Hi. This review is going to spoil the new Marvel movie Avengers: Infinity War. I ain’t joking. I ain’t playing. There is gonna be some frank discussion of the ending and what it is and what it means. It is impossible to turn a reasoned critical eye to the film and avoid discussing, it demands you to. So, if you care about the film it’s probably best to avoid reading this until after. And if you think you probably don’t care enough, you definitely don’t care enough. Feel free.
Back when I was in the second primary school I went to I remember being sat on the carpet in front of the teacher when they read us some storybook. It was about astronauts, they explored a planet but when they got into space they realised that something came with them. It had infected the ship’s computer system. Eventually an airlock got broke and they all died.
I remember our young class being outraged. We must have been six or seven years old at the time. What the fuck was this? That’s not how a story ends, that’s not how they go.
‘Why?’ I remember our teacher asking. ‘Stories don’t owe you anything. The person who wrote this knew what they were doing, they knew the words they were putting down. The ending is the ending. You can not like it, but there ain’t nothing you can do to change it.’ That is not reported speech of course. I ain’t even sure it ain’t something that I dreamed. Like, what teacher would be setting their class down for some morbid, postmodern storybook and a beginners guide to critique and parsing authorial intent?
If it was real, my teacher were way more awesome than I thought at the time. Even if it weren’t the memory of it stands as a pretty formative experience for me. It were one of the first time I consciously considered storytelling and it taught me about the inimitable power of a properly great ending.
Avengers: Infinity War is defined by its ending. People will be shocked by its ending, and people will be awed by its ending. It is the best part of the whole joint. Yet, we know that it is a fantasy. We talk about the ending as if it’s going to be solid, as if it is going to be concrete, as if we don’t know there’s never gonna be an end to this. Ever.
It’s what the last year’s slate (with the exception of Spiderman: Homecoming) really understood. These flicks ain’t about achieving resolution, they’re about what it means to pick your shit up and carry on. If you’re unable to change the state of the world you should maybe learn how to cope. If you don’t want to change the world maybe you should reconsider. If you have been changing the world maybe you should learn that change isn’t inherently virtuous. That last one’s Thor: Ragnarok, by the way, I just didn’t write a review for it.
So anyway, the ending of this one is that the bad guys wins, his plan is achieved and half of the life over the universe is instantaneously wiped out. Which, y’all know might be pretty bones if we ever though that it was going to stick. Sitting in the theatre as people waited for that end credits sequence you hear the chatter, ‘Well Guardians 3 and Spiderman 2 are out next year so it’s gonna be fixed. Speaking of, Tom Holland don’t really get a lot this time around but boy is he what makes that ending fucking work, the lad is heartbreaking in that moment.
But like the disintegrating characters, the weight of those seconds evaporates on the breeze. In the film they don’t even gotta handle the bodies of their fallen comrades, because the universe will never have to either. What’s the point in even conceptualising it on its own? By its own making it will be diminished next year, only half of a story that took a while to be told.
So then, like the thing is, what of the half of the story that we actually get? Its fine, I suppose. It’s messy, any film with this many characters is gonna be. Even then I thought I’d be inoculated to the sprawl. Not the case, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, where did Don Cheadle come from? Heck, I love Don Cheadle, but given that he’s no character and nothing to do, did we really need him here?
Outside that it’s surprisingly Josh Brolin’s baddie Thanos who takes up most of the room. Given that everything too fractured for any hero to lead, we instead find ourself dragged, like all those around him, into his orbit as he brushes a path of destruction through the universe. He’s Josh Brolin compelling, in a film of goofballs and sidekicks it’s not a bad way to go, firm hand on the rudder.
Outside of that though there’s nothing there, and sure, maybe it’ll come in some later instalment but that don’t matter when all we’re confronted with is a big bland man. He explains his motivation in passing to a young child, I hope we’re not to take it at face value: one, it’s dull; two, that don’t really suggest that they have a high regard of their audience.
Outside of that the story has three main thrusts, Captain America stuff (how do you waste Chris Evans like that?), Iron Man Stuff (I’m just waiting for this cat to die, I’ll definitely cry though), and Thor stuff. It’s the fucking Thor stuff that is really great! Who’d have guessed that two years ago? I helps that much of his work is done with Bradley Cooper’s Rocket and both of those characters have a lot of growing to do.
They also the only pair with any agency. At least until the last half hour at which point everything turns into an inexorable brawl. This entire film is reactive, our characters don’t evolve or grow, they just fight. Or talk about how best to win the next fight. It’s so boring, yet it rakes in that cash.
By this point I ain’t thinking that the team up movie will ever die. Hopefully in the future they remember to be a movie.
Avengers: Infinity War is currently screening in UK cinemas