With Avengers: Infinity War, Russo brothers hit that sweet spot between Marvel's levity and DC's urgency
In the final trailer of David Leitch's Deadpool 2, Ryan Reynolds' character asks Cable, "So dark! You sure you're not from the DC universe?" This is one of the rare veiled attacks by Marvel on its rival giant DC, for its brand of solemn superhero cinema — one that famously started with Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.
Marvel has maintained its distinct-from-DC voice by resorting to humour. It began with Iron Man and The Avengers, picked up pace substantially with Guardians of the Galaxy and hit the roof with Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok last year. However, those who loved the Chris Hemsworth-starrer were skeptical of the possibility of humour diluting the urgency in Avengers: Infinity War.
But then came Black Panther. The entire conversation around diversity, coupled with the pressure of being the precursor to Avengers: Infinity War, made the film an archetypal underdog movie. It made you root for its protagonist (and even the enigmatic antagonist played by Michael B Jordan).
The treatment of Avengers: Infinity War could have gone either way. It could have been a A Mighty Wind-like affair but that would have just wasted all the energies that united for the culmination of 10 years of Marvel movies. Like Justice League, it could have diluted its save-the-world gravity through relentless humour and proved to be a Thanos-size misfire.
Josh Brolin, who plays Thanos (as well as Cable in Deadpool), should right away be labelled as the most no-nonsense character of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Throughout the film, he appears deeply invested in his mission and appears at peace only at the end. You almost feel his sense of accomplishment as you deal with the sense of loss in the films.
Thanos does have a few witty lines to offer here and there but even those reek of menace. Everything from his towering physique to his juggernaut streak is designed to make you take the film seriously, unlike Kate Blanchett's Hela, who despite being formidable, could not help being a caricature. Thanos, though buried under layers of CGI, cannot get more real and immediate.
As far as the 20 superheroes are concerned, they are also handled with a balance of sensitivity and creativity so that they tread on the fine line between vigilantism and buffoonery. (Spoiler Alert.) The Lord of Mischief, Loki, is disposed right at the start which leaves little scope of humour from the Thor: Ragnarok troop. Even Thor assumes a more sober stand, having lost his brother. (Spoiler alert ends.)
The only respite comes from The Incredible Hulk, who blatantly refuses to surface, despite repeated requests from its human alter ego Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo appears more in the capacity of the lanky scientist than his giant and unstoppable green friend. He provides more laughs than Hulk in this film, contrary to expectations, since we do not get to see the biggest Avenger take Thanos by his leg and slam him on the floor repeatedly (Ouch! to Loki in The Avengers and Thor in Ragnarok).
Tony Stark, played by the hilarious Robert Downey Jr, is also too busy saving the world in this one. He forgets to make his impeccable wit shine through. His new protege, Spider-Man (played by Tom Holland), does pull off a few in-your-face shots but the lasting impression remains his last scene in the film; one that wipes out all the humour associated with his character and just breaks your heart.
Guardians of the Galaxy, who made Marvel cooler with their background music and exchange of potshots, prevent the film from entering the dungeons. Baby Groot's obsession with a video game, Rocket's camaraderie with Thor, Drax The Destroyer's futile attempt to achieve stillness and Peter Quill's one-upsmanship with his fellow 'lord', all make for funny bits, but even some of them end up turning grave because of the high stakes involved.
Also, while there are comical moments peppered all over the film, the action sequences mostly steer clear of them. Some of the superheroes may be fooling around, but they are aware that locking horns with Thanos is no joke. His indefatigable will just does not allow any too-cool-to-be-DC-superhero to exercise their sense of humour. The production design (comprising dark hues) and the operatic background score also lend their quest a sense of purpose.
As Firstpost's Mihir Fadnavis puts it rather aptly in his review, "But the biggest achievement of the film is the near perfect Yin and Yang balance – where at one moment there’s finely tuned persuasiveness which makes you lean in and emotionally invest yourself in things that are completely ridiculous and almost soap operatic, and at the other there’s perfectly tailored humor to make you laugh even though you were on the verge of crying moments earlier."
It is balance that Thanos aims to achieve in the world. By striking that sweet spot between levity and urgency, the Russo brothers may have just handed it over to Thanos, at least in this film. The sequel to Avengers: Infinity War will answer many questions, including a pertinent on how its tone will be handled, or how the Marvel brigade will save the world, without going the entire DC way.
Updated Date: Apr 28, 2018 08:32:52 IST