In fact, this latest Marvel creation, from directors Anthony and Joe Russo, has both everything and not enough. The screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Avengers, stockpiles virtually all of the heroes in the Marvel Universe (with some notable exceptions). They must now do battle with an increasingly omnipotent Thanos (Josh Brolin), whose Draconian plan to combat overpopulation is a galaxy-wide genocide, exterminating half the inhabitants so that the survivors can be fruitful and safely multiply, so to speak. To that end, Thanos needs to gather all six Infinity stones, thus guaranteeing him unlimited power. The problem for Thanos is that several of these all-important stones are either in possession of certain Avengers (like Dr. Strange, to name one) or are stored in areas known to other Avengers.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Avengers; Infinity War is how well it makes use of a starry (and unwieldy) assemblage of superheroes, deftly splitting them up into different groupings in order to do thwart, or perhaps destroy Thanos. For instance, there are sparks to be had when Robert Downey’s Ironman shares screen time and wisecracks with Tom Holland’s impetuous Spiderman and Benedict Cumberbatch’s incredulous Dr. Strange (his reaction upon hearing there is also an Antman is priceless); a vengeful Thor (Chris Hemsworth) bonds with Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocket and Groot (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel) as they try to locate an important weapon; meanwhile David Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is having trouble getting into Hulk mode, and suggests that Captain America (Chris Evans) be contacted—although Avengers fans know that he and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are in exile, after the events of the earlier Civil War. In the end, all roads lead to Wakanda for an earth-shaking confrontation. (Did you think Marvel would keep Black Panther on the sidelines after his huge summer hit?) In addition, Thanos (as portrayed by Josh Brolin via motion-capture) is the series’ most formidable, complex and compelling villain yet—on his way to perhaps capturing the universe, Brolin’s Thanos pretty much steals the film (though he does get some competition from Ruffalo’s bruised and battered Banner, who can’t quite “get his Hulk on”).
As skillful as the screenwriters are in devising situations for this Mad, Mad, Mad World of heroes, some do suffer in comparison (Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie are reduced to virtual “fly-ons”), while others are notably absent (Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, Paul Rudd’s Antman). It’s also hard to make an emotional investment in the proceedings when one knows that: a) sequels with name characters are coming our way, and b) certain characters are forced to behave in ways that seem only plausible if the screenwriters wish to needlessly prolong the action. (Have I mentioned there will be a Part Two coming in 2019?) Without giving too much away, there are at least three instances where our heroes can either subdue or vanquish Thanos, and yet fate—via the screenwriters’ heavy hand—conspires against them every time. Maybe it’s because Infinity Wars is a tad too long that the idle viewer has time to think of such matters—perhaps the next installment will tighten the pace a little (and reduce the bloat), so that this phase of the Marvel Universe can reach a completely satisfying resolution. In any case, Avengers: Infinity Wars has enough good character-driven moments to make one want to see the finish—even if it is a year or so away.