I remember when I first saw Spider-Man 2 at the drive-in 14 years ago and initially didn’t like it. It sort of left everything on the table in the way I couldn’t initially process as a viewer, and then it grew on me as time went on. Similarly, I remember watching The Dark Knight in theatres 10 years ago when it set the opening weekend record (same as this film) and its greatness grew on me. I would give Avengers: Infinity War a 77/100 on the current as it does some bold things with the Marvel Cinematic Universe despite knowledge of the inevitable sequel incoming a year from now that we’ve known as far back as 3 years ago. That MCU tax as I call it, and wrote about in my Black Panther & Civil War review that docks marks for not telling a complete story beginning to end is hard to take, but Infinity War processes it way better than most films only to fall to inheriting some other crossover problems.
I’ll get the weaknesses out-of-the-way first. A good portion of the 2-1/2 hour running time is spent table-setting. There’s a good amount of action in the first 45 minutes while the middle hour is spent setting everything up for the 45 minute finale. It is not boring, as there is barely any time to dwell in this movie, Thor even manages a reflective moment but it feels more hollow due to all sorts of nitpicking. I was struck recently while watching the horrible latest installment of Transformers: The Last Knight noticing how great Mark Wahlberg’s performance is acting opposite green screen, and looking back on the late Roger Ebert’s comments about action movie acting being underrated. Tom Holland as Spider-Man is great one-on-one and acting with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man but there are other times where he and some others like the Guardians of the Galaxy, possibly due to lack of direction or not enough time to fill out their plots seem out-of-place. It’s another crossover issue that modern audiences can accept because that’s what they paid for, but it does burden the storytelling slightly. Other things like that similarly long running series Game of Thrones has run into is the geographic hopping that makes for efficient storytelling while at the same time shrinking the universe. What are the odds of certain characters running into one another or being able to save the day just in time. These are things we accept because want to allow ourselves to be wowed. However Hollywood Filmmaking is nonetheless a machine and certain absences even when they are hand waived away or simply ignored don’t do the franchise any favours. Still what we see on-screen is something that has never been done before, it doesn’t matter if the writers take the road of splitting the Avengers up for convenience. This universe is the only kind of story I can think of that deserved to be a two-parter and surprisingly the thru-line is big purple guy Thanos.
It turns out he’s more than just a mysterious boogeyman hinted endlessly at for the past 18 films or so, and smartly showing that they are light-years ahead of the DC Universe in terms of storytelling the screenwriters inject him with some pathos that the Justice League villain Steppenwolf certainly did not have. The movie’s plot frames his quest for the Infinity Stones as whatever the opposite of a hero’s journey is so that the film never loses its potential world ending stakes and always maintains a sort of narrative focus until the very end. The audacity of it all is when it works sure is breath-taking, and a wonderful moment when the theatre falls silent similar to The Last Jedi sure makes the movie memorable, I just wish I knew more of what to think of it. For now I feel like one of the short shrifted characters with barely anything meaningful to say.