‘Colossal, cataclysmic and preposterous’

Infinity War: The film is directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo. © Marvel/Disney

Can you have too much of a good thing? Yesterday, Avengers: Infinity War opened in cinemas around the world. It is Marvel’s 19th superhero movie, and its all-star cast is the largest yet…

“It’s just mind-blowingly epic,” Benedict Cumberbatch told Entertainment Weekly in March. “Once it starts, it does. Not. Stop.” He was talking about the new Avengers movie, Infinity War, which was released yesterday. He plays the character of Dr Strange.

The film brings together dozens of characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), including 22 superheroes. It runs for two-and-half hours as the characters jump across planets in pursuit of Thanos, a genocidal titan who wants to halve the population of the universe.

The film is so big that most of the actors were not allowed to read the whole script. Instead, they were only given the scenes that they were in, one page at a time. Cumberbatch was one of the few who knew the entire plot before it was released. “It’s just this horrible, brilliant, terrifying, at times funny, at times very moving, relentless action,” he said.

It has been 10 years since Iron Man started it all. Now, Infinity War is the third Avengers crossover movie, and the 19th movie in the MCU. There are several more planned.

They are as popular as ever. Earlier this year, Black Panther became the fifth Marvel movie to make over $1 billion worldwide, and Infinity War is expected to do the same.

The reviews are broadly positive. It is “bedazzling fun,” wrote Variety. And “utterly confident,” said The Guardian.

Yet not all critics are convinced. In The New York Times, chief critic A.O. Scott lamented that the sheer number of Marvel films means that “the cosmos is theirs. The rest of us just live in it.” Infinity War “makes very little sense”, because it packs in so many worlds and characters that you cannot follow it without seeing the other films first.

Others in the film industry agree. Last weekend, Avatar director James Cameron said that he was “hoping we’ll start getting Avenger fatigue here pretty soon. ... There are other stories to tell.”

Is the franchise simply too big?

Infinity and beyond

Less is more, say some. With so many big names jostling for attention, films like Infinity War lose the slower, personal touches that make good storytelling. And the MCU is so big that it is pushing out more original film ideas. As Scott put it, it has become “less a creative or commercial undertaking than an immutable fact of life”. It is time for something new.

This is just snobbery, counter others. People always look down on popular genres. But Marvel is not just making “superhero movies”; its films all have a unique style, a twist on another genre. Some are romantic comedies, some buddy movies, some meditate on the ethics of heroism. It is unfair to lump them all together as mindless action. Besides, they are great fun. Why not enjoy more?

You Decide

  1. Are there too many superhero movies?
  2. Is less always more?

Activities

  1. It is time to design your own superhero for 2018! Think about some of the problems the world faces, and the kind of superhero who might respond to them. Make sure you give them an outfit, special abilities and a name to protect their true identity...
  2. Imagine you are planning a movie about your creation. Sketch out a storyboard for a pivotal scene. It could be their origin story, or a moment they face up to their enemy.

Some People Say...

“Heroes are made by the path they choose, not the powers they are graced with.”

Iron Man

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The film was released yesterday. It had a budget of around $300 million, making it one of the top five most expensive movies ever made. However, it is expected to earn all of that money back and more in the box office — the two previous Avengers movies have made over $1 billion worldwide.
What do we not know?
Almost anything about the plot, unless you’ve seen the film already. Marvel was incredibly secretive about the film throughout its production, even among its own stars. Those who attended preview screenings have been implored not to leak any spoilers about the plot — and The Day would not dream of doing so either.

Word Watch

Marvel Cinematic Universe
This is the name given to the world which has been explored in the 19 Marvel movies since Iron Man in 2008. They are based on characters and storylines from Marvel’s superhero comics, published since the 1960s.
Titan
An alien from Saturn’s moon, Titan.
Crossover
A tradition that started in comic books, when characters from several different series would appear (or cross over) in each other’s storylines. This was a way of getting fans to buy comic books outside their favourite series in order to follow the plot properly. It is increasingly common in movies; last year Justice League brought together character from the DC universe, Marvel’s main rival.
Several more
Including “Avengers 4” in 2019, a follow-up to Infinity War. Other confirmed movies include Ant-Man and the Wasp later this year, Captain Marvel in 2019, and sequels for Dr Strange, Spider-Man and Black Panther.
$1 billion
It was the 33rd movie to achieve this goal in history. The other Marvel movies to do so were The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3, and Captain America: Civil War.

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