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Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War

Infinity War is a great time, the kind of movie-going experience that even non-fans should be able to enjoy on a purely visceral level, but it’s hard not to feel cheated.

Avengers: Infinity War

3 / 5

Though it’s being released in theaters, it seems strange to categorize Avengers: Infinity War as a feature film. In terms of pure spectacle, no summer blockbuster this year is going to be able to compete with its sheer scope, but what movie can be reasonably compared to a project that only functions as well as it does because the audience has watched 18 other movies set in this universe?

It’s as if every Bond film actually were connected or if Peter Jackson found a way to stretch Tolkien’s work even more wafer thin than he already has. From a storytelling perspective, Infinity War has more in common with the first half of a television season finale. Yes, Kevin Feige and company insist that this and next year’s untitled fourth Avengers film aren’t two of a kind, but there’s no denying from this cliffhanger that this is a five-hour movie split in two. There’s no conceivable way someone could watch Infinity War without seeing at least a third of the MCU’s lengthy output and still come away with something resembling a satisfying experience.

But that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it? The average filmgoer in 2018 has been lining up for these flicks for a decade. For those viewers who’ve accepted the superhero movie into their hearts, Infinity War is basically impossible to fuck up. So long as it’s not too long (it isn’t) and it balances its comically outsized cast (it mostly does) and the action looks good (check), sticking the landing is a foregone conclusion. Diehard fans are adamant that the film not be spoiled, but realistically, this film is unspoilable.

The only plot you need to know is that Thanos, a big purple demigod who looks like Bruce Willis but sounds like Josh Brolin, is searching for the six infinity stones that have previously acted as MacGuffins throughout various Marvel films up until now. We’ve seen Thanos in bits and pieces in post-credits sequences, but here, he’s a full on Big Bad, asserting his undeniable menace and, more importantly, providing an excuse for every MCU character ever to band together against him. Well, everyone except for the ones from the TV shows.

The plot specifics are, at best, negligible, because no one is walking into this looking for a nuanced drama. This is highly weaponized fan service. Paying moviegoers have been edging themselves with each MCU outing for years and now it’s time for the two and a half hour money shot. People want to see Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) snipe at each other or see Spider-Man (Tom Holland) meet the Guardians of the Galaxy. They want over the top action set pieces that depict comic book cosmic brawls in believable fashion commensurate to the film’s gigantic budget. (This is a movie where Thanos hits Iron Man with a moon. An actual fucking moon.)

On those counts, Infinity War delivers. It’s miles more well directed than the previous two Joss Whedon helmed Avengers films while showing that the Russo brothers, who led the last two Captain America films, were the right guys for the job. There’s definitely more artistically exciting filmmakers who could have made this movie, but this isn’t a great story in search of a great storyteller. It’s a math problem. The Russos and the film’s writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, were given an extremely expensive Rubik’s Cube to solve and they did it in an efficient amount of time without having to peel and replace too many of the colored stickers. Even the most ardent MCU hater can appreciate the accomplishment.

But this is also a film being marketed as a dramatic conclusion to 10 years of ongoing storytelling, a project that heavily implies dark consequences, grave sacrifices and something the comics’ source material can never provide, finality. Mainstream fans who love the MCU but didn’t spend a lifetime reading the comics may be truly well devastated at the film’s somewhat shocking and unconventional conclusion, but anyone who’s ever read an event level crossover book will scoff.

In the comics, every year DC and Marvel lie to their readers and say this new crossover will be the biggest and baddest of all time and that characters they love will die, only for much of the damage to be undone by the time the next one rolls around. It’s a very Charlie Brown and Lucy cycle that shows no signs of abating, regardless of how much the industry itself changes. So, while it’s impressive that Infinity War delivers the grandest, most exciting superhero movie ever made for much of its runtime, it’s disheartening that they couldn’t nail the dismount. There was a real opportunity here to achieve what the comics could not, but instead, they’ve taken on all of the medium’s weaknesses alongside its strengths.

Infinity War is a great time, the kind of movie-going experience that even non-fans should be able to enjoy on a purely visceral level. But it’s hard not to feel cheated the highest possible stakes heretofore conceived for this sprawling franchise still wound up being undermined by the necessity to keep the machine going.

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