Infinity Jest

The biggest problem with Avengers: Infinity War is its title. Sure, it makes sense given the plot, but I’m afraid Disney has rather put themselves in a corner. What can possibly top an infinity war? Unless the marketing department goes for broke next time with Double Dog Infinity War, it’s all downhill from here.

Let’s put the title aside. Hey, this movie really does work. I spent the last third of the film in humble admiration, not really for what I was watching on the screen but for the creativity and verve of those who put it there. This movie should have stunk and it does not. It should have been an incoherent mush of CGI and it is not. It should have been The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, and praise the Lord, it is not. Infinity War is fun, exciting, and surprisingly emotional. I liked it. I’d be fine if I never saw it again.

The story concerns the…eh, what’s the point. There’s a really powerful Bad Dude, who is looking for magical gem stones that will make him Baddest Dude, and it’s the job of the Good Dudes and Dudettes to come together and Stop Him. I think that’s enough to know. I’d wager that those who go in knowing less than that will have a better time than anyone. Whoops, my mistake.

I came away from Infinity War impressed with three things above all.

First, the humor of this film is more restrained and less forced than in previous Marvel episodes. I find the typical Marvel shtick of interrupting what is supposed to be a dramatically intense moment with a sick burn or golly gee willikers incredibly annoying. If I craved dumb humor I would have stayed in middle school. Infinity War dials this back and I appreciated it.

Second, this might be the best edited superhero movie I’ve ever seen. As I mentioned above, the math of a film like Infinity War usually adds up to a mess. I was very impressed at the clean action scenes, the careful pacing, and the comparable screen time for all our heroes (except for Scarlett Johansson, who continues to look like she’d rather be doing anything else). There are so many ways to make “intense” films unwatchable—see: Jackson, Peter—but Infinity War manages to be inviting, as well as loud and fast.

Third, I liked the ending. I’m told fans of the comics do not. That makes sense to me, because this is an ending for movie lovers and not necessarily for Marvel mythology lovers. If you’re a film fan like me who’s disenchanted with the superhero genre, I think you’ll watch and know what I mean by that. There’s a bravura in the film’s denouement that you won’t find in many other superhero pictures. That was a risk, and it paid off.

But of course, some will not like it. The good news for them is that journalists are currently writing entire pieces about how many upcoming Marvel films there are. There’s an old saying I heard growing up in the unpredictable daily weather of the Ohio river valley: If you don’t like the weather, keep hanging around. If you don’t like the latest Marvel film, keep hanging around.

David Foster Wallace once imagined a movie that was so entertaining it killed its audiences. I’m slowly coming to terms with the realization that I’ll be taking my grandchildren to see Avengers 32 and the 20th reboot of Spider-Man, featuring an androgynous AI as Peter Parker. At the rate we’re going, there’s a good chance I’ll pass away watching a Marvel movie. Oh well.

5 thoughts on “Infinity Jest

  1. “Hey, this movie really does work. I spent the last third of the film in humble admiration, not really for what I was watching on the screen but for the creativity and verve of those who put it there. This movie should have stunk and it does not.”

    I think this was my biggest surprise and takeaway as well. Growing up, I was never a fan of comic books. But, I’ve turned out to really enjoy the Marvel movie franchise over the last ten years. And I was worried going into this one. I mean, how can this not be a total disaster? But… it wasn’t. Far from it. I’m genuinely impressed by the skill of the writers and the directors shown in how well this film worked.


  2. I’m a die-hard superhero fan, but more of a movie buff than an avid comic reader (unless they’re well written – and they occasionally are).

    In any case, I came away from this one feeling much the same way. After processing the emotional rollercoaster, I began assessing the film on its own merits (and may also have gone back for a second viewing…). I came away impressed with all the ways it held together despite the unwieldy size of the cast and setting.

    Rather than getting sloppy in its old age, Marvel seems to be learning from past mistakes. It had just enough of all things Marvel to satisfy (most) fans and remain accessible to casual viewers. And it was a genuinely good movie. I walked away impressed.


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