Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Directed by the Russo Brothers

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 12.16.56 PM

It didn’t hit me until the end of this movie that The Avengers really is the new Star Wars.  Now, this may seem either obvious, given the scope and fan loyalty of the franchise, or ridiculous considering there are still new Star Wars movies released every year.  Still, it seems clear that this franchise has moved past something.  The characters are special not only because of the source material but because of the time we have already spent with them.  The nature of the stories reflects the same mix of giddiness and self-seriousness of the original Star Wars films, and now that we’ve spent enough time in space it feels as though the scope of an Avengers movie has matched that of a Star Wars movie.

I won’t talk too much about how this movie ends.  Everyone who will see the movie probably already has, and the ending has been much discussed and pulled apart by fans online.  For some the ending has real, even devastating weight, and to others it is just another example of ‘franchise care,’ the stories unfolding enough to offer the guise of progress when in reality nothing has really changed.  We’ll see another Avengers sequel along with any number of individual character movies, and as long as Marvel is making a sh*t ton of money, then the story never really ends.

Many tv shows have suffered this fate.  Certainly this is subjective, but I’ve found that shows like LostDexter and The Americans are some of those critically acclaimed shows that have fallen apart after being stretched much too thin.  Oh yeah and The Walking Dead.  All of these shows should’ve ended earlier than they eventually did, but because they make money it means the network wants to milk them for all they’re worth.

Vince Gilligan, the creator and show-runner of Breaking Bad, has said in numerous interviews that television is a static medium.  Shows are meant to remain the same, with similar character dynamics, as a means of offering viewers something reliable.  We watch Friends or Seinfeld because we know what to expect, like hanging out with old college friends.  His show was all about change, and for that reason Breaking Bad feels much like an incredibly long movie diced up to fit in between commercial breaks.

So these Marvel movies are much like a long television series.  Going into something like the recent Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, you knew that only so much could happen because the characters would inevitably make an appearance in this, the third Avengers movie.  How do you tell an entertaining, hopefully meaningful story while making sure all the broad strokes remain the same?

That often means killing off a side character, someone whose death is meant to register as shocking but because of their tangentiality to the plot, feels like a dish loaded with empty calories.

The other option is to just make the movies fun.  Most of these Marvel movies are often quite funny, certainly more than the Christopher Nolan Batman movies and the grim DC movies.  Thor: Ragnarok might be an all out comedy, and Infinity War captures so much of the comedy that went into these Marvel movies.

Back in 2012 with the first Avengers movie, much of the comedy came from Tony Stark, the wise-cracking billionaire whose wit challenged the self-seriousness of someone like Captain America.  Now you have Thor cracking jokes, Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Peter Quill operating in much the same way.  There’s Peter Parker throwing out pop culture references, and even Dr. Strange gets in on the action.

There is plenty of humor to go around, often of the lampshading variety.  If something within this overall universe is absurd, then you can expect that one of the characters will call it out directly.

Infinity War works because it’s a fun hang.  There is always a thrill in seeing characters we know well meeting for the first time, and much of the entertainment value comes from these quick back and forths.  The movie benefits greatly from all the time spent with these characters in previous installments, and while some use that as an argument against this movie, I think it’s a strength.  Play to what you know and what you have.  Marvel has earned these moments by patiently waiting over ten years to build up to several moments in this film.

Now the story is also quite dramatic or at least meant to be so.  Characters do die, and in between the verbal sparring are moments of life and death.  It’s hard to balance these two tones.  You have two characters mocking each other within a battle at the end of which one or both could easily die.  Still, the movie seemed to pull it off.

The ending of Infinity War left me with the same impression I got at moments in the original Star Wars and even in episodes of Game of Thrones.  It’s the first Marvel movie I can remember which doesn’t end on an explicit victory, and while much of what happens is likely to be reversed in the next sequel, the decision to end on this moment felt meaningful.  We have to live with this for a year before the situation is truly resolved.

And yeah, that might feel like having the rug pulled out from under you if it’s all reversed next year, like with two specific cliffhangers in The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, but I’m quite okay with it.  At the very least I anticipate that the end of this movie will have some impact on the next one.  Though specific moments may be reversed, there is a weight that the heroes will surely feel, right?

In other words I felt that there was some actual character development, or at least I should say that I feel there will be.  That being said the characters often act in ways that negates or ignores past character developments.  I swear that Bruce Banner has been struggling with bringing out The Hulk for a long time now, so that personal libido struggle feels like a retread of earlier arcs.

I’m not an Avengers die hard, but after watching this movie I watched a 23 minute youtube compilation of all the past post credit scenes.  I’m more invested than I was before, and that counts for something.

This is a fun franchise.  I haven’t seen every movie, and I don’t necessarily mean to, but I enjoy these characters and the ways they’ve changed over ten years, maybe just in an athropological sense.  Each character has changed, even if just in physical appearance.  Captain America is no longer the idealist he once was, and Thor has to deal with the death of his home planet as well as so many people close to him.  Tony Stark has had PTSD for a while, and on and on.  These characters have changed, even if their central conflict will always resort to the good guys versus the bad guys.

More than anything else, I think I’m just in awe of this world.  As far as I know we have never seen anything quite like The Avengers.  The world is like the ones in Harry PotterGame of Thrones and Star Wars, but I find the characters more compelling and fun to observe than in Star Wars and maybe even in Harry Potter, if only because they’re not kids.  Maybe I’m just misremembering what was great about Harry Potter.  Also, Game of Thrones remains great despite a lackluster most recent season.

Up Next: Tully (2018), Overlord (1975), F for Fake (1973)

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