Far from the end of the Avengers series or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this third Avengers movie is still the hugest, most epically sprawling and ludicrously expensive of the lot so far
That is, of course, until the still-as-yet-untitled follow-up comes along next year to somehow top this one. It’s also a commemorative and celebratory piece that just about coincides with the Universe’s 10th anniversary, as Iron Man was released right about now in 2008, and after that one there have been another 18 films. Believe it or not, almost all of them have been surprisingly impressive.
Nevertheless, this is the biggie for the moment, with supposedly 64 main characters and, as expected, a little too much going on. This jumping backwards and forwards from too many plot threads sometimes dissipates the tension and over-complicates everything. Fortunately, however, the contractually-impossible cast is mostly in strong form, even if some of them struggle to be heard in the midst of it all.
Again co-directed by sibling Marvel faves Anthony and Joe Russo, this abruptly opens shortly after the end of Thor: Ragnarok with the ship carrying the surviving Asgardians attacked by the much-feared Thanos, a death-obsessed alien titan and wannabe-god we’ve seen briefly at the end of both the second Avengers and the second Guardians Of The Galaxy outings (if you’ve stayed until the end credits stingers, that is). Thanos is one of the most formidable foes in all Marvel, and he’s played via CG by Josh Brolin. He’s scary but unusually complex, as here is a figure who, like all the best villains onscreen, believes that his fondness for genocide and chaos is a good thing.
After going up against Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Heimdall (Idris Elba for mere moments), his goons make an initial attack on New York and are seen off by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Strange/Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), his offsider Wong (Benedict Wong), the new Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who now has to fight to summon the Hulk (possibly as the giant green guy spent two years on Asgard and now needs a long rest).
Thor is saved by no less than the Guardians, who are of course introduced with a song (The Spinners’ Rubberband Man) and quite literally run into him in space. You know who they are by now: Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), rebellious teen Groot (voiced just a little by Vin Diesel and motion-captured by the hard-working Terry Notary) and new recruit Mantis (scene-stealer Pom Klementieff). There’s some funny stuff where Peter butts heads with Thor, and then we whizz off to spend time with Stark, Strange and Spidey, and then leap back to Earth to catch up with so many others.
Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) have been hiding out in Scotland since the divisive events of Captain America: Civil War, and they’re summoned by the bearded and shield-less Captain (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to band together with James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Banner, who’s still milking the reluctant Hulk business.
After a lot of exposition which allows for a great deal of very Avenger/Marvel quarreling humour, Thanos finally comes to Earth to seek out the last of the Infinity Stones and, as luck would have it, strikes Wakanda, where most of the characters have assembled to talk superhero stuff with T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). A mighty army that naturally includes Okoye (Danai Gurira) is assembled and there’s an extended battle between the goodies and the baddies (FX multi-armed monsters) which, like so many old-school war pics, has each side running at the other while whooping and screaming.
Woe betide anyone who dares stray into a screening of this and tries to pick up the plot as it goes, as this is now so intricately constructed that it requires expert knowledge of the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe and all who exist therein. But chances are that’s you because these sagas are earth-shakingly popular and have drooling multitudes of fans who’ll ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the introduction of new characters from the comics, groan at the departures from accepted lore and weep at the deaths of… um, spoilers!
You know by now to wait until the very end of the credits for a final grimly jokey bit that will lead us into Avengers 4, don’t you? Because if you don’t then you’ll miss a cameo by… well, you’d be furious if it was given away.
Rated M. Avengers: Infinity War is in cinemas now.