(WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War. If you have not seen the movie, STOP READING NOW.)
I want to preface this article by saying I loved Avengers: Infinity War. I don’t count it among the best of the MCU films, but it definitely was the culmination; the movie brought me much of what I’ve been waiting for over the past decade.
That being said, the movie was not perfect (nor did I expect it to be), so there will be valid critiques.
In my opinion, one of the most significant issues Infinity War faced was the sheer amount of main characters. The memes may have mocked the claim, but this indeed was the most ambitious crossover in cinema history.
When you have 19 superheroes (yes, nineteen main protagonists), however, you’re going to have problems giving them similar story and screen time. You only have so much time, even in a 2 ½ hour film, to make sure everybody gets the spotlight.
To better explain how I think the movie failed on this front, let’s look at the characters and their general presence.
Doctor Strange and Spider-Man received a decent share of the spotlight, playing significant roles in events. Unfortunately, neither received much in the way of personal growth – they were primarily there as plot points and participants.
Scarlet Witch and Vision were the opposite, receiving the story and development we’d wished for since Age of Ultron, yet their spotlight was limited to drama. Vision spent most of the movie wounded or powerless; Wanda used her powers for a few action sequences, barring her big finale with the Mind Stone and Thanos.
The Guardians already suffer from having to share screen time with each other, but now they’re doing so with even more characters; Rocket, Groot, Drax, and Mantis all had good moments, but they were almost relegated to supporting cast. The one exception is Gamora, who received far more backstory and growth, but unfortunately was killed two-thirds into the movie.
After the fantastic and record-breaking film that was Black Panther, T’Challa and Wakanda only showed up partway through the movie. Both existed solely as a plot point – a place for the other characters to rally and to lend associates and armies to help in the battle.
Although there were moments of humor, references, or badassery found in the Black Panther film, overall Wakanda was only there because audiences wanted it. T’Challa and company showed no development and only provided extra bodies (quite literally) for the action sequences.
The Hulk is an interesting one because he honestly played an essential part in everything – or should I say Bruce Banner did. Other than the opening, the Hulk was primarily absent, as Banner lost the ability to change.
The choice to not use one of the biggest powerhouses in the Marvel universe was risky and disappointing (not to mention the trailers lied). I loved the development of Banner/Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok, but for this film, he was relegated to tying everyone together, and comedy; even his action sequences were done for laughs.
Captain America was probably the worst used lead in the whole film, receiving a sliver of the spotlight he deserved. He would show up as an ally, but he never actually led anyone but his group; compared to his role in previous films, he fell far behind Stark, Strange, and Quill in that role.
Overall, I felt like Rogers was there for action sequences and to bring his story back around since Civil War. I didn’t feel anything had changed since the end of that movie; he was mostly there to look awesome and kick ass.
Of course, there’s also the problem of what I call the “side” heroes. These are mainstream faces in comics that have been relegated to associates or “sidekicks” in the MCU and only appear in others’ franchises (or ensemble films).
Unfortunately, their screen time and development were limited, with almost no spotlight barring action sequences. Natasha might have received the most time out of this group, but even then, it was still limited to only a few references to her previous plot points.
Although understandable that the big names should receive the most screen time, I felt there was a grave injustice done to some of these characters. Barnes and Wilson, in particular, were practically relegated to “robot-arm soldier” and “flying guy with guns,” a grave injustice considering their comic roles (not to mention possible successors to Rogers).
Not to mention the characters that didn’t even make it into the film; Ant-Man and Hawkeye were mentioned but otherwise wholly cut out of this pinnacle film. Although I’m sure they have plans for Lang, given his sequel is the next film, Barton feels like he’s being written out ala Jane Foster.
I realize that this was an ambitious crossover and focusing equally on everyone would be nigh impossible. I’m not sure if there’s ever been another film with 19 characters that are all “major” players in the source material.
The spotlight felt extremely lopsided at times, however, to the point even some franchise leads were relegated to supporting cast. Plus, the complete lack of consideration for some favorite superheroes, who might take up a mantle in future films.
Overall, I think the film was well done, and they tried to include as much as they could. I merely believe the writers could have made some better choices, particularly with T’Challa, Rogers, and Banner, and tried to give a little more love to all those “sidekick” heroes.
All I can say is, “Wakanda not enough” and pass the stars and stripes to the next shield-bearer.