Saturday, 26 May 2018

Over-hyped and flawed, but still an enjoyable romp

In terms of sheer hype and expectation, Avengers: Infinity War must be near the pinnacle of Hollywood frenzy. One of the most expensive films ever made, with an estimated budget of $316–400 million, it achieved massive pre-release ticket sales and, by 26 May, had pulled in $1.849 billion at the box office.

Bringing together various strands of the Marvel universe, it centres on the acquisition by Thanos of all the infinity stones, rendering him pretty much invincible.

Various superheroes try to stop the genocidal lunatic, but all fail.

This provides the core idea that many fans have hailed – that supposed superheroes are not that super and can end up doubting their own abilities etc. None of this is, however, new.

There are a lot of things here that work – and when they do work, they work very, very well: the banter between Tony Stark and Dr Strange and their relationship with Spider-Man offers much fun. After all, when you get Robert Downey Jnr and Benedict Cumberbatch firing off each other, it’s likely to be worth watching, while Tom Holland is very good as a the teen among them.

The Guardians of the Galaxy crew are just great – not least the part of the team (Rocket and Groot) that splits off with Thor. Honestly: I possibly need to buy this film on some format just to rewatch (and rewatch and rewatch) Chris Hemsworth’s Asgardian god repeatedly describing Rocket as a “rabbit” and later, Groot as “Tree”. This is comic genius and probably worth the admission price alone.

Josh Brolin’s Thanos is actually very good. He brings to the role a sense of a warped intelligence that has begun from a genuine concern at what causes poverty to one that allows himself the power to solve it by wiping out half the population of every planet that he visits – and then convincing himself that, as a result of his decision, everyone lives happily ever after.

Indeed, the character itself and the question that he addresses lends a philosophical element to the film that is welcome.

But unfortunately, the whole also suffered from being overlong and, by the end, rather repetitive: ‘how many times have we seen this fight?’

It also shows us how out of date Captain America is: more modern superheroes are much savvier and funnier. Steve Rogers is past his sell-by date and it shows. Interestingly, it also illustrates the yawning gulf between Marvel and DC, the latter of which continues to plough forward with a batch of dated characters, with only Wonder Woman really suggesting a sense of a really new life through comics and film.

There’s lots to like here, but it’s already a long way from being the best Marvel film released this tear: Black Panther and Deadpool 2 leave it standing.

But doesn’t this also all tell you the level of expectation that now awaits every Marvel release? And what will it be like by the release of the second part of this story, slated for 3 May next year?

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