Monday 30 April 2018

Article: Some thoughts on Infinity War

Note: While I have taken an effort to try and not and spoil the film, this piece will mention other fragments of the Marvel Universe which may affect your thoughts on Infinity War.

The Avengers: Infinity War has been a project which has been ten years in the making. It looks set to become one of the most financially successful features of its era, and it’s vindication for marvel studios who, prior to their release of 2008’s Ironman, were staring bankruptcy in the face. In watching the film, it has highlighted itself to be the best of what it is, a mega-franchise, a spectacle-laden, big-budget episode. A cinematic universe.

In the past few months, friends have objectified to my views that these films (nay all films) should ever be critiqued. They should be only viewed with the aims of “entertainment” only. As if we are all entertained by the same thing. Social Media, fan tribalism, and brand loyalty have also helped contribute to a nasty form siege mentality. Not only you should only look at these cultural texts as trivial distractions, you must pick a side and deal. All these films should be looked at like candy floss and we should be happy that we’re being delivered with all sugar we crave. I do like to indulge in sugar, but I’m also highly aware of my root canals.

Infinity Wars is a grand, all singing, all dancing affair. Something that in all honesty should be seen to be believed. A film looking to encompass pieces of 18 other films and finally drive them towards an end game. It is a fascinating and frustrating endeavour. It is a film full of eye-boggling spectacle, enjoyable laughs, and stunning imagery. But it is also a film that not only requires you to watch 30+ of other films for a viewer to truly understand it’s sense of gravitas, but it moves towards a climax that rings hollow. Less because it’s section one of two parts, more because the rules of this universe, as well as our own governing rules via the executive bean counters, have already taken away a true sense of closure. This is the ultimate “tune in next time folks”.

Joss Whedon has his detractors and understandably so, yet his previous excursions into The Avengers universe, while imperfect, always had a particular sense of purpose. A reasoning of why The Avengers avenged. The best Marvel films have a reasoning and understand of stakes which set them apart from some of the other entries. Whedon’s simple placement of a young waitress placed in danger and saved by Captain America (Chris Evans) in the first Avengers film may only be two scenes but gives a simple grounding of what’s at stake that is simply missing in Infinity Wars. It hasn’t got time. There’s all the characters to get through. Most of them Superheroes. Jokes have been made at The Defenders expense, but seriously, where could you fit them? But this complicated series of connections feels does feel odd. The world is truly at stake from one of the most interesting villains seen in this universe but I as a few never gained a sense of the world, because unlike some of the more compacted or isolated Marvel features, there’s never a sense that the world really features.

The film’s tonal shift and the downbeat climax is meant to portray a sense of maturity and feels like a clear shot at critics who have commented on how there often a feeling of comeuppance isn’t felt with some of these characters. However, this is where not obsessing over Marvel product would come in handy, we’ve been here before when it comes to “losing” characters within this universe and it’s hard to feel any emotion to the events, with the knowledge of contractual obligations and Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson appearing as fresh as a daisy on a certain tv show. Add to this the need to wade through 18 films to get why these characters “just turn up”, what’s witnessed feels disjointed. Other writers have labeled the film's climax as cheap, and it’s easy to see why.

Of course to say this is to be traitorous. How dare anyone say anything at all negative about a film that looks set of being one of the biggest money spinners of all time. It must be loved and only loved. There are parts that I really enjoy. See the guardians of the galaxy here was far more enjoyable than their second adventure. I cannot and will not fault the performances of the cast, in particular, an unbelievably solid Josh Brolin (I can’t wait for the meta references in Deadpool 2).  The Russo’s and their unit teams frame and execute the action set pieces with far more skill and grace than Ryan Cooglar’s efforts in Black Panther, while Thanos will stand alongside Killmonger, Loki, and Killgrave as the best villains of the Marvel rouge’s gallery. There is a lot to like here. Possibly even love. I just wish it hadn’t felt so empty. I’m relatively ok with having to plow through 30 hours of films to get to a certain point. It’s just sad that said point only feels like it’s gearing you up to watch another 30.