It’s an exciting time to be a film fan, as we enter the last few days before the biggest and most ambitious cinematic event in history. No, it’s not the ‘Snyder Cut’ of Justice League – we’re still holding out on that one. It’s Avengers: Infinity War. The film represents the culmination of the world’s most successful movie franchise, which spans a decade, many billions of dollars in profit and two Incredible Hulks. For many, the first opportunity to see the movie will be late Wednesday night – or early Thursday morning, depending on how you like to look at it – but the critical embargo will break 24 hours before that, at 11pm on Tuesday night. That’s merely an hour after the first and only press screening for British critics finishes.
Disney is doing a smart thing. It anticipates people to be so overwhelmed by the spectacle of Infinity War, and the need for the critics to meet a sharp deadline, that it will prompt a flood of overwhelmingly positive reviews based on instant reaction. It’s also a dangerous game because, if the movie is disappointing, people will have no time to rationalise and interrogate that disappointment, and will therefore react in a knee-jerk fashion.
The reality is that, as we stare down the barrel of the biggest movie event in history and the most ambitious and expensive project ever made, it’s impossible for the reaction to be fair in either direction.
A three-star disappointment when we expected the best movie ever will render it a miserable failure in the eyes of many – a bloated mess that can’t live up to its hype. A four-star, solid Marvel flick with jokes and action in the right place will be opined as a masterpiece due to the film’s raw ambition. Basically, if it’s like Ant-Man it will be a failure and if it’s like Iron Man it will be a masterpiece, when the cold facts are that actually, those movies are both just fine.
On another note, if what many have predicted about the film happens, you’re going to be asking people to review a two-and-a-half-hour movie that brings together the complex threads of a decade of storytelling, in the hour after they watch Tony Stark or Captain America die. Thinking about that makes me uncertain about how the second half of this piece will go, let alone a definitive review.
We’ve been here before. You will find many critics who review Avengers: Infinity War in the coming weeks will also have joked recently about how they don’t want an Avatar sequel, despite the fact they likely gave Avatar five stars on release. The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises were such cultural phenomena that the reaction of immediate ecstasy struggled to abate for some time.
The reality is that those movies are all fine. I thoroughly enjoy Avatar, but understand it’s derivative and simple. I thoroughly enjoy The Dark Knight movies, but understand that the movies are messy, anchored by a generation-defining Heath Ledger performance and Christopher Nolan’s eye for an overwhelming action montage. These movies were the biggest of their respective years, and in Avatar’s case potentially the biggest of its generation in terms of ambition. It took months, even years, for the reaction to settle on a consensus somewhere approaching the truth.
When I left the cinema after The Dark Knight Rises, I was telling the people I saw it with that it was one of my favourite films. A watch on Blu-ray later and I still enjoyed the movie, but it’s nowhere near competent enough to merit that initial rating I gave it. Its ability to generate overwhelming spectacle is to its credit and leaves you feeling dazed after first watch.
This is not to warn you against watching Avengers: Infinity War. The biggest movie event in history is something we should all partake in and indeed it might just be a masterpiece. Feel free to enjoy it, hate it or feel very little towards it. The point is that, with a spectacle this big, hype this strong and tired critics writing a review at 10.30pm, we won’t know the true quality of this movie until the Thanos-induced explosion of dust finally settles.
Do you think the reviews of Avengers: Infinity War will be a fair reflection of the film’s quality? Let me know in the comments section.