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‘Infinity War’ is ambitious – maybe a little too much … or too little (I can’t really tell)

Have you ever sat through a movie or TV show and been totally and completely overwhelmed by the length and/or breadth of it while simultaneously wanting/needing it to be longer so that you can consume even more of it?

Have you ever done that with a movie that comes in at an already hefty 156 minutes?

That was exact scenario I encountered when exiting my screening of “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Okoye (Danai Gurira), Black Panther/T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson) and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Infinity War.” (Photo: Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2018)

“Infinity War” – and the fourth Avengers movie due next year – are the culmination of what will be an 11-year, 22-film, 3-phase arc that re-introduced us to some of the most beloved/hated superheroes/villains in the Marvel catalog; introduced us to some more obscure ones; and created an expansive film universe with a overall narrative that ties them all together.

The scope of the overall project is impressive, and “Infinity War” is the most ambitious outing to date.

Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Drax (Dave Bautista), Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) in Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Infinity War.” (Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2018)

Still reeling from the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” the Avengers (and their Avenger-adjacent pals) are spiritually fractured and physically disassembled.

Tony Stark/Iron Man and Steve Rogers/Captain America are not on speaking terms; Thor and Bruce Banner/Hulk are still roaming around space trying to escort the people of Asgard to safety; Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Sam Wilson/Falcon are helping Cap do Cap things; and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and Vision are trying to do their own thing without drawing the attention or ire of their respective compatriots.

And that doesn’t even touch on the exploits of Loki, T'Challa/Black Panther and the people of Wakanda, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange and the mystics, or Peter Parker/Spider-Man. (Minus a few exceptions, is a major or semi-major character has been introduced since 2008, they show up here.)

Meanwhile, super villain Thanos has made it his life’s goal to obtain all six of the infinity stones, and he is coming dangerously close to accomplishing that task, which would essentially allow him to play God with the entire galaxy

Believing no single being should be allowed to carry that kind of power, the Avengers reassemble (sort of) to put the mad titan in his place … despite their distance (in every sense of the word) from one another.

Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Infinity War.” (Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2018)

When it comes to Marvel movies, I’ve started viewing these spectacles more in terms of “how it will work” as opposed to “if it will work.” That mantra has worked in the past, and – at least to a certain degree – it works here, too.

The biggest accomplishment of the movie is having all of these characters and their individual storylines converging to fill in the larger narrative they’ve been playing into over the years.

In addition to the differing characters and settings, you also have a slew of different voices that have told these stories, and huge discrepancies in character/story tones. Despite those vast differences, nothing that was done to tie everyone/everything together felt forced. That in itself is a feat.

The biggest problem is you’ve got all of these characters and their individual storylines converging to fill in the larger narrative they’ve been playing into over the years.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War.” (Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2018)

If it seems like it’s a lot, it’s because it is indeed a lot. In fact, at times it’s almost too much.

Because there is so much going on, the story hops around a lot, rarely spending enough time fleshing out a subplot (at least to my liking) before moving on to the next. There’s so much jumping around that it’s difficult to fully immerse yourself in any individual arc because it’s simply too distracting.

The other major issue I have with the film is it struggles – particularly in the first act – with pacing. Because there are so many characters and situations that you need to be brought up to speed on, there’s plenty of dialogue-heavy, slow moments to ruin any momentum that does get built.

Oddly enough, however, I want more. There are very few moments when I say a 2.5-hour movie should really think about being 3 hours, but that’s the case here. That extra 30 minutes would allow for more storytelling, and (hopefully) less jumping around.

Doctor Strange/Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Wong (Benedict Wong) in Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Infinity War.” (Photo: Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2018)

That said, there’s plenty to like about the film.

There’s action galore, there’s intrigue, the visuals are stunning, the characters familiar and enjoyable, and, because most believe “Infinity War” and “Avengers 4” will serve as a major overhaul for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s almost no character – hero or villain – that’s completely immune from being killed at any moment. While that is probably concerning to people who have grown attached to certain actors or characters, for the rest of us it adds a whole other level of surprise and curiosity. Virtually anything can happen to anyone in the movies, and that’s refreshing.

I’m not exactly sure what I wanted or expected from “Infinity War,” but I know that because of how high my hopes were it didn’t quite match them. The movie is still quite good, and the questions it poses – and there are many of them – make me even more eager for next year’s finale.

But I can’t help but think that this ultra-ambitious tale could’ve been even better if there was just a little less or just a little bit more. Like I said in the title, I’m not exactly sure which.

★★★ 1/2 of ★★★★★

© 2020 by Man Versus Movie

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