Underlying issues a problem in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’



Character in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ prepare for battle.

In all of the mediums afforded to narrative, it’s arguable that films (and to an extent, plays) have the most restrictions when it comes to length. Audiences can only sit in a theater for so long. Television shows, books, and even short stories, can be consumed piecemeal. Films don’t have this option — save the rarely used intermission.

Because of this constraint, movies have had to adapt and overcome this restriction. In the past 10 years, Hollywood has also reacted to this phenomenon by introducing the two-part film: a movie whose length is too long for an audience to sit through but also whose narrative is so closely linked that a sequel doesn’t seem to justify the moniker. Think of it as the cinematic equivalent to a semi-colon.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is the latest Hollywood franchise to take advantage of this marketing tactic, and while it succeeds more than other franchises, the problems it exhibits are indicative of the two-part structure and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.

“Infinity War” is the culmination of 10 years of Marvel films. Thanos, the mad titan whose purple visage had either briefly appeared or been alluded to in the post credit scenes of most Marvel movies, finally makes his appearance.

He desires the six Infinity Stones — powerful gems that each embody an aspect of existence. These MacGuffins, which have been driving the overarching plot line for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, finally converge in “Infinity War.”

Their combined power allows Thanos to accomplish his goal: eliminate half of all life. Thanos, conditioned by his own planet’s demise due to overpopulation, wants to take out cull the galaxies so the remainder of sentient life can avoid being squeezed to death by a resource shortage. It’s a purely logical equation for Thanos, one devoid of emotion and conditioned feeling, though the film takes strides to provide an emotional layer to Thanos’ decision, but it only has some amount of success.

His relationship with his daughter, Gamora, provides the foundation for this emotional arc, but it’s rushed and feels hollow, only really providing emotional depth if you agree to it and let the film move on from there (which you have to, because this movie has a ton of ground to cover — even in its 2 hour and 40 minute running time).

However, the real issues with “Avengers: Infinity War” appear underneath the film’s surface, becoming only apparent when you realize almost everything happening on the screen doesn’t have any real dramatic consequence (yet). The massive nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t allow for very consequential things to happen very often. There are future films and spin-offs and other opportunities for franchises to think of.

When characters do die, it’s usually because their contracts have run out, and they need to be pushed out of the Marvel ecosystem to make way for fresh blood. This problem is further compounded by the fact that there is a second part to this Avengers film, so anything that happens here (with the exception of a few moments) has the possibility of being undone or “fixed” in the next film. While this has always been a feature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, its issues have never been more readily apparent than now.

The Marvel films have their formula refined to a science, and it works again here. There are jokes and quips and beautifully rendered action scenes that look like comic book pages brought to life. Josh Brolin’s turn as Thanos is both poignant and menacing, although he’s not nearly as developed as the heroes he’s fighting (a causality of this behemoth’s structure). The interplay between watching all of these different characters meet and interact is as funny and interesting as I hoped it be. If you had told me 10 years ago I’d be watching Doctor Strange and Iron Man deliver pithy insults to one another I would have called you a liar. Yet, when the credits started to roll, I didn’t feel the emotional weight the film wanted to impress upon me. I sat there, in my seat, watching the somber credits flash on the screen, and only had one thought: “none of this really matters until part two.”