During his previous solo outing, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) learned that he doesn’t need a weapon to be powerful. In Avengers: Infinity War, Thor’s entire arc is forging a weapon to become powerful. Also in Thor 3, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) was so dominant that Bruce Banner feared transforming again meant being stuck as the giant green rage monster forever. In Infinity War, Hulk suffers performance anxiety. At the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) reluctantly accepted that he’s still a small-time “friendly neighborhood” Spider-Man. In Infinity War, he doesn’t hesitate to fight a Godlike alien light years away from his friendly neighborhood. In Captain America: Civil War, the Avengers broke up. Infinity War shows their reconciliation is just one flip phone call away. Yes, a flip phone.

And so on and so forth…

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) finally ditches his identity as Captain America and evolves into Nomad. So there’s that, I guess? If Marvel’s grand plan for the past seven years was to round out Cap’s story by just giving him a beard and a name change, that’s… a choice? I like the new Avengers. Unfortunately, Infinity War is the type of movie that only truly works if you love it. Infinity War is a disappointment. That’s just the way it is. As much as I suspected it might be, the feeling still sucks. I more or less agree with everything Ryan wrote in his lukewarm review, and just about every other criticism you’ve heard. However, my biggest gripe is something that I haven’t read much about, which is why you’re now reading this.

Infinity War was touted as the finale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so far. Allegedly, the epic conclusion of one long-form story told across 19 movies, including 8 franchises. Infinity War is supposed to be it. Unfortunately, Infinity War is not it. Almost nothing about it is the culmination of anything in the MCU, and it’s so utterly inconsequential that it’s hard to even picture a “soft reboot” of the shared universe after Infinity War Part 2, as some have predicted. The superheroes introduced before Avengers 2 meet the superheroes introduced after Avengers 2. They fight a villain who throws a moon. Little about it punctuates the past decade. That’s Infinity War.

I love the MCU but let’s face it: the “intricate” crossover storytelling it’s praised for is mostly just Easter Eggs and cameos. It occasionally leads to something really cool happening, like the Hulk co-starring in Thor: Ragnarok, and of course the Avengers movies are a treat. Still, acting like this shared universe is telling one big story is absurd. Which sucks. Because how freakin’ cool would that actually be?! For example, imagine if each of Marvel’s “Phase Three” movies leading up to Infinity War was about a superhero hunting for a different Infinity Stone. Maybe some even end on cliffhangers? Then Infinity War completes those storylines, or at least important character arcs. Nothing close to that actually happens. The “culmination” aspect of Infinity War is just every superhero we’ve met being in the same movie. There’s really nothing to it.

This is my biggest frustration with the MCU. I guess it came full circle after Infinity War didn’t come full circle. I’m not sure what’s stopping Marvel from doing something a bit more ambitious than Easter Eggs and cameos. Maybe it’s too risky to tell a coherent story across franchises? If one of the franchises fails, your crossover story worth billions of dollars is kind of screwed. Even if you have to move theatrical release dates around, you risk telling the story out of order. I really don’t know what the problem is.

After seeing Infinity War a second time, to process my disappointment, I’m even sadder it won’t have any real consequences, past or present. Infinity War adds nothing to what came before, and I doubt it’ll have much impact going forward. In a boldly told crossover tale, Infinity War’s fallout would be front and center during the next round of Marvel movies. In the MCU, you probably won’t feel the impact of Infinity War beyond Infinity War Part 2.

Grade = B-

Bonus Round!!!

Stray observations:

  • I kept wondering how Thor’s new comedic tone would fit in Infinity War. The answer? It doesn’t. He’s back to his old self. Maybe a bit poutier than usual.
  • Speaking of Thor, it sounded weird when he told Thanos (Josh Brolin), “You talk too much.” That’s more of a quip you say to silver-tongued villains like Loki (Tom Hiddleston), not solemn bad guys like Thanos.
  • No more Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), please. He’s the worst. Marvel, his solo movie didn’t even make that much money. Just get rid of him.
  • Infinity War ranks as a low-tier MCU movie, but Thanos is a top-tier MCU villain. I bought his Funko Pop bobble head before the movie came out and I have no regrets.
  • Whose idea was it to make the Hulk sit this one out? Seriously?! Does Marvel really think Mark Ruffalo is our favorite thing about the Hulk?
  • How do you cram 24 superheroes into one movie? Split them into three groups, then mostly ignore the rest.
  • Remember that amazing shot at the end of the final trailer? It showed Cap screaming as he struggled to hold back Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet. Well, that moment means nothing in the actual movie. We figured it was a shoe-in for Cap’s, “As long as one man stands against you” line from the comics. It turned out just to be a random, very awkwardly inserted slow-motion shot.

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