“Avengers: Infinity War” — the latest installment in the MARVEL film franchise — is rated PG-13 for language, intense sequences of sci-fi violence and some crude references.
(Rated PG [Canada] and PG-13 [MPAA] for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and some crude references; directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo; stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor; run time: 149 min.)
Warning: Review contains plot spoilers.
Fasten your seatbelts
By Ted Giese
While Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) was assembling “The Avengers” (2012) to protect the world from dangers an average person couldn’t defeat; while orphaned Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) was inadvertently forming his ragtag “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014); while superheroes of every variety in the MARVEL cinematic universe were fighting a rogues’ gallery of villains; a super-villain was lurking in the shadows and growing in strength and power: the Mad Titan, Thanos (Josh Brolin).
First introduced as the puppetmaster of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in “The Avengers,” Thanos had already been hunting for the six hidden Infinity Stones that, according to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), came into existence in the Big Bang.
In “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the Collector (Benicio Del Toro) described them as concentrated ingots forged from six singularities that existed before creation. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) in “Thor: The Dark World” (2013) called them “relics that pre-date the universe itself — an ancient force of infinite destruction.”
The stones give anyone powerful enough to wield them control over six aspects of existence: space, time, power, reality, soul and mind. Thor, in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), suspected something was up, observing, “The Mind Stone is the fourth of the Infinity Stones to show up in the last few years. It’s not a coincidence. Someone has been playing an intricate game and has made pawns of us.” That someone is Thanos.
In “Avengers: Infinity War,” Thanos, after crafting a special gauntlet to house the Infinity Stones, doubles his efforts to collect all the stones for himself. Meanwhile, the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, assorted other superheroes and their friends put aside personal squabbles to thwart him.
Along the way, everyone begins to understand how high the stakes are in Thanos’ deadly game. If he controls all six stones, he will have seemingly infinite power, and, as Doctor Strange tells Tony Stark/Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.), “[Thanos] could destroy life on a scale hitherto undreamt of.”
Snapping her fingers, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) — the estranged, adopted daughter of Thanos — explains that “the entire time [she] knew him, [Thanos] 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.”
Different from the comic books
Viewers familiar with the motivations of Thanos from the MARVEL comic books will notice a difference between the comics and the film.
In the comics, Thanos wants to eradicate half of the life forms in the universe to impress Death, whom he loves. In “Avengers: Infinity War,” however, Thanos wants to alleviate the suffering caused by overpopulation by randomly reducing the population by half.
In doing so, he is also attempting to alleviate his guilt for failing to save his own world.
The writers present this horrific destruction as something tragically noble, and Thanos as a moral individual who inspires loyalty from characters like Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) and the rest of his Black Order.
Thanos is shown to truly love his adopted daughter Gamora, and he displays displeasure when she is caught lying to him. Josh Brolin delivers a surprisingly nuanced and effective performance, as Thanos is allowed moments of gentleness, sadness and regret.
Many critics fault MARVEL films for their shallow, forgettable villains, but the character of Thanos is complex, memorable and rich.
One life for many?
In contrast to Thanos’ view of life as expendable, the Avengers value it highly, leading to the classic ethical dilemma: “Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one?”
If they can stop Thanos by killing one of their own, should they do so or attempt to find another way? There is plenty to think about as the film explores this question.
With its extensive cast of characters, multiple plot threads and almost-three-hour run time, the film easily could have failed in the wrong hands. That it doesn’t is impressive. The directors have created a movie that rewards fans and encourages re-watching the preceding films to see how they all fit together.
And while “Avengers: Infinity War” deals with grim subject matter, there is also humor, with many of the best comedic lines landed by Drax (Dave Bautista). There are also a number of self-deprecating quips that show that the superheroes know just how silly everything can appear to the outsider.
Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who was marooned for years on a distant planet following the events of “Age of Ultron,” asks, half-jokingly, “Wait, there’s an Ant-Man and a Spiderman?” And when Dr. Stephen Strange introduces himself as Doctor Strange, Peter Parker replies, “Oh, we’re using our made-up names.”
A surprise for Christian viewers comes when Doctor Strange first meets the Guardians of the Galaxy. Suspecting they might be Thanos’ henchmen, he shouts, “What master do you serve?”
In response, a confused Quill/Star-Lord asks, “Oh, what master do I serve? What am I supposed to say — Jesus?” Quill’s answer proves to Stark/Ironman that Quill is from earth and can be trusted, as aliens wouldn’t know anything about Jesus.
Not for children
With its dark subject matter concerning death and apocalypse, “Avengers: Infinity War” isn’t a film for children or some younger teens. Older Christian viewers, however, can spend a bit of time after watching the film to think about Jesus, who He is and what He promises.
Christians need not fear death because Jesus defeated death in His Good Friday crucifixion and His empty Easter morning tomb. Interestingly, the next film in the MARVEL franchise deals with resurrection!
Had “Avengers: Infinity War” been poorly executed, it would have been a big, black mark against the MARVEL brand. In a market where the competing DC Comic Universe is continually fighting to keep its head above water, and where even the “Star Wars” franchise is suffering fan backlash, MARVEL needed a successful film.
The Russo brothers, who previously directed both “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) and “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) for MARVEL, have delivered that and more.
Their film carefully and confidently stands on the shoulders of the many MARVEL comic book writers and film directors who came before them, honoring previous contributions while adding their own touch to the unfolding MARVEL saga.
That said, viewers with only passing experience with these recent films will likely feel lost while watching “Avengers: Infinity War.” The film truly is a gift to its fans.
Watch the trailer:
The Rev. Ted Giese (firstname.lastname@example.org) is lead pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; a contributor to The Canadian Lutheran and Reporter; and movie reviewer for the “Issues, Etc.” radio program. Follow Pastor Giese on Twitter @RevTedGiese.
Posted May 4, 2018