Dolittle (2019)

Directed by: Stephen Gaghan 

Written by: Gaghan, Dan Gregor and Doug Mand

Dolittle_(2020_film_poster)I keep finding myself going to films that the critics don’t want me to see. First I saw the beloved Cats  and this time I went for Dolittle, with its even lower, 15% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Unlike with Cats, I did not go into Dolittle wanting/kind-of-believing the critics would be drastically wrong: I just didn’t want to give up on the idea that Iron Man talking to animals would be a good time. 

While Dr. Dolittle has his origins in a now century-old book series, my knowledge of the character comes solely from Eddie Murphy movies that I watched too long ago to remember. For those in a similar position, this new iteration of Dolittle offers a reasonably different viewing experience. Unlike Eddie Murphy, Robert Downey Jr.’s Dolittle is not a contemporary, American doctor, but an eccentric, Victorian Welshman (and whether you like the performance or not, its clear at least that Downey Jr made a point of not being a Tony Stark-clone). While this may not be an exciting decision for those familiar with the Dolittle novels or Rex Harrison’s 1967 portrayal, the Victorianness of Dolittle undoubtedly provides for a different sensory experience than that of Murphy’s comedy. Dolittle’s story takes him from his charming, yet under-maintained household, to Buckingham palace and then to the high seas. While the story is not a satire in the literal sense of the word (unless I’m missing something), it does brim with parodic energy. 

It is easy to see why critics don’t care for Dolittle. For one, the story is structured around the forced-heart-warmingness of a boy (Harry Collett) discovering Dolittle, and, at ridiculous speed learning, the man’s skill of talking to animals, and inspiring him to come out of retirement. In addition to this thematic genericness, the film also banks on the idea of having comedic characters (Dolittle’s animal gang), that are not well developed, but instead have one-gag personalities that occasionally lend themselves to crudeness. While the celebrity (Emma Thompson, John Cena, Rami Malek, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Jason Mantzoukas,  Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez and Marion Cotillard) voiced animals are a clear example of Hollywood trying to cut corners to get to humor, there’s nonetheless a visual beauty to the animals’ photorealistic animation, within the context of Dolittle’s historic, seaside world. Just as real-life puppies don’t need comedic talent to be endlessly entertaining, you can enjoy the fun of seeing an ostrich and polar bear manning a ship, even if their personalities don’t quite resonate with you. Furthermore, I for one found the way in which the quasi-evil tiger was presented was reasonably unique.

There’s no denying Dolittle’s creative  imits, but its particularly bad reputation is not justified. That 15% score is a product of a) how critics seem to have a weird obsession with exaggerating their dislike for “stinkers” and b) Rotten Tomatoes’ binary Fresh/Rotten system leading movies of roughly the same quality to have wildly different scores (I could easily see a film, very much like Doolittle, coming out in a few months and getting something in the 60s). Doolittle’s silliness-on-the-seas structure gives it the air, if not the quality, of films like Muppet Treasure Island. This affect is further embellished by the emergence of a celebrity-portrayed anti-hero at the film’s midpoint, and an eccentric, yet fitting twist in the third act (that some spoiler-prone critics don’t seem to understand is meant to be a surprise). One can debate how much imagination went into Dolittle, but for those wishing to have their own imaginations stimulated: those wishing to travel back in time, with colorful animal sidekicks it is undoubtedly a charming romp.

Spiderman: Homecoming (2017)

Directed by: Jon Watts

Written by: Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers

Spider-Man_Homecoming_posterWhen I was first introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s interpretation of Peter Parker/Spiderman (Tom Holland) I thought the character a funny gag, as that was indeed his role in Captain America: Civil War. When I next saw in in Avengers: Infinity War I was mildly annoyed . I was not properly attuned to the greater logic of the MCU at the time and did not understand why the brand’s most famous character came out as two-dimensional meme-fuel. A recent visit to my local library’s DVD section, however, finally introduced me to Spiderman: Homecoming the film that actually gave this Spiderman a story. This movie unsurprisingly enriched my perspective on a character who previously I’d seen as both a good and mediocre joke. 

Due to the volume of superhero movies it now puts out, Marvel is always burdened with the challenge of differentiating its characters.  In Spiderman: Homecoming, they absolutely lived up to that standard. Two of Spiderman’s defining traits are that his fights are laced with humor and that he acts out of duty (and not because he simply enjoys crime fighting). These are traits he shared with Iron Man and Captain America respectively. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) it so happens is a major character in Homecoming, while Captain America (Chris Evans) gets a fun cameo. The idea of the wisecracking-fighter has proliferated beyond Spiderman and Iron Man, making it a trope. What Homecoming’s presentation of Spiderman does differently than others from that tradition, however,  is that it allows its character to wisecrack without making him seem egotistical. Spidey’s comments are just as often as not expressions of his vulnerability as they are of his confidence. 

So Spiderman manages to be like Iron Man, while still feeling like a unique character (this is a point I will return to). What, however, about his similarities with Captain America? While the characters’ shared senses of duty may not be fundamentally distinguishable from one another, at very least it can be said that Spiderman’s sense is more specific. Captain  America is an “All-American” who hates bullies. He is a man from a propaganda poster (quite literally), albeit a relatively 3-D and likeable version of such a character. Spidey by contrast, does not subscribe to the vague, generic ideal of All-Americanism. He doesn’t have politics per se (one of his memorable high school friends does), you don’t get the sense that like Captain America he would rush to join the army. Instead, in line with the “with great power comes great responsibility” philosophy (which doesn’t make it into the film), he protects his community. And unlike other Marvel heroes, Spiderman has an explicit and consistent aversion to killing his enemies. Captain America may largely share this value, but its not one he prioritizes enough to say out loud.

Spiderman: Homecoming is an enjoyable movie largely due to the likability of its main character, but its main villain, The Vulture (Michael Keaton) is also an essential part of the film’s fabric. The Marvel Cinematic Universe  has been criticized for failing to produce memorable villains. though Loki, Killmonger and Thanos are now part of a respectable list of exceptions. What makes a villain complex? Do they need to be a borderline hero in their own right? Do they need a substantial backstory rife with tragedy? In most cases the answer is yes. But just as this Spiderman film avoids depicting Spidey’s (now well known) backstory, The Vulture also enters the film close-to-being if not already established as the figure he is at its climax. Interestingly, this does not keep him from being a compelling character. He is portrayed charismatically and the film shows us just enough of his behind the scenes life to make him likeable even if the rationale behind his actions is never fully substantiated.

Spiderman: Homecoming also has its shortcomings. One of the film’s defining traits is that it fully commits to Peter being a highschooler; being a kid. As such, he is surrounded by a cast of high-school-comedy style friends. Save for the afformentioned “character with politics,” none of these characters are really memorable as individuals, despite their essential presence (even if its fun to see the star of The Grand Budapest Hotel play a slightly-nerdified school-bully). 

The film’s more glaring flaw, however, is its hamfisted attempt to have Peter learn a lesson. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of Spiderman operates under the supervision of Iron Man and his assistant Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau); who contrary to my memory of him in the Iron Man films, is weirdly rude to the teenage Parker. One of the film’s key plotpoints is Iron Man essentially chastising Spiderman  for being immature. He goes so far as to acknowledge that he is a relatively immature figure himself, but that he expected better of Peter. This feels forced because its pretty clear that Spiderman is already “better.” He may not make the perfect decisions, but unlike Iron Man, these decisions are not motivated by ego. He is regularly forced to undermine high school friendships he cares deeply about, in order to live up to his sense of duty. 

The above two flaws leave Spiderman: Homecoming from being thematically and narratively memorable. Superhero movies, however, are works uniquely defined by their superpowered leads. Spiderman:Homecoming may have been a relatively late addition to the first era of the MCU, but it nonetheless ensured that Marvel’s best known hero is also the cinematic universe’s most likeable. 

 

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

As is my default approach, this review does not contain anything that most people would consider to be a spoiler 

Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo

Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley

 

null               Last week I gave myself an exercise of sorts. Rather than allowing myself to write my typical, mood-in-the-moment driven review, I decided I wanted to set a standard in advance for how I would review Avengers: Endgame. While reviewing is no exact science, in this case, I worried my extremely dissonant relationship to superhero films would render my review inappropriate. As it turned out, I quite enjoyed Avengers: Endgame, and as such did not need a pre-set rubric to safeguard against irrational frustration. Nonetheless, I will stand by my word and use my pre-set evaluative categories. If nothing else, they give me a way of deciding what to say about this particularly long (181 minutes) and detail-rich work.

Does Every Character Feel Like They’re There for a Reason?

The very premise of Avengers: Infinity War was a battle between all-powerful villain Thanos, and virtually every superhero the Marvel Cinematic Universe had known to date. It was a combination I did not much care for, as it relied on audiences having pre-established investments in characters, rather than providing much character development on its own. Endgame by contrast, is set following Infinity War’s apocalyptic events and, as such, has a better economy of characters. For the most part its main cast are the original Avengers (Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). This decision allowed for further development of the friendly rivalry between the brooding and somewhat selfish Iron Man and the idealist, team-player Captain America. In fact, the film takes this dynamic to another level, by presenting an Iron Man with a more nuanced brand of selfishness (wanting to start a family). Thor’s role in the series, meanwhile, is improved. Thanks to the stylistic developments of Thor: Ragnorak, he is no longer a  quasi-Iron-Man-type, and instead, along with Hulk, fills a comic-relief niche in contrast to Iron Man and Cap’s leading-man personas.

Other important heroes in the film include Rocket (Bradley Cooper), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Ant Man (Paul Rudd) all of whom find their niches. There is a degree of fourth wall breaking in Ant Man’s writing. Marvel’s two Ant Man movies have been described as lower-stakes than other Marvel efforts, and as such, Ant Man (who was not in Infinity War) appropriately makes contributions to the movie by asking questions on behalf of confused audience members about what exactly is going on. Given my misgivings about the chaos of Infinity War, I appreciated this low-key act of self-deprecation on the writers’ part.

One issue that may have been a source of tension in the writer’s room was the role of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), who seems to be introduced as a major character at the beginning of the film, but is subsequently removed since she has duties to protect the galaxy. It is understandable that she is not given a bigger role in the film, given that she has only just been introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and as such, having her and her overwhelming power save the day would feel like a bit of a deus ex machina. Still, I can’t help but wonder then why her solo-film was released in the midst of what is now called Marvel’s “Infinity Saga” and her subsequent involvement in Endgame was promoted at all, when surely the Marvel writing-team must have realized Endgame would have to be a story about the core Avengers. All I can speculate is that, as members of comic-book-rooted-studio (and also as part of a big business), a lot of Marvel’s team is genuinely convinced that pumping out as many superheroes as fast as possible is better than having good narrative development.

That said, while Captain Marvel’s presence in the film may show that pure narrative coherence was not all Endgame’s writing team had in mind, the presence of her and other semi-relevant characters does not interrupt Endgame’s overall flow in any meaningful way. Furthermore, given the film’s lack of gender parity (Black Widow and Nebula do, luckily, play memorable parts) its hard to fault the studio too much for being eager to bring Captain Marvel into the picture.

 

How Good is the Humor and is it There for its Own Sake?

As I noted above, Thor Ragnorak (which I did not appreciate at the time of its release, but have since warmed up to), made a major change to the structure of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It confirmed that Mark Ruffalo’s version of the Hulk was a comic figure (in contrast to the quiet, brooding soles portrayed by Eric Bana and Edward Norton) while also establishing Thor in a similar niche. Endgame’s depiction of new Asgaard ranks amongst its best scenes thanks to the presence of Thor, as well as the return of his New Zealand-accented comrade from Ragnorak. This segment, alongside the film’s unique take on the Hulk (a character whose awkwardly polar persona is one filmmakers have struggled to convincingly represent), suggests that Endgame’s writers agreed with me as to where Marvel’s humor had previously been lacking. Humor in fight scenes (common practice in the M.C.U.) just feels like another weapon. Humor in dialogue is charming and memorable.

 

How Intimate is the Action? Is there a Disproportionate Amount of Action?

I previously wrote that rather than having a general aversion to action sequences, I (and perhaps many who “don’t like action movies”) can find action scenes to be entertaining so long as they focus on the characters and not just the explosions involved. While the fighting in Endgame is admittedly consistent with the non-intimate style employed in most other M.C.U. movies, at very least its context gives it special emotional weight.

I should clarify that there is in fact one “intimate fight” in Endgame. I can’t say too much about it without revealing a major spoiler, but I will say that it is a higher-stakes continuation of a conflict first seen in Captain America: Civil War.

 

 How Good is the Film as a Standalone Movie?   Does the Film have a Memorable Villain? Does it Make an Interesting Philosophical Point?

Avengers Endgame was not designed to be a standalone movie, and as such this point of criteria was always a bit unfair. I will say though that there is a real cost to this film bringing in numerous heroes in minor roles as these appearances likely make the film feel too chaotic (despite a main plot that might otherwise be enjoyable) for first-time Marvel viewers. On the flip-side, the film’s dearth of guest appearances and cameos are certainly satisfying (we even get a few seconds of Thor’s ex-love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman)), as are its throwbacks to past movie sets and one character’s iconic deployment of a catchphrase.

As for the question of its villain, Endgame both memorably builds on and fails to meet the standards set by Infinity War. While I can’t say much more on this contradiction without spoiling the movie, I think this problem has its roots in the contradictory writing of Thanos (Josh Brolin) over different M.C.U. films. While Thanos’ twisted idealism was the strength of Infinity War, he also appeared in The Guardians of the Galaxy saga as a more conventional villain.

The questions of Endgame functioning as a standalone movie and having a memorable villain both in turn point to the bigger question of whether the movie makes an interesting philosophical point. The Avengers’ first confrontation with Thanos in the film is indeed shocking. It’s a moment where notions of justice and purpose are brought into question. The effect of this scene, however, is ultimately not political. What the scene does do is introduce an element of despair into the Avengers’ world, and that despair in turn is what gives the film its unique character.

In short, Endgame lacks the overall character to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “greatest film,” but it nonetheless may be its most enjoyable. It resolves character arcs, assembles a range of characters and uses (by Marvel standards) a range of storytelling techniques. While viewers should be warned that it is probably worth doing their homework (ie watching 2/3 of the previous M.C.U movies at least) before giving Endgame a try, at very least, for this superhero-movie skeptic, the effort was worth it.

A final note: The film does not have an end-credits scene save for a subtle sound some fans might appreciate. The first part of the credits, however, is worth staying for.

 

Peace is War: The Dualistic Politics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

This short essay was inspired by my recent viewing of The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2. As such it contains some spoilers of these films

 

   The_Incredible_Hulk_poster.jpg               Last year I watched the 2003 Hulk film. While I reasonably enjoyed it, the film’s mixed reception upon release led, in part, to its not being seen as part of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was thus expecting 2008’s The Incredible Hulk which stars Edward Norton, Liv Tyler and William Hurt in place of Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, and Sam Elliott, to feel like a major break from the 2003 release. It wasn’t.

The film, for all intents and purposes, is a sequel. It introduces us to Bruce Banner (Norton) where he was left (in Brazil) and depicts him much as he was depicted in the original work: as a soft-spoken man, whose nature makes it near impossible to believe he can experience the burst of anger necessary to transform into the Hulk at all. Dr. Betty Ross (Tyler), meanwhile, is still portrayed as an ex-girlfriend with whom Banner has a relationship of mutual affection. Finally, Ross’s father (Hurt) also reappears in his role as no-nonsense, anti-Hulk US army General.

Yet despite these tonal similarities, does The Incredible Hulk continue The Hulk’s legacy? One could argue that it doesn’t, precisely in that it resolves the initial film’s dilemmas. But The Hulk was the story of a characters’ pain; a pain with loose ends that are perhaps not meant to be neatly knotted up.

But while I am agnostic as to whether The Incredible Hulk is a thematically consistent sequel to its predecessor, I have no doubt that it has kinship to other Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Abomination (Tim Roth), the primary villain of The Incredible Hulk, is a mercenary who is hired by the US army to stop The Hulk, but clearly loves his violent job too much. This character is thus not “evil” but “militaristic” a character trait also displayed by one of the villains of James Cameron’s Avatar.

A surprisingly similar figure is employed in Iron Man 2, the Marvel Cinematic Universe film that followed The Incredible Hulk. That film has two villains: one is an all-brains, no-brawn puppeteer, but the other, Ivan Iron_Man_2_poster.jpgVanko (Mickey Rourke), echoes the path of Abomination in more ways than one. Both are expert soldiers and both become super-villains that resemble their superhero nemeses. The key difference between them is that Abomination’s moral tension comes from his relationship to his militarism, whereas Ivan Vanko’s moral ambiguity is displayed through the non-militaristic parts of his identity (his love for cockatoos, and his past victimization).

By presenting zealous militarism as the leading cause of Abomination’s emergence, it would seem The Incredible Hulk offers an anti-militaristic message. Yet it squanders this possibility, by using Abomination’s rise as an excuse to rehabilitate the rest of the army, who support the Hulk in his battle against Abomination. This is another manner in which The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 resemble each other.

Iron Man 2 exposes the arrogance, danger and misguidedness of the US government and its military. But it simultaneously undermines this message by presenting the alternative to this statist brand of militarism as Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), a billionaire weapons developer. Fear not, Iron Man 2 is not a celebration of private armies either: Stark is appropriately belittled through the portrayal of his larger-than-life arrogant persona. Nonetheless, the fact that the film displays the military and private sector as the two ideological options, rather than presenting a pacifist/leftist alternative, shows the limits of its ideological imagination. This idea is further reinforced through the film’s project of pairing up Iron Man with his near-identical sidekick War Machine (Don Cheadle): a pairing that teams up the moral best the military and the arrogant private sector have to offer.

In The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology Slavoj Zizek highlights the character of Private Joker (a soldier whose helmet bears both the phrase “born to kill” and a peace sign) as an ideal soldier precisely because he maintains “ironic distance” from the horrors his army carries out. Zizek (as far as I can tell) is arguing that an army cannot function solely with the support of those who see it as flawless; for if the soldiers for such an army had the wool pulled from their eyes, their support would collapse. Soldiers like Private Joker, by contrast, are so valuable because they are able to carry out their duties despite seeing and empathizing with the arguments against their actions. They have become desensitized.

It would seem that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is built upon Private Jokers. The Incredible Hulk warns us of the dangers of zealous militarism, but ultimately allows the military to play a role in solving that problem. Iron Man 2 raises concerns about the weapons industry and the government officials that work with/in rivalry with it, but never entertains the idea of promoting a demilitarized world. These aren’t the only Marvel films this contradiction shows up in. Captain Marvel criticizes imperialist war, while celebrating involvement with the air force. Black Panther offers positive portrayal of the Black/African struggle against racism and colonialism, but also manages to sneak a benevolent CIA agent into the picture.

One can posit various explanations for Marvel’s pattern of reconciling the military and critiques of militarism. Perhaps this approach is innate to the superhero genre: a genre that tells of figures that while rebellious in some ways are in-all law enforcement agents. Perhaps it is a product of the ideology and/or interests of studio heads. Perhaps The Marvel Cinematic Universe mixes-and-matches its politics (sometimes leaving information gaps, much like in the latest Mission Impossible movie) as a way of appealing to multiple audience bases. All of these explanations can and may be true. What’s most important to note, however, is that the “contradiction” in Marvel’s approach may not be a contradiction at all. Sometimes it takes a well-placed critique of an institution to portray it positively.

My goal with this piece is not to show a man behind the curtains. Ideology is everywhere: I do not mean to reduce the Marvel experience to one of militarism. From a merely artistic perspective, however, I can’t help but observe how this ideology limits the development of two potentially memorable character. Both Abomination and Ivan Vanko’s stories raise questions about militarism, but their arcs ultimately allow casual fans to see them as semi-forgettable representations of evil. Again, Marvel’s goal is not to make interesting social-commentaries through its villains: but it seems to understand that making effective films requires dabbling in such commentary along the way.

Of course, its also possible that on some occasions Marvel’s filmmakers don’t even feel the need to dabble. I came across the idea that Mickey Rourke had been a big proponent of making his character “complex,” for instance, by promoting the cockatoo detail. This worries me as to how empty the character would have been had Rourke not spoken up.

When I don’t enjoy Marvel films I tend to attribute that to either my disinterest in action, or my sense that there are too many of them, and as such, some of them feel too similar to one another. As I write this, I wonder if there’s something else at play. Perhaps what makes cinematic fighting enjoyable is its distance from reality: that it is something playful and not a mere representation of the cruel violence our world faces. Marvel repeatedly portrays its violence as analogous to or consistent with the objectives of real life military institutions. Perhaps this is why I start these films enticed by the colourful glow of figures like Iron Man and the Hulk, and turn off the films left with the forgettable image of explosions emitting from dull, gray sidewalks.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo

Avengers_Infinity_War_poster[1] When I first saw the trailer for Avengers Infinity War, I mentally sorted it into the so-bad-it’s-good category of film. In other words, it was the kind of thing I secretly desired to see but would make fun of in respectable company. Its trailer reminded me a classic viral video called Too Many Cooks (which you should watch, but in case you don’t the joke is…well…too many characters). The film seemed like the kind of thing that was parodying itself. Surely, I thought, no wise writer would try and fit that many main characters into a story. How, for instance, I asked could they find screen time for the eighth most important character in Black Panther? How, I asked, could they justify bringing in all six Guardians of Galaxy characters, when their’s feels more like a sci-fi than a superhero franchise?

In short, going into the film, part of me knew it had too much going on to be well written and as such I was willing to dismiss it. On the other hand, part of me wanted to believe that the writers were aware of this absurdity, and as such would brilliantly weave all of those fates together into a masterpiece (or at very least present a self-aware piece with Too Many Cooks style humor). Unfortunately, it was the first of these statements that proved true.

Avengers: Infinity War opens with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) confronting Thanos (Josh “I’m having a very good Marvel Month” Brolin). This is the point where I have to admit I’m no comic-book-nerd nor have I systematically seen each Marvel film. That caveat noted, I found this introduction oddly direct yet simultaneously very confusing. We are not introduced to Thanos, we are just expected to know who this purple giant is and somehow make sense of the complex dealings he has with Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Thanos, it turns out, is a solid villain. His ambition is to save the universe by wiping out half of its population. He is a twisted idealist, who, despite being incredibly powerful, makes himself sufficiently vulnerable to regularly engage with; he even takes a punch or two, from the film’s heroes.

Following the opening confrontation, the Avengers (an all star team of Marvel heroes) are gradually brought together. This allows for some pleasant comedic moments. Marvel heroes tend to be at least mildly funny, allowing for banter between Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) or Thor and Star-Lord (who, in my Marvel naivety, I briefly confused for the Iron Giant (now that would be a cool, Too Many Cooks-esque cameo)) to be somewhat entertaining. Gradually the film re-introduces characters including The Hulk (a funny, if, inevitably underused, Mark Ruffalo) Spider Man (Tom Holland) Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Captain America (Chris Evans), leaving time for more funny banter, as well as some compelling drama (particularly in Thanos’ relationship with Gamora (Zoe Saldana)).

Infinity Wars’ problem, however, is that its humor peaks too early, giving way to dull action scenes. Its comedic style is also off-putting when it comes to its portrayal of Spider Man. That Marvel’s most famous superhero is left fairly one-dimensional (his one personality trait being that he seems to constantly, and nervously seek the approval of Iron Man) rings somewhat hollow. I could rant now about how hollywood needs to get over its intellectual-property bullshit and just accept that there were already good Spider Man movies made in the 2000s and there was no need to reinvent the character, but I suppose that’s going off topic.

Infinity Wars’ drama meanwhile, suffers from being too spread out, due to the film’s dearth of protagonists. Numerous characters die in the film, but these deaths lose their dramatic effectiveness due to our understanding that they exist in a cinematic universe. In some cases we know these deaths to be temporary: some characters die way too quickly and unmarkedly given their importance in the franchise (also we know some of these characters are slated to appear in future movies). At least it can be said that the writers had their hands tied when it came to writing these “deaths.”

More frustrating, however, is the death of one character which is stylistically distinct enough from the others to give off the impression that it is meant to be permanent.  This death scene is nonetheless  so rushed and early in the script that it does no justice to its target. This character (who I will not name) is a sad casualty of Marvel’s Too-Many-Cooks-foolhardiness that simply left them without enough screen timing to meaningfully tend to all the characters they chose to depict.

R.I.P. *CHARACTER NAME CENSORED TO PREVENT SPOILERS*: you will be missed.

Perhaps Marvel nerds will love Infinity War. It certainly takes the Avengers’ struggle to a new level. Nonetheless, I suspect casual fans (especially ones like me who don’t watch the movies for their action scenes) may be disappointed by the film’s narrative structure. Thanos is an engaging villain, and Thor, The Hulk, The Guardians and perhaps some of the others are fun protagonists. Unfortunately, the film seems to rely too heavily on the premise of “look at these cool characters fighting,” rather than truly considering how best to make their narratives collide.