Should “Avengers: Infinity War” Be More Accessible to Series Newcomers?

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Thanos)

If you’ve been on the internet this weekend, you’ve probably seen more than a few opinion pieces about “Avengers: Infinity War”.

Everyone has something to say on this subject, and, as is common for a noteworthy Marvel movie, the memes are plentiful.

What’s really interesting, though, is the response to an article from Richard Brody in the New Yorker, which criticizes the movie for being inaccessible. “Infinity War”, according to the review, doesn’t spend enough time establishing its characters and setting before launching into action.

Says Brody in his review:

“Not only does ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ presume that viewers have seen all the preceding films in the Marvel series but, worse, it presumes that they’ve thought about them afterward.”

Many people have been quick to counter this argument.

Personally, I particularly like the responses that essentially state that “Infinity War” isn’t meant to exist in a vacuum; the entire movie is built off other episodes in this lengthy serial, and to expect anything else is to misunderstand the purpose of long-running storytelling.

Here’s the thing, though: I see Brody’s point.

The Problem With Episodic Movies

“Infinity War” isn’t really about anything. The character that gets the most development is Thanos, and even he doesn’t really learn anything or grow at all.

There’s not really any time for a character to go through a solid arc. This is one half of a bigger story, that feeds off the back off over a dozen other movies. Viewed by itself, “Infinity War” makes utterly no sense.

I’d love to show this film to someone who has never seen any of the Marvel movies, and ask them what they make of it.

I have a friend who, somehow, inexplicably, had never read any of the “Harry Potter” books, nor seen any of the movies, before heading into the theater to see “The Deathly Hallows Part 2”.

A week later, he was still trying to figure out what had happened. He asked me if That Guy in the Painting Tunnel (Neville) had died in a previous movie, because otherwise he couldn’t understand why Harry was so happy to see him.

I don’t know why anyone would jump into a franchise like that at the very last moment, but it does happen.

We all know what it’s like to have to catch up with our Marvel homework before one of these big team-up movies. I first watched “The Incredible Hulk” on a cheap Video CD (not even a DVD) so that I’d be ready for the first “Avengers”. I had to catch up on “Ant Man” before I was ready for “Captain America: Civil War”. We’ve become used to the idea of this movie series as essentially the world’s most expensive TV show.

I’m not sure if that’s a great thing, and I can point to one shining example of how to do this kind of movie better.

The “Avengers” Legacy

One reason why I’m so willing to judge “Infinity War” harshly is because the original “Avengers” movie balanced everything so well.

That film bothers to establish characters. It gives us a clear understanding of each of the main players and what they’re hoping to achieve.

Captain America needs to find his place in the world. Bruce Banner wants to stop running. Thor just wants his brother to come home.

Iron Man has the biggest arc in the movie, learning to sacrifice himself for the greater good by the end of the adventure.

Perhaps this was possible because there were so few characters relative to the size and scope of “Infinity War”. I didn’t actually expect every single player in this new movie to get a fully developed character arc.

Considering how well “Avengers” managed this, I can’t help but hold all subsequent Marvel team-up movies to a high level of expectation.

I’m not sure I’m being particularly fair in these expectations, but I have to face the truth.

After ten years of this movie saga, I’m pretty tired of episodic moviemaking. I miss superhero films that have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

That said, “Black Panther” is amazing and I will fight anyone who disagrees.