**Warning Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War Below**
Avengers: Infinity War shattered box office records over the weekend with a massive $250 million domestic opening and $630 million worldwide. And there’s a good reason why it was so successful. Not only did Marvel Studios have a superb track record leading up to the film, but the film was also very good. It was everything that Star Wars: The Last Jedi wasn’t.
The First Five Minutes
If you look at the first five minutes of Avengers: Infinity War and compare it to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the differences are absolutely massive. In Avengers: Infinity War, we are introduced to Thanos and his Black Order as they have already ravaged the Asgardian refugee ship. In fact, if you listen closely you hear the Asgardians issuing a distress signal. From there, we see Thanos and his minions absolutely devastate a number of the Avengers including Thor and Hulk. Thanos breaks Hulk so bad, the big green guy refuses to fight. Thor’s brother Loki sees the life choked out of him, and Corvus Glaive finishes off a dying Heimdall. Meanwhile, Thanos and his Black Order care so little for Thor, they leave him to die in the wreckage of the ship. And it’s not just any wreckage, Thanos uses the Power Stone to obliterate what’s left of the ship.
Meanwhile, the opening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi turns the villains into a complete joke.
General Hux is the recipient of a prank phone call from Poe Dameron. He’s made out to be a complete buffoon who is incapable of deciphering his enemy’s ridiculous tactics. This is the same General Hux, who just came upon the Resistance in a surprise attack while they were evacuating the planet. On the one hand, he’s shown as a brilliant General while on the other he’s a buffoon. It’s bad characterization and doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Deaths Have Meaning
In Avengers: Infinity War the actual deaths have lasting meaning. The scene on Vormir with Thanos and Gamora is absolutely gutting. When Thanos turns around with tears in his eyes and you see Gamora’s triumph turn into fear and despair; it is a truly powerful, riveting moment. I would dare say it is a defining character moment for Thanos. Gamora’s death has meaning not only for Thanos to acquire the Soul Stone, but also in showing us who he is as a character. He is compelled to fulfill his destiny even if he must sacrifice the one thing he loves in the universe.
But it’s not just Gamora’s death that has meaning. Vision’s death is also highly emotional. His first death gives you a brief amount of hope. Thanos will be thwarted, the Mind Stone is destroyed. However, Thanos simply uses the Time Stone and brings Vision and the Mind Stone back. He then rips the Mind Stone from Vision’s head getting what he needs. It’s actually a brilliant plot tactic that toys with our emotions as an audience. We have a brief glimpse of hope that is utterly thwarted by Thanos’ destiny.
And as we stated above the deaths of Heimdall and Loki also showed us that Thanos and his Black Order mean business.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, death to the characters doesn’t really mean anything. What did Snoke’s death actually accomplish? Nothing. The First Order did not fall into turmoil – it continued as is. The only thing we got out of Snoke’s death was one of the most lackluster lightsaber fights in all of Star Wars history. I mean there are Snoke Praetorian Guards just stabbing the floor for no apparent reason.
One of the worst deaths was Admiral Ackbar. A beloved character was simply blown out of the spaceship and forgotten.
But maybe the worst sin of all for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is that it kills off Luke Skywalker without any real explanation. Did he die from exhaustion? Did he use too much of the Force? Who knows why he died. He just goes to the top of that mountain and drifts off. His death has no significance. It had no meaning.
Characterization Is King
Avengers: Infinity War knows their characters. They know who Tony Stark is. They know who Captain America is. They know who Doctor Strange each is. Each of the characters are different and directors Joe and Anthony Russo use them to play off one another in excellent fashion. We see Strange’s stern nature and his oath come into conflict with Tony Stark’s more laid-back style and his own moral outlook on the world.
And while Tony Stark’s character has evolved since 2008’s Iron Man, the core of his character remains intact. He’s still the billionaire, playboy philanthropist from The Avengers, although he might just be acting as a playboy for one lady now. But his personality is intact. He’s still going to make the same decisions. In fact, they show us he’s going to make the same decisions as he rockets himself into space and even refuses to return to Earth despite Pepper Potts’ insistence. He made this same choice in The Avengers when he made the decision to rocket a nuclear weapon into the Chitauri mother ship.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, director Rian Johnson throws characterization to the wind especially when it comes to Luke Skywalker. He’s not the same Luke Skywalker any more. Yes, he faced a tragic moment, but he’s faced tragedy before. But in The Last Jedi he makes radically different decisions than in previous films. He secludes himself on a remote planet and then supposedly detaches himself from the Force. He even throws his lost lightsaber over his shoulder insinuating he doesn’t give a crap about what’s happening in the world. It’s a decision that doesn’t make any sense and shows a lack of understanding about the character.
No Subversion Necessary
Avengers: Infinity War doesn’t deconstruct the superhero movie genre. In fact, it makes it bigger and bolder. It’s a giant superhero action flick where the action barely rests for 30 seconds at a time. The slow points only feel slow because the rest of the film is coming at you at 100 mph. It also isn’t trying to reinvent the genre. It’s introducing a bigger, badder villain whose vastly more powerful than anything the heroes have faced.
It’s high-flying action with a mix of comedy, and a story that has dramatic consequences for its characters. It’s not subverting the genre. It’s simply this big bad guy whose goal is wiping out half of life in the universe. Here’s what he needs to do it and here’s how he’s going to do it. The heroes are going to try and stop it. It’s simple yet exciting, fun, and dramatic.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is everything BUT exciting, fun, and dramatic. Instead the film is described as a subversion of expectations. Rey’s parents, who were a huge mystery leading up to the film, ended up being completely unimportant. Luke Skywalker would still be a wise Jedi – nope, he doesn’t give two bits about being a Jedi or the galaxy at all. We might find out who Snoke is or what his plans are. Nope, he’s killed off by Kylo Ren.
No Political Messaging
Avengers: Infinity War is practically devoid of any political messaging. Yes, you could argue that Thanos’ goal of wiping out half of the universe because of overpopulation is a political message. I mean even Prince William is talking about overpopulation, but he’s also not advocating to wipe out half of humanity. But aside from Thanos’ set goal and desire, there isn’t any political messaging. Joe and Anthony Russo didn’t use the movie to preach a certain viewpoint. It’s a simple superhero action movie with great characterization and excellent choreographed fight sequences.
Now, don’t get me wrong there are definitely some moral lessons in the movie. Thor’s mission about not giving up is strong and he even offers advice to Eitri that his power is not in his hands, but in his mind. But those are basic life lessons, they aren’t overt political messages.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the entire Canto Bight sequence is littered with political messages. Instead of it just being a normal casino, Johnson pushed a message onto the casino. It’s only attended by the rich who profit off of war. Not only that, but they keep children as slaves, and are cruel to animals that are used for sport. It’s impossible to ignore the messages because they are so in your face. It ruins the movie-going experience and lessens the movie.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe and Anthony Russo saw the criticisms of Rian Johnson’s Star Wars and took them to heart. They produced a good popcorn flick that was fun, exciting, but most of all served the story Marvel Studios has been telling with their characters for more than a decade. Let’s hope J.J. Abrams took note of Avengers: Infinity War and saw how you make a good film in a longstanding franchise.