems to be taking two steps forward and one step back in order to maintain story after story and film after film. In some ways, “Infinity War” is the same as it ever was, but the potential in its exceptionally strong final act may finally be the shake-up the Marvel Cinematic Universe can seize upon to take another step forward.
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