To misquote Ryan’s excellent Infinity War review, after having seen the biggest Marvel movie to date, I feel a bit hungover. I’m in that “I’m never going to drink again” mode which follows a particularly heavy boozing session, and usually predates an identical binge that puts the current behavioral resolve to shame. What I’m saying is that after having seen Infinity War twice (and having binged the most recent MCU wave in the weeks prior), I’m pretty superheroed out. For now. But before I leave this particular subgenre for a few weeks I want to talk a little bit about my experience with the latest chapter in the most colorful soap opera that ever existed. I want to mention a few things I noticed both on screen and in the theater that made this giant event, well, an event.
My first viewing of the film was at a press screening. Being that it was reserved solely for critics, the crowd, while certainly pumped, wasn’t as bubbly as the crowd of non-industry fans were on opening night. But even without the buzzing audience, the film worked really well for me. During this first viewing, however, I found myself at a bit of a distance from the material. This is partially due to the sheer ambition of the product. When the ads say that this is the most ambitious crossover event of all time, they are not kidding. Something of this scale has never been attempted before, so this first viewing is a learning experience as much as it is an entertainment. It’s never until I know how to watch a movie of this magnitude – until I learn just what portions merit just how much investment -that I can truly enjoy it as a distraction. As a result, my initial criticisms, while not inaccurate, tend to smooth over on second viewings, as was the case here.
My initial impression of the film is as follows: it is an exact replica of a comic book crossover event, complete with truncated pocket storylines all serving to push forward an earth-shattering narrative. What differs is that in a filmic medium, we don’t have the option to fully explore every side adventure via a parallel run of issues. Everything must be squeezed into the meat of things, and since there are sixty-plus characters to serve, they will naturally be spread a little thin. Even with this in mind, my first go around felt a little flat in the character department. It’s all handled well, for sure, but it highlighted how much more enjoyable it is for me to spend quality time with just one team of heroes than it is to spend just a few minutes with the gamut of them. Infinity War made it clear that the MCU isn’t really capable of giving us anything we haven’t seen… but will instead manufacture spectacle by giving us more.
And if I’m being honest, I wasn’t really a big fan of the way Bruce Banner has been handled since Thor: Ragnarok. He’s too aloof. I also haven’t really been moved by Star Lord since the original Guardians film. Here, despite being given the most to do, he feels like a distinctly different character. And dare I say it, I got the sense that Pratt didn’t really want to be there.
Regardless, I still felt impressed by the film. It was everything I expected/hoped/needed it to be.
The second time around, Infinity War fared much better. As previously mentioned, the need to over-engage the film had dissolved between viewings, and the crowd of non-press entities was buzzing even harder than the opening night crowd had for The Last Jedi (which surprised me until I realized that unlike Star Wars, few, if any of the MCU movies predate the birth of their target audience). Having a better understanding of the format allowed me to forgive deficiencies in characters and accept that when it comes to giving us more, Infinity War succeeds almost impossibly. This is as packed a movie can be while still being functional, and per the reactions of the folks around me, it works like gangbusters.
So my initial Letterboxd rating of 3.5 stars was bumped to a near perfect score of 4.5 based on a better understanding of the movie’s intentions, as well as of its importance as a pop-culture item. Most of all, as with everything I review, my critical analysis of it is heavily weighted toward the experience, and seeing Infinity War on opening night was an one I won’t soon forget.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s bullet point some fun things about the experience.
Henceforth there will be spoilers.
- Cumby worked much better as Strange this time around. He wasn’t chewing on his accent so heavily, and without the burden of carrying an entire movie, he seemed much more relaxed. Also, we didn’t have to sit through an arduous, weightless origin story.
- When Thanos yanks at Strange’s sentient cape, the audience gasped in response to a tearing sound. This happened both times I saw it. We care about the well being of the cape!
- The crowd also went nuts at the mere appearance of Pepper Potts. We love her. When she was missing in Age of Ultron we all complained. When she showed up in Spider-Man: Homecoming we cheered. If ever there was a reason for the MCU not to kill off Tony Stark it’s to protect the feelings of Pepper Potts. She doesn’t deserve such a loss. And let’s be clear: she’d do just fine without him (not vice versa), but she doesn’t deserve to endure such sadness.
- This movie is going to have a killer opening but it will likely drop off pretty quick. It will not beat Black Panther, which is still putting up impressive numbers. Why do I say this? Because the crowd cheered loudest when Infinity War arrived at Wakanda. When T’Challa was “unexisted” by Thanos, a woman yelled “noooooo, I want my money back.”
- The response to everyone’s death, permanent or not, was palpable. Comparisons to the end of The Empire Strikes Back are valid in that respect. It hurt to watch, but it was the correct way to end the story.
- “Thanos” autocorrects as “thanks.”
- Black Widow has only one superpower. She’s hard AF. Okoye too. Both of these warriors run toward monsters with nothing but training and dyed in the wool badassery.
- When Strange says “it was the only way” he’s not referring to his giving up of the Time Stone to save Tony’s life, but rather to the prediction he had when he visited the future. Him giving into Thanos was part of the one predictive narrative that ended in success for the Avengers.
- Screw you, Star Lord, you idiot.
- Blue Man Tobias Fünke is in one of the Collector’s specimen jars.
- There’s a shot in the trailer that features the Hulk on Wakanda (see title image) but it doesn’t happen in the movie! The shot in question does indeed occur, but it features Banner in the Hulkbuster suit. I guess they painted over it for the trailer for the sake of “the lineup.”
- I don’t like the nanotech Iron Man suit as much as the mechanical versions. The tech is more fun to watch when it’s sort of Rube Goldbergian. The limitations of the nanotech are played similarly in that there is a finite amount of material, but it just isn’t as fun. Downey still rules though.
Prediction for Avengers 4: The OG Avengers will save the day, of course, and re-exist everyone who was unexisted. Captain America will wield the Infinity Gauntlet and reverse much of Thanos’ damage. He will die in the process, and if the powers that be are good, Valkyrie will be involved. Tony Stark will retire into a life of making fun cameos and providing technology to the active roster.
Just when I suspected that the Marvel machine would topple over, it continues plugging away at its grand experiment in ways that I’d have never thought possible just ten years ago. It really is the best time to be alive as a nerd my age. We won! Comic books are the storyboards for the most mainstream entertainment imaginable. Happy Anniversary, MCU! Now someone point me to a stuffy period drama before I overdose on popcorn.
Author: Dan Scully
Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.