Film review: Avengers: Infinity War

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, April 27th.

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I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. 

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Avengers: Infinity War opens in theaters everywhere today. This is music from the soundtrack.

It’s another in the Marvel Comics series of superhero films.

Here now with our review with WORLD entertainment editor Megan Basham.

MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC: There’s no question Avengers: Infinity War is a lot of movie. That applies not just to a run-time of two hours and 40 minutes… but also the multiple, equally-weighted plot threads for numerous headlining characters. And while this loaded quality has some critics carping, it’s also the very thing that has fans so excited.

How excited? Fandango reports pre-sales have not only doubled those the online ticket retailer saw for Black Panther, they’re outperforming the total for the last seven Marvel movies combined.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising since, in some sense, Infinity War is every Marvel movie combined. At least, it’s the movie the studio has been patiently, painstakingly building toward since Iron Man first took the stage in 2008. It’s only natural then that all the heroes audiences have invested in over the last decade from Captain America to Black Widow to Black Panther would make an appearance.

So if this first installment of the two-part culmination of all that effort seems a bit loaded, I’d say other critics need to put their nitpicky hats away. This is for the fans, and they have earned it.

AUDIO: There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if we could become something more, so when they needed us, we could fight the battles that they never could.

Contending with 18 past movies, each filled with their own character-development and complex world-building, Infinity War somehow maintains internal integrity with nearly all of it. The story arcs for personal favorites may be briefer than we’d like, but everyone still gets their due—and has lots of fun pairing them up in the process.

AUDIO: I’m Peter, by the way. Dr. Strange. Oh, you’re using your made up names. Then, I am Spider-Man.

Heroes we’ve known in multiple solo outings don’t have sudden shifts in personality to accommodate an ensemble piece.

AUDIO: Let’s talk about this plan of yours. I think it’s good, except it sucks. So let me do the plan and that way it might be really good.

A subtle nod to Chris Pratt’s real-life professed faith is particularly appropriate for a Missouri-raised kid—when Stephen Strange asks him which master he serves, Star Lord wonders if he should answer, “Jesus.”

Tensions and backstories built up in past films aren’t shunted aside to make room for the new adventure. That, coupled with a worthy, believable villain, makes Infinity War a roaring success.

Marvel’s best films have always incorporated relevant worldview debates—like Captain America and Iron Man clashing over how much control a national martial force should cede to an international governing body, and the Wakandans wondering whether to open their borders to immigrants.

Infinity War features Thanos—played by Josh Brolin—making arguments that don’t sound far off from something you might read in a major newspaper.

AUDIO: The entire time I knew him, he only ever had one goal. To wipe out half the universe. If he gets all the infinity stones, he can do it with the snap of his fingers. Just like that.

Apparently the hulking blue alien spends his free time reading The Population Bomb as his sole goal for attaining the limitless power of the five infinity stones that figured in previous Marvel plots is to wipe out half the universe. He reasons that the universe’s resources are finite and some people go hungry. So by wiping out half of all sentient creatures, the rest will live in plenty with balance restored.

Contrasting Thanos is the ideology voiced by Captain America—played by Chris Evans—who repeatedly asserts, “We don’t trade lives.” What goes inferred is we don’t trade them for convenience or to make our lives more comfortable, though individuals may sacrifice their own to save others. The filmmakers may not have consciously intended it, but it paints a striking contrast between a pragmatic culture of death and a principled culture of life.

Of course this is a modern PG-13 movie so there is some brief, minor language to endure along with plenty of battles. But I’d argue the relatively light level of objectionable material in these movies also contributes to their success. And it’s always hard for stakes to feel as high as in other genres when, thanks to a little wizardry care of Dr. Strange, there appears to be a possibility of reviving deceased characters.

But after such meticulous universe-building, I’m fairly confident we can trust that the final, aching images of this installment will have enduring, meaningful consequences. This train has one more stop to make in 2019. I doubt anyone wants it to go off the tracks now.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.

(Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios via AP) This image released by Marvel Studios shows, front row from left, Danai Gurira, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson and Sebastian Stan in a scene from “Avengers: Infinity War,” premiering on April 27. 

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