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“Avengers: Infinity War” is half a movie. It might be one-third of a movie, I’m still not sure. Regardless, the fact that it feels incomplete and lacking that something, but I can’t quite put my finger on it demotes it to the bottom of Marvel’s very tall barrel.

One of “Infinity War’s” greatest detriments is that it follows two of Marvel’s most stylistically unique films, those being “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Black Panther.” “Infinity War” feels like a return to form, with the exceptions of having a mammoth ensemble cast and a stronger-than-usual villain. There’s not anything that really sticks out to me in “Infinity War” that makes it memorable or separates itself from other Marvel entries. It’s pretty much just endless fighting, endless quips, and some emotional moments that don’t deliver.

The production quality is high, the CGI is impressive, and the direction is as good as it could have been. In terms of delivering a quality blockbuster of this scale, “Infinity War” is a triumph. It deserves that respect. But if you are looking for anything more than a two-and-a-half-hour slugfest, you’ll be disappointed. I was mostly looking forward to the banter between characters and a thorough exploration of Thanos’ character. We get some of that, but not nearly enough for the runtime. The father-daughter relationship between Thanos and Gamora gets some added depth but leaves a lot to be desired. The relationship between Thanos and Nebula is essentially nonexistent.

Thanos is a proponent of population control. He saw the effects of overpopulation first-hand on his own planet, and after being outcast from his home world turned into a universal activist for his cause. His plan is simple, but callous: exterminate half of all life in the universe to save resources. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up being a proponent of eugenics in the next film. His logic isn’t misplaced, as common sense dictates that exponential population growth cannot be sustained with limited resources. I wonder though, in Marvel’s universe, surely there are alien species that have learned alternative ways to produce resources that meet their growing population needs? If Thor can forge a hammer from the heart of a dying star, then there must be a way to synthesize or replicate food, water, and other necessities. Thanos’ conclusion seems shortsighted, and his plan is so banal and contrived that it seriously undermines his character. I found it difficult to empathize with him.

Speaking of “contrived,” much of the plot feels that way. Our heroes slowly work their way through Thanos’ army only to come up short at the end. Nothing about this movie surprised me. I expected characters to die, and I expected Thanos to win. The deaths have no effect on us because we know that all of these characters will either return for the next installment or are already confirmed in upcoming films. What is most frustrating about “Infinity War” is that there doesn’t seem to be enough screen time with the right characters. The Russo Brothers’ two other Marvel entries were both centered around Captain America. Here, Cap gets maybe five minutes of screen time. I was never interested in Vision and Wanda’s relationship (it just seemed unnatural), and far too much time is spent trying to jerk out feelings and tears from us on their behalf. On the other hand, I was interested in seeing the fallout between Natasha and Bruce, but no attention is given to them.

Some things that were brought up in previous films are left unresolved. The conflict between Bruce and Hulk is approached but needs fleshing out. Cap and Stark haven’t yet come to terms. And why did Thanos act like he knew Stark well? Is there some kind of psychological connection between them? Are Tony’s nightmares caused by Thanos?

Characters seem to make poor decisions. Quill attacking Thanos in a potential moment of victory particularly stands out, along with Thor’s decision to throw the axe into Thanos’ chest rather than head or arm. Why didn’t he want to cut off the arm with the glove on it? I’m to assume that was considered in the millions of possibilities that Doctor Strange explored. Again, we go back to the notion of a contrived plot. The very idea that there is a specific timeline that they are following screams “contrived.” Nothing feels natural in this film. Each character must end up somewhere with something at a particular time.

The original “Avengers” worked because each character was fleshed out. No one was left unattended to. “Age of Ultron” at times felt bogged down from too many subplots because of too many characters, but it had complexity and personality. “Infinity War” suffers from the same pitfalls but feels even more bogged down in subplots that come with further character additions. It lacks complexity because not one character has the time to go through change. This all makes “Age of Ultron” look better in retrospect.

Since Marvel was in this for the long haul, perhaps they should have released “Guardians 3” before “Infinity War” and made it Thanos-centric, with Thor and the Guardians mounting their attack in that one. It could have explored Thanos’ backstory much more competently and delved deeper into Thanos and Gamora’s relationship. Then, “Infinity War” could have focused solely on the Avengers located on Earth, leaving the culmination of everyone for the very last endeavor. Characters’ returns would then have been more uncertain.

“Infinity War” isn’t a terrible film, but it is missing persuasion to make us react on an intellectual or emotional level. It simply wasn’t written to be anything more than an action spectacular. I wanted to feel hopeless at the end. Instead, I know exactly what’s going to happen next.