"Avengers: Infinity War" crashes into theaters this Friday, when it is fully expected to shatter all kinds of box office records ... at least until the next one comes out a year from now. But that doesn't mean everyone is going to like it.
The biggest blockbuster mashup of characters yet for the Marvel Cinematic Universe is sitting pretty with an 86 percent freshness rating at Rotten Tomatoes with more than 125 reviews tabulated, so clearly most critics enjoyed what they saw when the film premiered earlier this week. But it's not perfect, as some found it disappointing and a few even found it downright bad.
We combed through the negativity out of pure curiosity, and most of the complaints seem to come to the same general conclusion that the movie is trying to do and be too much. As the culmination of 19 Marvel films and with 30 main characters, fans know this movie is going to try to cram a lot into its 2-hour-and-40-minute run time. But is it a lot ... or too much?
Below we break down the "too much" the critics were griping about into more distinct sub-categories.
Most of the Marvel superheroes appearing in Infinity War, particularly Black Panther and Captain America, are compressed, concentrated versions of themselves. ... Instead of showing us why these characters are so beloved, the Russo brothers employ a Marvel shorthand of sorts, relying on past movies to do most of the work ... For devotees of the MCU, there's plenty to read into between the lines of Infinity War, but only if you know where to look.
If you're a fan of these characters and you're invested in their fates, there's plenty of thrills in watching them team up, and zing each other with witty banter. A couple of shots will give you chills. But you better be really invested, because what's generally missing are the moments where the film can just breathe; where the characters enjoy a shawarma or try to lift Thor's hammer or simply carry on a conversation longer than 15 seconds about something other than the Infinity Stones.
Yet inevitably, when you have too many good guys, the villain becomes the star of the show. ... As it stands, the field gets so crowded in "Avengers: Infinity War" that directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo resort to letting Alan Silvestri's score announce when something is important. If the horns are loud, it's big. If the horns are louder, it's bigger. If the horns are practically screaming, then it's enormous. But is it? These are the horns that cried wolf.
Marvel's "Avengers: Infinity War" -- an overstuffed sausage of summer entertainment--is the Ocean's Thirteen of spandexed heroism, if you can imagine a version of that movie with two times as many Brad Pitts and no poker dealers. Combining the casts of The Avengers, Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy may have sounded like genius alchemy to studio scientists who think of filmgoing as one-stop shopping. But in practice, it results in a stream of in-fighting for alpha-dog dominance, everyone trying to make what amounts to a cameo stick.
You can occasionally feel the filmmakers straining for reasons to send this character to that planet, where they'll meet up with that other character to hatch a plan to solve a problem currently unfolding on some other distant location with some other characters.
While yes, there are surprises along the way, Infinity War really isn't big on plot, focusing more on a series of battles and set pieces. The Russo brothers have a crazy number of characters to cater for and the movie jumps around locations frequently, introducing new planets and new characters along the way, while delivering the usual nods, winks and Easter eggs Marvel fans have come to expect. The trouble is, despite the run time, it all feels a bit rushed.
Another near-impossible task must have been writing the screenplay, which credited here to Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and, despite some inspiring stretches, meanders a little too much in its back-and-fortness. The lack of settling down in their script dulls the senses and makes you wonder if a three-parter would have been better than this restrictive two-parter.
The better Marvel movies have found ways to interlace wisecracks with obligatory, semi-infinite warmongering, as in the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" or the more recent semi-sendup, "Thor: Ragnarok." Here, the mixture sticks in the craw: It's funny to see and hear Pratt imitating Hemsworth's voice (though Peter Dinklage seems to be doing the same thing, later in the picture). But smack up against the rough stuff in "Infinity War," the scenes of mass genocide and close-ups of anguished, recently stabbed major players, the mood swings are a little bit psycho. The Russos don't have the finesse to pull them off. They're more suited to straight-ahead manipulations.
Even by Marvel's own standards of serviceable mediocrity, "Infinity War" fails. And not merely because it cloyingly plays to the audience's presumed sympathies for a set of plastic-molded action figures whose fates have, until next year's culminating installment, been scattered to the wind. The movie is beset by the very uniformity that defines the genre, a problem that presents itself when its clutch of wisecracking egoists are assembled to butt swollen heads and crack wise over one another. The plotting is bogged down by fetch quests and sundry deus ex machinations. The jokes are flat and, given the severity of the film's premise, weirdly tone-deaf.
The action is especially tedious and predictable. I mean both the scenes of fighting and flying and the overall rhythm of the first two hours or so. People talk for a while, sprinkling jokes and morsels of personality into the heavy dough of exposition. Then they fight in the usual way, by throwing giant objects (and one another) and shooting waves of color from their hands. The noisy, bloated spectacles of combat were surely the most expensive parts of the movie, but the money seems less like an imaginative tool than a substitute for genuine imagination.
"Infinity War" is a mash up of "Avengers" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" where much of the fun-what little there is -- is in "Name that Movie Antecedent." A little "Lord of the Rings" here, a dollop of "Star Wars" there -- self-sacrifice, romance, more self-sacrifice, more "Lord of the Rings" borrowings, etc. ... And it's not about anything, except setting up the next box office bonanza.
It's often left to the actors to carry the weight of their elaborate backstories with them, squeezing it into the cracks between plot: the Hulk and Black Widow's unconsummated love affair gets a lingering glance and a three-word exchange. It's hard to imagine a newcomer to the series being anything but bewildered but at this point, that hardly seems to matter. Infinity War is the payoff fans have been waiting for, the reward for slogging through movies inspired and otherwise, for sitting through the lists of hairdressers and key grips to catch every post-credits scene, for poring over blog posts and Wikipedia entries fleshing out details and explaining references; it's the prize you get when you collect 'em all. If you've ever sent away for one of those prizes, you know they're almost always a disappointment, but the thrill of completing the set is more important than the reward.
It's the Marvel equivalent of watching the old "We Are the World" video (Hey, it's Bob Dylan singing between to Cyndi Lauper and Huey Lewis!). And for the most part, this super-sized mash-up works better than you'd expect... [But] with at least 25 marquee characters crammed into the same story, you can feel the directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: Civil War) struggle at times to keep so many balls in the air. It's a bit like 10 pounds of movie jammed into a five-pound bag ... It ends up feeling a bit too disjointed - like we're flipping the channels between four different movies instead of watching one cohesive one.
There's no pacing in Avengers: Infinity War. It's all sensation and no pulse. Everything is big, all of the time. ... Avengers: Infinity War knows what a big deal it is. Just about all the Avengers together, in one two-hour-and-forty-minute movie, battling the most power-mad villain there ever was: Wow! Better not blow this one. And so the movie treats audience expectations like a set of ice-cube trays to be filled, and in the end, you have to admit it's very thorough. That's not the nicest thing you can say about it; it's the most damning.
Has any film series in history pursued the 'more of everything' and 'bigger is better' ethos as vigorously as the Avengers franchise? The latest installment, Avengers: Infinity War, heralds the arrival of 19 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in 10 years. Their running times are epic blow-outs, the latest ballooning into a elephantine 160 minutes. Working from a script (by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) that is less written than stage managed and more like a shopping list than drama, its co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo squeeze in 76 comic book characters, mistaking quality for quantity. None are well-written.