Avengers: Infinity War Review - Mild Spoilers!

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Avengers: Infinity War Review - Mild Spoilers!

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The 19th film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and touted as the biggest crossover event movie in recent memory, Avengers: Infinity War has arrived, and with it the much hyped about character Thanos (who first appeared in the mid-credits scene in Avengers 2012).

Initially titled as Infinity War Part -1, the movie which was promised to be the beginning of the ‘end’ - a two-part conclusion of the stories and character threads which began in 2008 with Iron Man, has debuted with a record all-time highest-ever worldwide opening gross for any film at 640 million dollars (Slated for release in China only on May 11 which is a major Marvel market).

Infinity War has also become the first feature film to be shot entirely using IMAX cameras popularised by Christopher Nolan. The duo of Russo Brothers already had a rendezvous with the scale of the cameras in the airport fight sequence of Captain America: Civil War. Faced with the challenge of maintaining the tone of various characters, films and worlds within the MCU, cinematographer Trent Opalach has pulled off this trampoline act. The IMAX cameras have been used to enhance the visual narrative in portraying surreal landscapes, depicting new worlds and also been used to great advantage in visualising psychically imposing characters like Thanos. The best format to view the film is undoubtedly IMAX.

Editing plays a major role in a cross-over film especially of this magnitude which comprises more than twenty main characters having new pairings taking place at different planes. Jeffery Ford and Matthew Schimdt have cut the film with clarity underlining superhero moments while never having to lose sight of the larger moving story arc. Although the film has a run time of 2.30 hours and with so much happening, few more descriptive scenes (especially the earth portions) would have knitted the screenplay better to make it complete. There is a good possibility of some deleted scenes appearing in the extended cut due August this year.

A film of ambitious scale and emotional stakes should inevitably have a befitting musical score to amplify its huge impactful moments. Composer Alan Silvestri, known for his scores in Avengers and the recent Ready Player One, shows us why he is the man for the job. The quickly shifting tones of this film are balanced with great regard by the composer and especially the themes for Thanos adds greater depth to the animated character as well as in making his motivations compelling. Knowing when not to score has always been regarded as the sign of a master composer and Silverstri makes minimal choices in poignant moments to move and shock the audience in equal doses.

The industry pioneers in visual effects Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) has once again conjured to life the nooks and corners of the world of Infinity War. The fact that the filming only began in January 2017 shows the amount of meticulous planning that has gone into the making of this massive film.

The motion capture work of Josh Brolin’s Thanos takes centre stage as the Russo Brothers dig deep into the first half of this transformative phase in the MCU. The stunt design is very creative and takes full advantage of the numerous superheroes and their repertoire of powers.

Other than the much hyped about showdown in Wakandan plains from the trailer, there are two other action pieces which will make Marvel fans just geek out. The stunt choreography is very lucidly structured and designed to showcase pandemonium at its Marvel-lous best.

The sound mixing of the film at times felt a little harsh on the ears and the moments of shock/surprise could have played out with the same intensity even with the reduced bangs. Infinity War has been fully shot in 2D with the Imax Arri 2D digital camera being a customized large format version of Arri and 6K Alexa 65. The post-converted 3D films always don’t add up much to the film or its scope except for a few extra bucks to the coffers and this movie is no exception. Films like these if not viewed from certain rows of the cinema could tire out certain sections of the audience. Few people have complained that the movie is a tiring watch but the same is not fully on account of the film per se. It’s best to view the film in 2D format yet unfortunately in Chennai, if a movie plays in 3D, it's always only 3D screenings in all the available best screens. Cinema houses should provide both options to the moviegoers.

The reason why Infinity War stands out from the rest of 18 films to date is that the script is at the forefront of this humongous production. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen Mcfeely were faced with the biggest challenge of pulling off a film which should work on various levels. The comics (source material) are summoned upon and tweaked for the big screen blending them into the tonal composition of the MCU films. Now comes the juggling act of choosing from the roaster of well developed characters, moving them across various planes and also pairing them uniquely, the makers have really hit the bull’s eye on this most anticipated facet of the screenplay.

The many months of sessions between the directors and the writers have yielded rich dividends in setting up the table. Every superhero had a moment to shine which in turn is also aimed at pleasing the marvel fan diaspora and yet the bigger story arc is always lurking and moving. Infinity War in many ways is very much a Marvel film, and yet it’s not, and this tenacious step is groundbreaking for the MCU moving into phase IV.

Marvel films always faced the criticism of featuring one dimensional/template villains and this film has addressed such concerns in the best possible way. The character sketch of the mad titan Thanos and his relentless pursuit of utopia is the major highlight of the film. Thanos is by far the most menacing, powerful of all MCU villains and without his backstory, Infinity War could very well have ended up being just another punch fest.

When so much is happening and moving inside a film, packing everything into 150 minutes is another challenge. Kevin Feige’s (President, Marvel Studios) vision of long-term storytelling with interjecting storylines over several movies has allowed the writers to hit gear five from the start with respect to all characters barring Thanos which provided the space to pack in so much into this film. The balancing of all the above delicate layers in proportionate doses while never losing sight of the big moving piece is the film’s greatest achievement and the writing duo, directing duo and team Marvel headed by Feige should be applauded for pulling off such a mean feat.

The ‘childen’ of Thanos/Dark order who were introduced in the film is the only place where the writing looked a little hollow almost treating them as disposables. I personally would have preferred to see Ebony Maw more as his confrontations with Doctor Strange teased in the trailers proved to be worthy. The comedy dialogues squished into some places felt odd at times especially with scenes involving Thor where the intensity of the narration seemed to have diminished a bit. As pointed out earlier, few more ‘setting up’ scenes in the earth portions could have elevated the film more and added credibility to character decisions without feeling rushed.

The movie begins where Thor Ragnarok leaves off in a scene which is meant to convey a strong show of intent from the makers and also prepares the audience for what’s to come. Thor, Doctor Strange Iron Man were the standouts. The bold and much talked about climax of the film stems from rapt writing, directing and the cliffhanger leaves much to be discussed and anticipated. For Marvel Studios, Infinity War involves breaking every cliché associated with their films while retaining the flavour of their trademark at the same time. Again, it’s that very balancing act which will give Infinity War a special place in the Marvel catalogue.

From Captain America: Winter Soldier, Civil War and now onto Infinity War, Russo Brothers have been at the helm of directing these motions pictures. Although each of the films plays out as different genres, to have the same directors has helped shaped this product immensely. The choices that the Russo’s make as to which characters to play and when/where has led to some really exciting scenes. The director’s predominant focus on the script while packaging some great action narratives in combustible situations has made it the biggest blockbuster of the year.

Attempting to even review the film as one complete product is slightly tricky since its only one half of the story even though Marvel now don’t want to call the next film officially the second part. I’m really excited for the untitled next film and can’t wait for April 26, 2019 to arrive. The principal photography of the film is already completed with some additional shoots scheduled later this year.

In the words of the writers, the second one will even be bigger and better. How convincingly will they play with ‘real stakes’ is the biggest question to watch out for. Avengers: Infinity War has raised the bar within the limitations of the superhero genre and in all probability will end up in the top three highest ever grossing films of all time. A super Villain who has Malthusian ambitions is pegged against the earth’s mightiest heroes and the result is genre bending blockbuster entertainment. It’s a roller coaster ride everyone should experience at the biggest theatre in the vicinity, and yes, Team Marvel has delivered on the promise big time.

Sriraman Srinivasan
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