Friday, 27 April 2018

Avengers: Infinity War

In terms of the ever-iterative Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Infinity War is refreshingly messy. Previous instalments in the long-running, never-ending franchise exhibit a specific kind of tidiness, one strangely ill-suited to the kind of long-form storytelling Disney are determined to drip-feed. This neatness is usually expressed in how villain characters are organised. They're one and done by design, typically a fractured mirror of whichever superhero is propping up the episode, spectacularly erased during the finale. The only notable foe to stand outside this trend is Tom Hiddleston's Loki, a threat that has recurred so often he's been massaged into an aggro side-kick for his long-suffering brother. Dilute venom played for laughs.

Previous instalment Black Panther invoked dimensionality by actually giving the feature enemy some serious breathing room. Killmonger was granted an interior perspective that demanded, and received, the film's full focus. He wasn't treated as target, time was apportioned to understanding who he was and why he behaved like he did. Infinity War obviously learned the right lessons from Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole because Thanos goes over. Immediately. From a writing perspective it's easy to see why The Mad Titan, and Killmonger for that matter, demand so much attention. They're the characters with a quest, the ones actually pursuing something. Everyone else is just reacting.

Thanos is sadness and might, a strange Wagnerian lump thrashing around the universe, dominating the competition. Josh Brolin's delivery is grim and determined, a fanatic that acts out of reflex rather than passion. The performance and how the character impacts on the film is reminiscent of Ben Affleck's role in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Another burly, impossibly powerful fuck-up who simply cannot be stopped. It's fascinating how much more exciting that is to watch than another one-mode do-gooder doing good. Both films propose a barrel chest chasing calamity. It's fun to just sit back and watch them achieve it. Thanos even has a positive effect on the general rhythms of your typical Marvel scene. The snide, Whedon brand humour usually employed to ease some wild transitions (thankfully) dries up around Big Purple. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely allowing their monster to prompt fear and desperation rather than ridicule.

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