Avengers: Infinity War was without a doubt the most anticipated comic book movie of 2018. A film ten years in the making, it’s projected to break box office records, with Variety predicting a $225 million opening weekend. Despite those figures, we can’t help but notice an underwhelming critical response to the film thus far.
Infinity War is undoubtedly a logistical success – despite some on the nose cgi, it was funny, and brought a hell of a lot of characters together for one epic, fun ride. Nonetheless, with the film only sitting on a 68 Metacritic and 86% Rotten Tomatoes score, it’s not exactly the masterpiece we all hoped it would be. For reference, those scores aren’t even higher than the first Avengers (2012) film (69 on Metacritic and 92% on Rotten Tomatoes).
If you’re as confused at this outcome as the rest of the world, here are a couple of reasons why, despite what we had hoped, Infinity War still isn’t going to be ‘The Dark Knight’ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy must assemble to stop Thanos from collecting each Infinity Stone and wiping out half of the universe.
Infinity War Does Too Much
It’s something apparent from the film’s action packed opening: this film has a break-back pace. The film jumps immediately from action sequence to action sequence, with only a couple of moments rest in between. At times, it’s evident that scenes have been trimmed down to their bare essentials in order to keep up with that pace – and in order to make the film’s run time shorter too. As a consequence, the film feels a little like one big, final action sequence broken down into several different sequences and storylines. So, is that a bad thing?
Well, it is when it effects the experience of watching the film.
First of all, I want to say that I really appreciate the monumental effort that went to making this film. Juggling this many characters is a Herculean effort, and the fact that it turned out to be enjoyable is a testament to the directors’ skills. However, Infinity War has over nineteen different superheroes to follow. In doing so, it was forced to cut down on the more naturally or leisurely paced scenes that regular films can afford to enjoy. Although a few characters stand out amongst the noise – namely Thor and Gamora – the film is so packed with characters and plot, that the story must crack along at a lightning speed. Ultimately, it results in an exhausting experience that leaves you wishing it had a few more moments of “pause” to take everything in.
It’s Not the Smartest Marvel Movie Out There
It’s not often that I watch a Marvel movie and think, “Wow, that’s dumb”, but by Jove, it happened quite a bit during this film. In retrospect, illogical character decisions and “forced” moments may be one of the main reasons why reviews aren’t as raving as expected.
In trying to bring all these characters together – and towards a desired outcome – characters make illogical decisions counter-intuitive to their very characterisation. I can’t get into specifics without spoilers, however in particular, an extremely illogical move from Doctor Strange towards the end of the movie stands out as majorly out of character and silly. Likewise, there are a couple of soapy moments that gave me war flashbacks to the CW’s TV superhero dramas. But again, these problems are symptomatic of juggling a ginormous cast. There’s simply not enough screen time for each character’s actions to be realistically developed and not come across as forced.
Writing for Plot versus Writing for Story and Premise
The distinction between the two can be hard to recognise, but it is vital. In a film, the story should be sculpted and developed from an emotional, philosophical, political or etc. idea (a premise), that the writers are trying to explore. For example, the premise behind The Dark Knight was “What is Batman willing to sacrifice in order to save Gotham?”. The plot on the other hand, is the step by step events that must happen to realise that story and premise: i.e. The Joker kills Rachel, Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face and so on. Infinity War, on the other hand, plays like a story that was written around the plot points – main plot points having to do with Thanos trying to get all the Infinity Stones. In order to make those plot points happen, characters do things that they logically would not normally do, and scenarios seem forced and unnaturally constructed. Furthermore, it’s difficult to pinpoint any sort of underlying idea beneath Infinity War. While it seems the writers rewrote Thanos’ motivations in an effort to be more nuanced and philosophical, it ultimately falls flat because the story, characters, writing and directing don’t really reflect or relate to those ideologies.
In an ideal world, the scenarios and plot points in the movie should have seemed contained and pointed, working towards a single idea. While it’s possible that by the film’s sequel, we may get a glimpse at ideas underlying in the story all along, but as a standalone film, Avengers: Infinity War lacks the depth that pushes it beyond being a good action movie, into being a great one.
So, Why Wasn’t Infinity War a Critical Hit?
Following all my above points, the answer lies in Infinity War‘s focus on scale as opposed to making a contained movie. Marvel assembled its biggest team up yet, and while impressive, it was not so much a film as it was a monumental experience. Taking The Dark Knight for example once more, as another comic book movie masterpiece: In it, the film wasn’t just about Batman and the Joker, but a multifaceted story about conflicting ideologies – chaos versus order, white and dark knights, idea versus idea. Its entire written and then visual narrative was accordingly constructed around bringing those ideas to life. By comparison, Infinity War lacks that kind of depth, and it’s understandable why. With a cast that big, and with so many important characters to juggle, it’s a wonder that Infinity War was a coherent story at all.
This review was not meant as a condemnation of Infinity War, but rather to point out why the flick wasn’t the critical hit the everyone was hoping for. There’s not a whole lot going on underneath the surface of this film, but at the end of the day, it does what it set out to do: assemble the largest superhero team up ever to fight Thanos. And it’s still one wild, enjoyable ride.
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