Everything about this movie is HUGE, as if Simple Minds, U2 and Springsteen had combined at the height of their bombastic pomposity for a world tour lasting 17 years. The cast, the budget, scope, special effects and ambition: huge. Of course, the inherent problem with a movie of this size (it’s huge, btw) is that people, even superheroes, become inconsequential beneath it, which means that once you become accustomed to the spectacle, the required engagement with characters can be absent. Infinity War just about manages to tread this line and combine the large and small scale. Another challenge facing the ensemble movie is managing multiple story lines that provide appropriate screen time for all characters. Again, this test is passed, and it avoids the feeling one had in seasons 3 and 4 of Game of Thrones where it felt as if the viewer was caught in a cycle of 10 minute cameos as all the multiple plot plates were kept spinning. Whilst there are a couple of sub-plots that might not be strictly necessary, there is a sense that all components are adding to the overall narrative.
It does still suffer from one of the perennial problems of superhero movies, the fruitless slugfest. There is a dilemma at the heart of these – can superheroes actually be killed by being punched so hard that they slide 100 metres, crashing through buildings? The evidence seems to be no, in which case, why do they engage in this activity so frequently? In Civil War, they would know it is essentially futile being aware of each others powers. And if they can’t be killed then the audience feels no real peril for those in these conflicts. There are a lot of these smash em up encounters, and it’s an action movie so you’d expect that, but you could skip these happily. My other criticism is the motivation of Thanos. (This may be a bit SPOILER) He wants to restore balance to the universe because of his Malthusian concerns by, erm, killing 50% of living things (does this include only sentient beings? Half of all endangered species also?). If the infinity stones are that powerful, couldn’t they just increase resources? For such a big act, it seems quite a minor motivation. Couldn’t everyone just go vegetarian?
In terms of my own personal Marvel Universe, Infinity War represents a reconciliation. My daughter and I started with the the first Thor. We walked out, deciding comic book movies weren’t for us. Because there was nothing else at the cinema often, I persuaded her to try again with Avengers: Age of Ultron. We lasted an hour before quitting prematurely again. This seemed to confirm our aversion to this genre. But then along came Guardians of the Galaxy, and the comedic approach was a hit, reinforced by Deadpool, and the last Thor. Then the socially aware superhero movies showed there was depth and cultural power to them. Wonder Woman and Black Panther were the moments the genre had been waiting for. Infinity War is nowhere near that level of impact, but it combines enough of the humour, has some big battle scenes and an ending that left the audience stunned. So, I guess we’re now converts.