26 Apr 2018

Avengers: Infinity War is an empty spectacle, until...

11:25 am on 26 April 2018

The end is nigh.


Avengers: Infinity War is out. It's gonna make a ton of money.

Avengers: Infinity War is out. It's gonna make a ton of money. Photo: Image: Marvel Studios

If you haven’t seen a good half of the 18 previous Marvel movies, you won’t know what the hell is going on in Avengers: Infinity War.

And Marvel doesn’t give a shit.

Infinity War is for the die-hards - a 150 minute series of payoffs crowded with nearly every superhero ever invented.

I went to one of the first showings at a sold out Embassy Theatre in Wellington last night, and the level of fan interaction was similar to screenings of The Room and Rocky Horror.

Crazed, dressed-up fans whooped at the appearances of favourites Captain America, Black Panther and Black Widow, cheered at the last-second saves and gasped at the danger.

They clearly didn’t care that whatever semblance of a story there was, made little sense.

The main drive of Infinity War is the arrival of the giant, purple CGI man-thing called Thanos, who is tracking down the Infinity Stones that will give him the power to wipe out exactly half of all cosmic life.

His motivation for destroying “trillions” of lives and committing mass genocide is explained, but not really - apparently he’s just really keen on depopulation - and so the good guys in Marvel’s universe join forces to stop him.

This isn’t a film that cares about anything other than serving its purpose - delighting those crazed, dressed-up fans.

Any drama is lost for a synthetic build-up of suspense that’s rammed down our throats by a barrage of loud horns and characters explaining the stakes and telling us the end is nigh.

Emotional moments happen swiftly and suddenly and rely on the investment of previous canon entries.

Infinity War is a cynical exploitation of the worst aspect of modern media - that audiences don’t want to think or feel or believe, they just want to experience a spectacle.

The bulk of critical reaction has called the film hilarious, yet it’s got more campy one-liners, varying in quality, than a 1970s James Bond or a Jimmy Carr stand-up.

There’s a battle scene that comes out of nowhere and feels like every other battle scene you’ve seen.

An early verbal sparring match between Iron Man and Doctor Strange is kind of fun, but later character combinations feel forced and tiresome. In relying too heavily on these payoffs, the film reminded me of the most recent, underwhelming Game of Thrones season.

Marvel’s Universe was forging a new and interesting path before Infinity War. Black Panther felt daring and revolutionary, while Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok was far more fun than it should have been.

In the former, time was given to growing a complex, believable character, even if he’s a superhero existing in a fictional nation powered by something called “Vibranium”. In Infinity War, he speaks roughly six lines and has virtually nothing to do.

Directors Anthony and Joseph Russo do their best to divide their time between each protagonist, but in doing so, the individual magic is lost. Only Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t feel underutilised.

When I’m at a party, I want to chat with two or three people, rather than flit between every attendee, saying barely more than “hello” to each.

Infinity War is stunning to look at, even if its inside is hollow. It’s a big, bright colourful mess that pretty seamlessly blends CGI with live action.

Thanos, depicted by the eternally underrated Josh Brolin, is perhaps the only character allowed an ounce of development. He doesn’t have to try too hard to be the best thing about Infinity War, that is, until…

(Here’s where this review goes from being completely spoiler-free, to pretty much spoiler-free)

Black Panther is strangely reduced to a small role.

Black Panther is strangely reduced to a small role. Photo: Image: Marvel Studios

…the end.

The final ten minutes of Infinity War are daring, stunning and make you wonder where such creativity was before. It almost redeemed the entire film. It didn’t, but it almost did.

In a movie as predictably dull as this, the ending defied my expectations and woke me from my slumped slumber. In a small, subversive way, it was a bit of a “f**k you” to its fans.

That is until you Google whether there’s going to be a part two and quickly realise it’s a well-played card trick.

But how can I be so critical of a film that was given a standing ovation by 90 percent of its audience? A film that left 10-year-olds crying at multiple points?

Because those who haven’t followed the lives of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America from day one shouldn’t applaud for simply experiencing this spectacle.