‘Infinity War’ Signals the End, But Slowly Becomes a Victim of Marvel’s Ambition

If Rampage was a lesson in expectations, then Marvel’s seismic first part to Avengers: Infinity War is a lesson in making necessary adjustments. We can hope beyond all hope that any long-awaited project will cater to our tastes and what we believe is the right course for the story, staying true to our preconceived ideas of creative success, but sometimes we need to rein in that wish-fulfillment optimism and consider a variety of differing factors particular to each project that may irreparably damage the viewing experience quality if not taken into account.

A Quiet Place, for instance, given its own stylistic and structural constraints as well as the financial realities of Hollywood filmmaking, was at its core always going to be little more than an elegantly simple, yet high concept B-level monster movie; a discernible genre foundation for mass accessibility to offset other facets that might normally turn away your average moviegoer. Even without that realization, John Krasinski’s film is stellar in its own right, but perhaps it was still required for one to feel as invested in the film’s world as possible. The goal is selling tickets, after all, and his film provides other hopeful filmmakers a masterclass in ably conjoining rigid blockbuster demands and artistic license.

Naturally, Infinity War arrives with its own unprecedented context, cliché as that may sound one decade on, that completely changes how we interact with it as opposed to other films. 18 movies in the making, between three creative phases spanning from the first Iron Man to now, we’ve finally reached our climax, and it all comes down to two more – Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel notwithstanding. Ten years and 18 films worth of characters, plotlines and motivations packed into two potentially two-and-a-half-hour thrill rides of unparalleled proportion is a whopping task felt by all of its creators.

Wrapping up these characters’ respective storylines and doing them justice across two films, an absurdly limited framework given the superhero cavalcade, is difficult enough, let alone the plot’s flow entirely differing from previous entries given this Infinity War‘s being specifically structured as an opening half, rather than a whole to be further expanded later like how Civil War was constructed. A bloated spectacle was all but an inevitability given Marvel’s blueprint. As such, there’s hardly one character or group of characters – at least on the hero side of things – to emotionally invest in with this particular narrative, or at least portion of it.

Perhaps Marvel’s expectation was that after dedicating ten years and 18 movies to these characters, many of whom have appeared multiple times before, the audience members who’ve ardently followed this universe will have brought their own attachments engendered by previous outings in order for the filmmakers to get straight to brass tax – i.e., fighting and defeating Thanos (Josh Brolin). Sure, we’re provided particularly dramatic moments with committed performers that go along with an appropriately “all bets are off” mentality and generate passing intrigue, but aside from the narrative’s admittedly arresting devotion to Thanos and fleshing out his motivations and nuances, it under-serves a fair majority of its protagonists not just by simply cramming them into the cinematic manifestation of a clown car, but also because the filmmakers and producers assume their work in this regard only need be minimal.

Especially considering how much this narrative weaves together a blinding array of set-pieces partially used for conveniently bringing together all of these disparate parts, having even the simplest example of emotional context, introduced or reiterated in some form, for even just the original core characters during each anxious battle would have given the whole proceeding greater weight than just the inherent objective followed by all films featuring a black and white good-evil binary. Instead, this Infinity War‘s material feels frustratingly thin and, for the first hour and a half or so, dreadfully dull because of that lack, only coming good during the final act when the gravity of these perilous skirmishes is truly unveiled.

Though it’s tempting to give Infinity War the slightest benefit of the doubt considering Marvel’s limiting, self-imposed structure, falling into narrative traps not so easily avoidable almost as if it were sacrificing itself for the good of 2019’s closing chapter, that temptation quickly dies when contemplating Marvel’s habits – their ethos, even – regarding filmmaking and releasing strategies. Perhaps Infinity War’s greatest issue is its feeling too rushed, whether it be exhibited through the sudden integration of beloved characters into the story or the choppy scene progression masquerading as proper flow. Looking back through the last ten years of Marvel, or rather MCU movies, however, it’s been evident from the outset that ‘rushed’ is not how Kevin Feige and Co. operate.

Across its collection of super-powered escapades, the company has taken its time establishing characters, worlds and even the vast political complexities that would theoretically arise and become exacerbated by varying the worldviews among its protagonists. It took four years from the MCU’s beginnings to reach the first Avengers film, and ultimately the start of Marvel’s firm command over the pop culture discourse in earnest. Since then, they’ve branched out into realms outside of the core six Avengers, gone into deeper, more profound and emotional territory with their characters and thematic undercurrents and, above all, consolidated their cultural and financial influence unlike any other outlet to establish a multimedia and multi-platform empire.

Yet now, it feels as though they are, and have been content with merely two films to essentially finish what they’ve created in almost 20, haphazardly jamming together all of these parts and purposefully reaching this ultimatum at this point in the grand story in one exhausting affair, all before what may be an even grander finale. Infinity War is as much a victim of the gargantuan universe it inhabits as it is of being a Part One in a franchise on its last legs, but considering Marvel’s well-earned reputation for consistency, it may just as well be a byproduct of its maker’s own unwitting doing. At least now, with the concluding installment having already been shot and set for release in a year’s time, if need be, they have plenty of time to make their own adjustments.

2.5/5

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