More noise than signal

Avengers: Infinity War

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Due to the tyranny of release schedules, I’m aware that the latest in Marvel’s Films for Babies series has been out for the best part of a month now, and its box office success suggest that most who want to see this already have. I’m also aware that every podcast and their dogs podcast have given their two hours of discussion on it, so I’ll attempt to limit this. Which shouldn’t be a problem as, while it’s enjoyable enough, the greatest trick Marvel ever pulled was suggesting there was any weight to this film at all.

In short, not that there’s much of a long version, big purple doughball Thermos, puppetmaster behind a number of the prior Marvel film’s bad guys, finally makes his move on collecting the fabled Infinity Stones to install in his Infinity Gauntlet, a McGuffin made of McGuffins. This will grant him the power to achieve his long wished for but not particularly well reasoned goal of killing half of the universe. Still, at least his vague overpopulation based eco-doom-mongering here is a better reason than the comic books, where it’s to impress a chick.

So, off he goes a-gathering, with his army and lieutenants therefore running across, well, nigh-on everyone featured in the prior Marvel films, who will have to team up to fight Thermos in a variety of novel combinations, throwing your favourite, least favourite, and not-all-that-bothered-about heroes together to bounce off each other, briefly, in-between the CG action setpieces we’ve grown to know and tolerate.

The critical thing to realise about Infinity War is that it’s not a film, at least in the typical way you’d think of a film, and if you’ve not seen the bulk of the other Marvel films, then this will be a bamboozling experience. It’s not about to take time to catch anyone up on who these characters are or the situation the find themselves in, which, although for some reason pointing it out triggers Marvel fanboys, is a valid, useful criticism. To some people. Marvel films are not yet required study material, no matter how popular they are.

Instead, it’s very much like the comic book crossover events that this models itself after – at its best a celebration of all the things the previous films did best, carving out a good number of great new character interactions between its best developed stars. At its worst, it’s a competently produced series of CG things bashing into other CG things, but thankfully it’s skewing more towards being funny than grim, even with the stakes involved. Which probably triggers the DC fanboys, but on balance I prefer my flyaway pop culture to be amusing over gruelling. I get my actual emotions from real films. And occasionally real life, although that’s much less convenient.

It’s also deftly learned a lesson from the comic books in giving the illusion of depth, in as much as if you are so inclined you can talk about various nuances and theories about how this effects the rest of the films going forward for as long as you have available oxygen. I’m very happy this film brings so much joy and engagement for them. For a more casual observer, one perhaps who’s ony still watching these films because of a podcast they’re recording, it’s hard to see the film’s “shocking events” as anything much more than an opportunity to run a sweepstakes as to exactly how they will hit the undo button on it.

Which might be a warning for Marvel, I suppose. The comic book arm looked to be on the verge of going under a while back, in part because people got tired of shock character deaths that were quickly undone, and too many crossover events asking for too much investment in time (and money) from a wearied audience. So, might not be too great an idea to take this path too often, but despite the negative tone I mainly take for self-amusement, I’m on-board for Infinity War Part 2 at least.

I suppose your opinion of this film will most likely be a reflection of your opinion of Marvel films as a whole. I like between half and two-thirds of them, and like between half and two-thirds of Infinity War. For me, very much a film I enjoy less every time I think about it, but thankfully not thinking about Marvel films comes easily for me. As I say, I’m glad so many find this enjoyable, but watching this multiple times and proclaiming it to be a work of genius is a bit too Kool-aid-ey for my liking. Actually, it may not be the film I like less, but the fandom that surrounds it.

I think that’s annoyed most people. Bergman and Godard were hacks. McG’s true genius goes unrecognised. Films are not art, games are. All the films you like are actually ghastly.