On "Avengers: Infitnity War"

As the lights go up after a comic book movie, there are reactions one expects: Awed silence; various onomatopoetic words like "Whoa!," or (in the DC Universe) grim reflections that it either did or didn't suck as much as expected.

One does not expect seething, shocked anger like the gentlemen next to me, "Well, I'm glad I never saw Black Panther," or the repeated, mindless exclamation of a teen across the auditorium.
This movie BROKE ME.  This movie completely BROKE ME.  I am Broken.
Truly, after Infinity War, I think none of us will be the same again.  Our happy childhood of origin stories and side quests is over.  The reality (stone?) of us dutifully hitting the bar in our rat cages marked "comic book movie" with our $$$ since 2007 is  coming to pass. 

Or, as Master Mordo said in a (much better) comic book movie: "The bill comes due."

(Note: I'll try to avoid spoilers)

Too Many Sorcerers...er...Characters

 The film opens with....genocide.  There's really no other word for it. 

Scores of Asgardians who survived Hela and Ragnorak, well....it sucks to be you.  As an audience, we struggle through the next 5 minutes of death to set-up "Thanos: He's a Bad Guy," with umm...

  • Thanos with shiny gauntlet and one (unexplained) stone in it.
  • Thor
  • Loki
  • Hulk
  • Hymdall
  • er....
  • Floaty wizard(??) guy who won't shut up
  • Ax wieldy strong guy who grunts
  • another female Thanos follower who isn't Gamora or Nebula?
  • nameless henchmen
This scene is a perfect microcosm of the movie and its duality:  I have no freaking idea who those people are.  I have no idea if their actions are reasonable.   This movie is when the MCU drops all pretense that plebs/noobs/lusers/normies (or whatever the Comic Book intelligentsia call non-comic folk) can "keep up"

From there, we're treated to 2 hours and 20 minutes of a film that revels in callbacks and self-referential claptrap that would make Peter Jackson or an even-numbered Star Trek film blush.  

Representative piece of dialog:
  • Thor: "He's going....nowhere"
  • Rocket the Rabbit (nee "Racoon"): "Very funny, dickhead"
  • Gamora: "No...Nowhere is a place.  A place we've been before.  Why would we want to go back there?"
Bingo.  Unless you've seen Guardians of the Galaxy and internalized the place ("The head of a dead Celestial) from Act 2 of same, that dialog is nonsense.

Infinity War continues the same raised-middle-finger tone right through the end credits and post-credits scene.  You paid $11.50 for the grand experience of a film that laughs at you if you haven't seen all eighteen (!) preceding films.

Yeah, but We can Wave our Hands and...

Another comic book trope: The past doesn't really matter?

Thor: Ragnorak?  Well, thanks for getting that Infinity Stone into space.  Otherwise, don't worry that all our characters are wounded, dead, or at best exhausted.  Thor's always good to go!

Captain America: Civil War?  Well, thanks for getting Spiderman back.  Otherwise, we're all pals again.  Also, we have these handy quinjets!

Ant Man...is powdering his nose.

That Nat/Bruce thing?  "Hey Bruce."  Yes, seriously.

Watch this movie with this in mind, "Why's ____ happening?  Because the plot needs it."

Where are WE?

You know what's a bad sign:  Title cards.   I shouldn't need a title card to tell me what city, state, country, or PLANET I'm on.  It's lazy narration.

I lost count of the title cards in the first act alone, but I think I got to 7.  

Movies annoy when they give you no way to know:
  • Where you are
  • Who is talking
  • What is going on, in general

Unearned Drama

If Infinity War really eats it, it's in trying to make sympathetic characters without investing any time to do so organically. (Amazingly, 18 films isn't enough to do this, apparently)

There is a scene where one character realizes the ridiculousness of another character's emotion and starts laughing.  Like, "Are you freaking kidding me?" laughing.  You'll know it when you see it.  That whole scene stops the movie, but not for the reason the screenwriter intended.  It's ridiculous.

Secondly, there's the Vision/Scarlet Witch thing.  Given the supposed stakes in this film, the characters' choices boggle the mind.  

Last Star Lord/Gamora, really descending into Sam & Dianne from Cheers territory.

In all cases, the movie takes a pause and tries to be Shakespeare, trying to make us believe we're watching some flavor of a Tragic King or Star-Crossed Lovers.  It didn't work for me.

None of this Matters...

Full disclosure: I've read the wiki summary of the comics' Infinity War story line, so I'll just say this: I get the feeling this entire film has zero consequence.  There exists a time stone that can do or undo any event.  It's a writer's wet dream:  I can write myself into a narrative corner, and then "whoopsie" undo it.

Like Mordo said, though: The bill comes due.  When you have that sort of narrative power, you lose your audience.  When someone dies and it's not permanent, what stakes are there, really?

So, It Sucked?

Not entirely.  Certain parts worked.  In particular, the Russo brothers did what you have to do when facing a battalion of characters:  They split them up, much like Guardians 2.

Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) almost rescues the mess by himself.  His combination of gravitas, clarity-of-purpose, and strong choices re-center the movie, and give both Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr. ) and Spiderman (Tom Holland) a straight man.  That other-worldly plot worked.

Wakanda delights, so much that when one character says, "I love this place!" it was like the entire audience nodded....vigorously.

Cameos delight as well.  Plenty of reveals here not in the trailers.

What's the Big Deal?

The big deal is, we keep financing these abominations.  We are the rats eating the cocaine instead of food.  Much like people kept supporting abstract expressionism, "beat poetry", and dodecaphonic music, we're watching an art form skew to its own demise.  Story disappears and spectacle remains.

This is the endgame of the "Blockbuster" phenomenon started by 1977's Star Wars, when movies become events, then franchises, then universes.  It's sucking all the creative energy out of film, and the solid, character-driven film of even 20 years ago is dead.  Can you imagine Good Will Hunting or Dead Poets' Society getting made today?

Where I Go from Here

No more large team-up crap for me.  I watched Spider Man: Homecoming and Dr. Strange after this mess, and it startled me how good they both were.  Both told great stories, with sympathetic villains, while respecting the audience.  

I never really got into comics.  

I seem destined to reject the next evolution of comic book movies.


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