Giant purple people-eater
Thanos has arrived, and it’s about bloody time. It took the giant, purple megalomaniac from the Marvel universe about 13 films to get here, and there were a few more before those to kick the cinematic universe off; Iron Man being the first.
So how can I review a film which so many people will see, and so many won’t want spoiling? I generally don’t give much away, but I’ve waited a week and given it a second watching to try and put my thoughts down without ruining it for anyone who hasn’t seen.
Up until now, Thanos has been a figure only glimpsed, but his quest to gather the six “infinity stones” is cranked up to eleven in this film. He wants the stones in order to wipe out half the universe, and Josh Brolin does a great job of bringing some emotional and logical weight to the character.
The best thing about Avengers Assemble and Captain America: Civil War was the tag-teaming of heroes, and there is plenty more of that here, with Guardians of the Galaxy coming in to add an extra layer of zaniness to proceedings – Dave Bautista as Drax delivering great comedy yet again. It’s easy to wave this away in a derisory fashion, but actually you have to give a lot of credit to whoever it is at Marvel/Disney that is in charge of continuity. With a massive roster of characters to work with, some of them being better than others, it would be easy to let things get out of hand, but a meticulous eye has been kept on this franchise for a long time now and it’s paying off (the latest Star Wars films being an example of how easy it could be for things to come undone if you haven’t actually got the story mapped out).
‘Lofty comparisons with Empire Strikes Back are absolute nonsense – it is not even close to being that good’
Is there action? Yes. Is there a lot of comical quipping? Yes. Is there the emotional weight you’ve been yearning for? Well, sort of. This was the film people have been waiting for, with characters set to be killed off, but the emotional impact of this film doesn’t really land because of how it ends and what we know about upcoming Marvel films. The caper itself is great, and the Marvel properties are stitched together well, but lofty comparisons with Empire Strikes Back are absolute nonsense – it is not even close to being that good.
It seems the pay-off will probably come in the second part of this story next year – but if you can’t get it down in 149 minutes of film then there is the argument that you lack the craft to make films. I think I described the Marvel movies to someone recently as being “a bloated udder flopping in the wind”, which is to say that Disney knows there is still plenty to be milked from this phenomenon yet. With nearly 80 years of back catalogue to play with, Marvel is the perfect cow – it means no one has to take any big risks.
Chris Evans’ Captain America is his best yet despite having very few lines. His moodier performance makes the other three films worth it all. Meanwhile, the all-star cast get a few decent quips in each, but there really is a case to be made against these films and their use of good actors. Between the CGI and special effects, we don’t really ever see 5-star performances or nuances of emotion. Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Josh Brolin are just a few of the names who’ve done better, deeper work elsewhere, but are getting used up more and more for these parts.
You can enjoy this film if you’ve not seen any of the others, but you’ll appreciate it so much more if you’ve taken in the whole universe. So sparse are some character’s roles that, without the previous films, they might seem a little inconsequential. This is a spectacle of CGI pay-off, and it’s made more enjoyable if you’ve invested in the rest.
With Marvel offering up better villains in recent films, the glut of superhero-driven films isn’t such a bad thing. More variety in directors will help, as it did for Thor: Ragnarok, but they’ll still have a hard time convincing anyone who already doesn’t like films about superheros. It’s worth noting that I’d still say that The Dark Knight is the best film based on a comic book character and it will remain hard to top.