One funny video followed by some nerd ranting. Feel free to ignore the rant if you want. I won’t be offended. 😉 Spoiler warnings for Avengers: Infinity War below the fold.
I love pitch meeting as a way to convey quick writing points in a much more concise and entertaining way than others like… CinemaSins.
(I do hate their title cards though)
So let me talk about that bit “shut up, audience” and why bothers me in an otherwise fabulous movie.
One of my standards for grading a story is how well I can imagine “what ifs.” This especially comes to movies that involve plans or competing actions between heroes and villains. “What if” this ally was late? What if the villain had won at this point or that point?
What bugs me in Av:IW is that this method kind of falls apart with the Dr. Strange bit. So I’m going to work through this here with my writerly brain. Let’s go down the rabbit hole together. Also note that I barely know the original comic so this will all just be based upon the movies alone and how stories work.
Doc says there’s one strategy that can work. Now if you’re familiar with narrative law, you know that the only plans which ever do work in a story are the ones the audience never sees actually planned out (because that would be boring). We never see the characters talk about this so based upon the narrative law, we have every reason to think this plan could actually work. All well and good so far. The following fight has legitimate tension as we know there’s an equal chance it could succeed or fail.
Then Starlord starts talking to Thanos and grows emotional. The first question we have is how did Dr. Strange not see this coming? We the audience saw this coming and we don’t have the Time Stone at our disposal to see the future. Sure maybe the future is in flux because of free will and all but if you can see the possibilities of Starlord screwing things up, why not give him a job or restrain him during the plan’s execution to increase the odds of it working?
But then at the movie’s end Dr. Strange tells Tony Stark, “it was the only way.” The line delivery implies that Thanos getting the stone was the plan all along. But then if that was the plan, why bother with the whole fight and effort of nearly beating him? Why not just give him the Time Stone at the start and save everyone the time and effort? Considering that everybody involved except Tony dissolved into nothing, why not skip the fight and give them just a bit of extra time to spend with their loved ones?
Now yes, a lot of this will ultimately be determined by part 2 with the final arc of the story. Yet there is only one possible ending to the plot. We all know Marvel movies are planned out for the next several years. A death toll involving half the universe is just too big to leave hanging over those films – not to mention that suddenly losing half of the population of earth would cause widespread chaos. The next 2 movies in every character line would almost have to be entirely devoted to just fixing the world. So the only possible solution is going to be someone getting the gauntlet and doing a giant “ctrl+z” (the key commands for “undo”) which is entirely plausible in the narrative with a time stone. (The real question is going to be if the writers can make the journey to the obvious destination interesting for 90+ minutes.)
So, since we know how the story has to conclude. Either the heroes will get the gauntlet and undo the “format universe – restore from backups”, or Thanos will have a change of heart and choose to undo his own plan. That’s literally the only two possibilities from the “ctrl+z” conclusion. This is where we run into the main issue.
If the resolution is the heroes undoing the damage, then how did Dr. Strange’s plan help? They nearly got the Gauntlet the first time so it would be the same resolution to the story, just occurring earlier.
If the resolution is Thanos having a personal journey and changing his mind, how did the fight help in that? People hitting you in the face with a gun tends to steel someone’s resolve, not change it. Had Dr. Strange said something like, “I’ll give you the stone, Thanos, after you take a walk with me.” And then they went on some kind of journey examining life, the universe, and everything, that I could see causing him to rethink things later on. As it is, I just don’t believe the fight we got – while very entertaining – can possibly contribute to the finale.
I did wonder if Dr. Strange or Loki would booby trap the stones they turned over so they would explode or something when placed on the Gauntlet but the time for that reveal was before half the universe was killed.
And that’s why I’m bugged by the “shut up, audience” bit in the movie. Well that and it’s just shy of the author literally coming out onto the stage and yelling at us – which is always bad writing. It just gets worse when by the structure of the story, the audience can tell that the author is wrong.
The worst of it is that all you have to do to fix it is change one line. Instead of Dr. Strange’s final line, just change it to something along the lines of, “It was a long shot, but at least we tried.” A line like that lets us know that they really tried at their plan and just failed. Which would create more tension and interest in me for the sequel. I’m still going to see it in the theaters, but I’m not hopeful as to its quality since no story can build a strong finale upon a weak beginning.
If you make a story sometime, ask yourself: what would happen if this critical moment in the story went differently? If you can’t come up with an answer, think about that more. If the answer you do come up with is better than your initial plan, consider carefully why you’re going with the weaker path.
And don’t yell at your audience.