Even at Nearly Three Hours, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Is Only Half of a Movie

I like the Marvel movies as much as the next guy. At least, I used to, but after ten years and 18 1/2 films, I’m not sure how many more of these movies I can sit through, which is not something I thought I would say when I was 12 and reading X-Men for the first time.

There wasn’t a problem with the Marvel films when each movie had a distinct identity. For example, in addition to the standard superhero fare, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a spy thriller and Thor was a romantic comedy. But ever since Guardians of the Galaxy, every Marvel movie has basically followed the same action-comedy formula as Guardians, which not only makes them all feel the same but it takes away from what made Guardians of the Galaxy special in the first place.

But my biggest complaint about Avengers: Infinity War is that it’s even a whole movie. For starters, as the New Yorker review by Richard Brody pointed out, it doesn’t introduce its characters or concepts properly, it just assumes that everyone in the audience has seen the previous 18 movies. Despite what people on Twitter, up to and including Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn would have you believe, this isn’t good storytelling. Stan Lee used to say “every comic book is someone’s first,” and that is doubly true for movies. It’s simply a failing of storytelling if your excuse for not introducing your characters and stating your premise is that you’d understand if you’d seen the previous films.

Movies aren’t television shows, they’re not chapters in a book. They need to stand on their own. And can anyone who saw Infinity War say it would be a great movie if it was the only Marvel movie you’d ever seen? This isn’t the first time Marvel has been guilty of this, either. At the end of Doctor Strange, Wong casually mentions to Strange that the Eye of Agamotto is an Infinity Stone, but no context for this is given at any point in the movie. It’s the first and only reference to Infinity Stones, not even warranting a “what’s an Infinity Stone?” from Strange. The context is, of course, that the film assumes you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy where the concept is somewhat explained.

But the fact that Avengers: Infinity War lacks a first act that explains the premise, it also ends in the middle of the second act, at what screenwriters call the “All is Lost” moment. There are spoilers coming in this section as I discuss why the ending of the film isn’t an ending, by the way. In a three-act structure, the All is Lost” moment comes towards the end of the second act, and leads to what Blake Snyder calls the Dark Night of the Soul in his screenwriting book Save The Cat. Here’s how Snyder describes these moments.

All is Lost – The opposite moment from the Midpoint: “awful”/“great”. The moment that the main character realizes they’ve lost everything they gained, or everything they now have has no meaning. The initial goal now looks even more impossible than before. And here, something or someone dies. It can be physical or emotional, but the death of something old makes way for something new to be born.

Dark Night of the Soul – The main character hits bottom, and wallows in hopelessness. The Why hast thou forsaken me, Lord? moment. Mourning the loss of what has “died” – the dream, the goal, the mentor character, the love of your life, etc. But, you must fall completely before you can pick yourself back up and try again.

The problem with Avengers: Infinity War is that the movie ends with the All is Lost, and leaves fans to spend the next year living the Dark Night of the Soul for themselves, mostly by posting to Twitter about how sad they are that their favorite character died. This is mind-breakingly frustrating for me because it’s pretty obvious that nearly everyone is coming back to life in the sequel, which will probably be called Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet.

The writers of the film, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, insisted to BuzzFeed that the characters who died are going to stay dead, which is one of the most insulting lies anyone has ever told me in my entire life.

“[Avengers 4] doesn’t do what you think it does,” said Markus. “It is a different movie than you think it is.” Then he paused. “Also…[the deaths are] real. I just want to tell you it’s real, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you will be able to move on to the next stage of grief.”

Do you know what the next Marvel film after Avengers 4 is? It’s Spider-Man 2. Are you really trying to tell me that Spider-Man isn’t going to be in Spider-Man 2? “Oh, maybe Miles Morales will be Spider-Man,” you’re saying. That’s never going to happen, Peter Parker is Spider-Man and only Peter Parker will ever be Spider-Man. Just like Barry Allen will always be The Flash and Bruce Wayne will always be Batman. Oh, and Black Panther just won’t have a sequel? Are you kidding me? Did anyone believe this for even a second?

Once you get to the All is Lost moment, it’s pretty easy to see how a film is going to end, especially after 18 films that have followed Blake Snyder’s beat sheet almost to the minute. So I’ll tell you how the next Avengers film is going to end. Iron Man takes the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos, and gives it to either Captain America or Star Lord to use to undo everything Thanos has done, and all of Marvel’s franchise characters live to star in another billion dollar sequel.

By the way, none of this means I think Marvel movies aren’t fun or that you should feel bad for liking them. I just think that it’s clear that the studio that built a brand by taking risks is become more and more risk-averse, putting out formulaic films that have put being crowd-pleasing ahead of being innovative. It’s fine, I’m just as invested in this world and these characters as anyone, but these films could tell any story, and it’s a shame they’ve chosen instead to tell the same story over and over again.

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3 years ago

When you have a movie that attempts to do what Infinity War attempted to do, with dozens of characters on tow, and with all the exposition you claim is indispensable on every movie, no matter how long the series has been in the conscious of public culture…you write about it and tell us how successful it was.

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