Superhero Fatigue

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth

Released April 27th, 2018

Rated PG-13


It’s been a long time coming, but at the outset of Avengers: Infinity War the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin) is closer than ever to finding all of the Infinity Stones, special intergalactic gems which will not only allow him to bling out his oversized gauntlet, but allow him to wipe out half of the universe’s population with a snap of his fingers. He sees this as a good thing, but I wonder if he would feel differently if he was at risk of crumbling to dust once his fingers were snapped.

This is an audacious live action version of a big comic book crossover event, something that would have been impossible to fathom being successful as recently as a decade ago.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe series of films isn’t known for having well-written or memorable villains and so I’m happy to report that Thanos is one of their very best so far. Brolin imbues the Mad Titan with purpose and pathos through one of the most believable motion-capture performances since Jar Jar Binks said “Yousa follow me now, okeyday?”

Josh Brolin as Thanos in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

The Avengers assemble from all around the planet (planets, actually) in their attempt to stop Thanos and while this brings more superheroes together in one movie than ever before, it also brings a bloated running time. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo try to give every character their own moment in the film, but this results in juggling story threads we may or may not care about.

Avengers: Infinity War smartly gives a lot of screen time to Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, who, following on the heels of the well-received Thor: Ragnarok, has transitioned from arguably the most disliked Marvel hero to a fan-favorite. The Guardians of the Galaxy crew still doesn’t do much for me, but splitting Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and the now-teenaged Groot (Vin Diesel) off on a side quest with Thor is an idea that pays off in laughs and excitement.

As fan-service, it’s extraordinary. As a film, it’s a strange piece of cinema history.

It is a kick seeing Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as the Stark Industries tech-enhanced Iron Spider and the battle in Black Panther’s homeland of Wakanda is a fun epic that is surprisingly reminiscent of the Gungan battle at the end of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The characters who are the most short-changed are Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Chris Evans’ Captain America, both of whom will likely have more to do in the next Avengers film (to be released in 2019).

This marks the nineteenth feature film producer Kevin Feige and company have released in the ten years since 2008’s Iron Man and since then, audiences have gotten used to seeing multiple comic book films of varying quality from various studios each year. As a result, it’s easy to take for granted what Marvel Studios have accomplished with the release of Avengers: Infinity War. This is an audacious live action version of a big comic book crossover event, something that would have been impossible to fathom being successful as recently as a decade ago. As fan-service, it’s extraordinary. As a film, it’s a strange piece of cinema history.

In Avengers: Infinity War all of the jokes land and all of the action scenes are well done. There is a very cool surprise about midway through that harkens back to an early Marvel Studios film and there is a post-credits sequence (just one this time) that is a doozy. The entire cast is at the top of their game and the special effects are seamless. So why aren’t I a bigger fan of this film?

An interconnected story of the course of this many movies has never been attempted in film history and, as such, I’m not sure how this series will age. The current film-going generation adores these characters and these movies, but will their love carry over to the next generation?  Years from now, if someone wanted to recommend Avengers: Infinity War, would they say something like “Yeah, it’s a really fun movie, just watch EIGHTEEN FILMS FIRST and then you can check it out!”

I’m well aware that we are still watching Star Wars films forty years after A New Hope, but for a long time there were only three Star Wars films. Then six. With Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, I imagine we are on a similar road to that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (also owned by The Mouse) and we will soon have more Star Wars films than we can count on both hands. My question becomes: what does this mean for future film fans? Must they watch a twenty or thirty film marathon to understand and enjoy something that was popular today? And is this a good or bad thing for movies in general?

I dont have the answer to this (and neither do you) because this is uncharted territory for the multiplex. This is television’s longform storytelling model brought to the silver screen. Perhaps binge watching certain movie series will become as commonplace as binge watching television series, but I have to admit this is a concept that doesn’t thrill me. While I have (mostly) enjoyed the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I have rarely felt the urge to revisit them. They work as large-scale events that we can discuss over the watercooler at work or on the playground at school or on message boards with fellow geeks online, but with a few exceptions (Captain America: The First Avenger, Black Panther) they don’t resonate with the impact of great cinema. That being said, I’m not sure it’s important that they resonate with the impact of great cinema as long as they fulfill their duty of being knockout crowd pleasers, and that they undoubtedly are.

Avengers: Infinity War doesn’t attempt to be a traditional movie with a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, it’s the expected continuation of an ongoing saga, ending with a cliffhanger that will lead into the next chapter, to the delight of everyone watching except perhaps for me. After this many films in the MCU, I find myself longing for an ending.