AVENGERS: IN­FIN­ITY WAR (M, 149 MINS) DI­RECTED BY AN­THONY AND JOE RUSSO

Northern Outlook - - FRONT PAGE -

This Marvel fran­chise has been rolling out block­busters for al­most ex­actly as long as I have been scrib­bling re­views for this com­pany. In that 10-year stretch, I fig­ure we have all had our highs and lows. But, at its best, Marvel has yielded some of the very best big-bud­get pop­corn-flog­gers the world has ever known.

So, al­though I failed to grasp the ap­peal of that first Iron-Man in­stal­ment the first time I saw it – the BBC was run­ning live footage of the Amer­i­can bom­bard­ment of Fal­lu­jah as I wrote the review.

A film about the ex­ploits of a play­boy arms dealer seemed a lit­tle tone-deaf to me on the night – in the years since, Marvel has de­liv­ered me out into the evening – mostly – with a goofy grin on my face and a pos­i­tive review to come.

Ar­gue all you want about the de­sir­abil­ity or ne­ces­sity of spend­ing the world’s re­sources on $250 mil­lion movies. I say, if you’re go­ing to do it, at least get for your money some­thing that not only de­liv­ers all the req­ui­site bangs and thrills, but also has a bit of nga¯ kau in its kau­papa.

And in Avengers: In­fin­ity

War we are look­ing at the cul­mi­na­tion of what has been a very sat­is­fy­ingly put to­gether grand vision.

Over the decade, Marvel’s head of stu­dio, Kevin Feige, has – at the rate of nearly two films a year – de­liv­ered story arcs around a huge roll call of quite dis­parate char­ac­ters. But with In­fin­ity War, even more than with the Age of Ul­tron and Civil War in­stal­ments, sev­eral sto­ries reach their de­fin­i­tive ends. Well-es­tab­lished char­ac­ters do die in this film, and with a fi­nal­ity that sug­gests they re­ally won’t be com­ing back.

The plot is one we know well. Some­where out there in the gal­axy is a bad­die so bad that maybe even the com­bined might and will of all our he­roes won’t be enough to stop him. It’s ac­tu­ally not a mil­lion miles away from the story that un­der­pinned the ri­val Jus­tice League movie late last year.

But un­like that noisy and su­per­fi­cial – mostly – mess, In­fin­ity War takes the time to set up its themes, es­tab­lish ex­actly how high the stakes are and then to draw out in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter arcs that are far more com­plex and well thought through than the in­ter­change­able de­fault we as­so­ciate with the genre.

Th­ese span­dex war­riors might not quite be the stuff of great drama yet, but they are stand­alone in­di­vid­u­als with quite dis­cernible personalities. For a film in which char­ac­ters can use whole moons to punch each other, that’s quite a feat.

The bad­die – Thanos (played by Josh Brolin, with sup­port from many ki­los of pros­thetic putty and sev­eral bil­lion pix­els) – is a failed leader on a quest to save the uni­verse from it­self in his own unique way. By killing ex­actly one half of the pop­u­la­tion of ev­ery planet in it. To do this, he needs to find all six ‘‘In­fin­ity Stones’’. Two of which are on Earth.

Put like that, I’ll grant you that In­fin­ity War re­ally does sound like ex­actly the re­heated pile of non­sense it could have been. But put to­gether with care, some truly in­spired cast­ing and a script that is about a thou­sand times bet­ter than it needed to be, this film just works on ev­ery level it swings at.

Love or loathe the genre, when I see a film this am­bi­tious ac­tu­ally hit­ting its tar­gets and man­ag­ing to stay hu­man and ac­ces­si­ble, I can’t help but be ex­traor­di­nar­ily im­pressed.

The over­whelm­ingly dark and mourn­ful tone of many of the film’s best scenes are leav­ened by some well-de­liv­ered laughs, to be sure. But this is a film that re­mem­bers and re­spects that it ac­tu­ally is a war film, with fear and loss al­ways present.

In the leads, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruf­falo, Scar­lett Jo­hans­son, Robert Downey Jr, El­iz­a­beth Olsen, Chad­wick Bose­man are all just as watch­able as ever. There are other names I can’t men­tion for fear of spoil­ing some sur­prises.

But a late cameo from Peter Din­klage (Game of Thrones) re­ally does bring the house down.

Avengers: In­fin­ity War is pretty much as good a su­per­hero movie as I have ever seen.

It raises the bar for spec­ta­cle – we ex­pect that now – but it also makes us care. I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing it again.

– Graeme Tuck­ett

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