Movie Review : Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
* this review contains spoilers *
Avengers: Infinity Wars was the mainstream cinematographic event of 2018. It was the highest grossing superhero movie of all-time and perhaps the most critically discussed. And why wouldn’t it be? Marvel has been building towards this moment for a decade, painstakingly crafting anticipation with each release for the moment where all the superheroes would have to team up. Such patience is refreshing in the age of instant gratification, especially from a money-making machine such as Disney. But is it good? I would tentatively say that it is… the way going to your favorite restaurant and always ordering the same thing is?
Infinity Wars has the same premise than most Marvel movies: there’s a villain coming from space to potentially enslave of annihilate all life on Earth. But there are two differences: 1) The villain, Thanos, from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, doesn’t need to be introduced and 2) he’s more dangerous than the other space villains because he figured out a way of becoming all-powerful. So, every Marvel superhero you can think of decide to team up to stop Thanos from collecting all the Infinity Stones and blasting half of Earth into oblivion. That’s about it. There’s a lot of criss-cossing storylines, but it’s not a complicated movie.
Let’s talk about this space villain thing because it bugged me. It’s on the verge of becoming a self-parodic element of Marvel movies. It was also used in Thor movies, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy and in the first two Avengers movies. There are two problems with this premise, which are amplified by its repetition: 1) it’s a narrative cop out. If a villain comes from space, he can invent his own set of rules and in every case it’s “I'm stronger and more technologically advanced than you.” 2) If all the villains come from space, where rules don’t apply, how am I supposed to know which one is really dangerous to life on Earth?
Oh yeah, Infinity Stones. These goddamn all-powerful minerals. If the universe is so full of supervillains, why did it take so long before one of the baddies had the idea of collecting them? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So, Avengers: Infinity Wars is beat-for-beat predictable, but… it’s alright nonetheless? The Russo brothers and their screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely rely on a handful of manipulative tricks to keep their movies palatable, but there’s inexplicable joy in listening to superheroes banter under pressure like they were the cool kids in class. It’s not something specific to superhero movies. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s witty one liners or True Detective’s car conversation between Rusty Cohle and Martin Hart had the same humanizing effect. We tend to relate to people who can keep their shit together under fire.
Avengers: Infinity Wars mechanically gives everybody their 5 minutes under the sun, which was the most enjoyable part of the movie? My favorite being the meeting between Tony Stark and Peter Quill, where both wisecracked the shit out of one another until figuring out they were on the same side. It showed the potential downside of their silver tongues, which I thought was a quirky way of showing it could also be a flaw.
But what about Thanos, Ben? He’s such a complex and philosophical villain, don’t you like these? Ugh, somewhat. Sure, he had a utilitarian outlook on evolution and the survival of life in the universe, which is based on… nothing? Ouh, there’s a scarcity of resources in the universe. Shouldn’t he go after resource-hugging motherfuckers instead of slaying half of every planet’s population like a well-meaning Josef Mengele? Sure, the nature Thanos’ motivations were philosophical, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t shallow. Maybe Disney should’ve cut through a montage of Peter Quill dancing to expose a little bit more of the “problem” in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Fuck. I swore to myself I wouldn’t bitch too much about Avengers: Infinity Wars and here I am, taking swipe over swipe at the movie. It’s not an inherently bad movie, but it’s way more concerned with trying to please everybody than it is with telling a good story. And that got to me. I know it shouldn’t have and that superhero movies are all like this, but I surprised myself with how sick I am of people fawning over how deep they are. Marvel movies are not deep. Avengers: Infinity Wars is neither deep or meaningful. It’s mainstream entertainment where the good guys fight the bad guys, just like in every other blockbuster there is *. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but… I miss Christopher Nolan.
* I know evil technically triumphs in this movie, making it “original” but if you’ve followed well enough, you’ll have noticed that: 1) Dr. Strange hands out his Infinity Stone to Thanos to spare Tony Stark’s life because… in his simulation of every outcome to this crisis, he’s the one to solve it and 2) Thanos used to the Infinity Stones to turn back time at the end, which means it will be used in the upcoming sequel to bring back everybody. SORRY FOR THE SPOILER, BUT IT WAS OBVIOUS.