Second Sight: The Paradox of Avengers: Infinity War

Superhero films have divided many avid film lovers while simultaneously providing the lifeblood for the preservation of the cinematic experience.  Many of the Hollywood elite condemn and/or dismiss them as mindless action circuses for the masses, while die-hard fans devour each offering, arguing about directorial choices and adherence to the source material.  As the lights dim and the Marvel logo emerges from darkness, the audience is rapturous, signaling that for better or worse, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the Star Wars of the 21st century.  While it took 19 films to get there, Avengers: Infinity War is the Empire Strikes Back of this new incarnation of films that have been forever woven into the fabric of global culture. 

Intergalactic tyrant, Thanos is searching the galaxy for six Infinity Stones, powerful elements that can bend the essence of creation to their wielder's desires.  Between him and his genocidal endgame stands Earth's Mightiest Heroes...and 37 other characters.  Make no mistake, this is spectacle from start to finish and Infinity War never takes time to ask for anything else from its audience other than witnessing it.  Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely's script features all of the hallmarks of a MCU feature.  Humor, despair, and moments of great heroism.  The dialogue struggles in parts, however the bulk of it is drowned out in the endless cheers from the audience with each breathtaking reintroduction and just in time superhuman maneuver.  It's both the film everyone has been asking for and also almost too much of a good thing.  Excess is the core, putting the nuance of previous entries aside for showdown after showdown.  The fact that the Russo's are able to maintain coherence across so many different threads is admirable, perhaps even miraculous. 

Trent Opaloch's cosmic cinematography is resplendent, delivering some of the best imagery of the franchise.  There are somber, ethereal compositions interlaced with larger than life CGI apocalypses that not only showcase the power of technology, they also remind the viewer of the moments in between and the things worth fighting for; be it love, life, or draconian ideals of survival.  Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt's editing is another essential component, taking great strides to translate copious amounts of frenetic action.  In a film such as this, the tendency to delve into exuberance is inescapable, but their efforts keep everything exceptionally clean and focused. 

Josh Brolin's turn as Thanos is remarkable.  While his motivations remain in the dubious MCU pantheon of odd villainy, his commitment to the mayhem and his absolutely terrifying presence are commendable.  Chris Hemsworth does an outstanding job as the God of Thunder.  Not only is his arc the best of the film, his performance has moments of gravity that deserve recognition.  Sadly, Mark Ruffalo's endearing Bruce Banner is wasted, and his dialogue is outright painful at times.  Benedict Cumberbatch has a few moments that shine, but Tom Holland's vibrant Peter Parker is the human element, and it’s a performance that will resonate far beyond the theater.  Outside of these performances, everyone else is solid and has their "moment", but after 192 of these moments, it will come down to personal preference on who takes the day.


Ultimately, this is a film that was conceived with preestablished constraints and works within them, giving the audience exactly what they want at almost every turn.  However, this is not always a boon.  There's a hollowness that roils underneath because there's not enough time to focus on anything other than next confrontation.  While this isn't a lethal flaw, its prevalent along the edges, beyond the next team planning session and universe tripping display of power.  This is the conflict that clings to the soul of Infinity War.  The viewer is treated to a larger than life film, a one of kind creation that has taken ten years to get to and yet, it still can't outdistance the confines of its universe.  The final result is pure visual euphoria with very little under the hood, save for the heart that critics and fans are quick to point out before talking about the next fight sequence.  It's a cyclical convergence of comic book contrivances and for better or worse this is a game changing picture that sets the stage for the next incarnation. 

In theaters tomorrow, Avengers: Infinity War deserves to be seen on the biggest screen imaginable.  It is quizically lavish, rewriting the limits of what is possible for the genre while also falling victim to the inconsistencies that plague it.   Still, there is so much wonder infused in its DNA that even the harshest cynic will be overwhelmed by its grandeur. 

--Kyle Jonathan