Not only was it not Movie Time at the Cinemark, it was not even Movie Time in Indiana. This review comes to you from a showing at the Marcus Sycamore 12 in Iowa City, Iowa. (Like all movie theaters except the Cinemark, the Sycamore smells funny, but the auditorium was admirably dark and the ticket prices very modest.)
I had a choice of entertainment last Friday afternoon, and chose seeing Avengers: Infinity War over a visit to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. This was a very poor decision on my part and one I sincerely regret. I am 100% sure that an in depth museum study of President Hoover and the Hoover Administration would have been much more entertaining than this movie. It’s a bad one, everybody. A real stinker. And you know I say this as a big fan of the MCU and someone who is highly tolerant of its faults. I wasn’t expecting this to be one of the good ones– the bigger the scale of a Marvel movie, the worse it tends to be– but I was not expecting it to be this awful. I suppose I am glad I saw it, simply on the grounds that now I know what happened, but if you think you might feel the same, I recommend a quick run on pay per view or borrowing a DVD from the library– don’t waste a movie date on it, much less a chance to see Herbert Hoover’s car or something.
Details on why I thought this movie stunk, and acknowledgements of some quite entertaining moments that didn’t justify the whole bloated mess but were still quite entertaining, behind the cut. Though I am pretty sure if you care about seeing it unspoiled, you will already have seen it. But just in case.
Why Infinity War is a bad movie, Reason one: It is too big. It has too many characters by a factor of about 10, and at least three too many plots. Most of the characters and all but one of the plots are so poorly developed that it is pretty much impossible to care about any one or any thing. This is actually a major accomplishment, considering that many of the characters involved are much loved heroes of many years standing and more recently the protagonists of popular MCU films that while not uniformly excellent, were all at least watchable, with some of them being quite good. But in this movie, almost all of them are paper cutouts the director is waving around saying “here they are” rather than letting us actually look at them.
Reason two: It’s too “epic”. The stakes are so high and spread so wide that it’s impossible to care about that either. The end of the world, not very interesting on the best of days, is made so dull and tedious that you are pretty much rooting for Thanos at the end. He may be an equally boring villain with the stupidest motivation ever, but at least he seems pleased with his results. The big purple guy is the only one smiling when the credits start to roll.
Reason three: It is too dark. Not just because pretty much everybody dies at the end, but because so many of the scenes are so poorly lit it is impossible to see the basic action, much less any nuances of props or expression.
Reason four: It isn’t even a whole story. It is the first half of a (not very interesting or well written) story– the part that runs right up to the worst point, the point where all hope seems to be lost. It’s the easiest, thinnest kind of a cliffhanger: almost everyone is dead, but you know that few of them are going to stay dead, and at least one of the characters who is still alive is going to have to die for real (or what passes as “for real” in this context) to get everyone else back, and it is all so cheap and corny. My guess is that everybody who “fell to dust” will return, and at least some of the people who died in other ways, almost certainly including Heimdall and the Vision, but not including Loki, will stay dead, and Tony will die in part 2.
Bright spots include quite a few disconnected moments of the patented MCU character stuff (both the tender kind and the funny kind), another excellent, if very small, performance by Mark Ruffalo in the role of the ever tortured Bruce Banner, and a fine appearance by the ever cheerful Guardians of the Galaxy, who are apparently incapable of turning in a bad or depressing performance.
This leads to the brightest spot of all, coming from the weirdest place. There is one interesting and well developed plot strand in Infinity War, involving the Guardians and, of all people, Thor. I have never been a huge fan of Chris Hemsworth’s MCU Thor , but darned if he isn’t pretty good here, alongside the Guardians, and later, in a “split the party” side quest with Groot and Rocket Raccoon. Bradley Cooper’s Rocket is the heart of the Guardians and one of the MCU’s very best and most believable characters, and he and Thor put in the best performances in the movie as they adventure in search for a replacement for the lost Mjolnir. Note that in a small scale, these characters still work fine. The MCU as a whole has not jumped the shark. Let’s hope the second half of Infinity War gets the taste for the vast uncontrolled epic out of everyone’s system, and the MCU movies can go back to being adventure stories about the characters.