WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity War.
Avengers: Infinity War mostly balances humor with action and drama, but the Starbucks joke is one of the most jarring moments in the movie. Since Infinity War kicks off the beginning of the end to the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, the movie is tasked with uniting superheroes from across the franchise for the battle against Thanos. However, the Avengers and their allies split off into smaller groups and the movie jumps from one storyline to the other. So, while Captain America's storyline in Infinity War sees him trying to protect Vision and the Mind Stone, Thor, Rocket and Groot work to forge Stormbreaker.
Meanwhile, Thanos captures Gamora, who he raised as his daughter, and it was established in earlier Marvel movies that he was an abusive father figure. He uses her love for her sister, Nebula, to learn the location of the Soul Stone. When Thanos and Gamora arrive on Vormir, though, they learn that he must sacrifice something he loves to obtain the stone. Thanos kills Gamora in one of Avengers: Infinity War's most emotional moments. However, as the story moves on to another plot beat, one joke feels especially poorly timed.
Mere minutes after Gamora's death, Avengers: Infinity War cuts to Captain America and his team's arrival in Wakanda. The scene features Okoye griping to T'Challa about opening up Wakanda's borders, saying she thought he meant they would get the Olympics, "maybe even a Starbucks." This quip was featured in Avengers: Infinity War TV spots and may have gotten a laugh from moviegoers in theaters. However, the stark transition from one of the movie's darkest moments to a blasé joke about Starbucks is jarring and can take viewers out of the movie.
While, of course, Marvel films are known for their levity - and often praised for it - this is another instance of MCU movies using humor to undercut particularly emotional moments. One criticism of Thor: Ragnarok was that the film laughed off much of its emotional stakes, with characters delivering jokes or quippy one-liners that worked more to undermine emotional moments than bring levity. While Infinity War is largely successful in balancing its humor and drama, the Starbucks joke arrives too soon after a major emotional scene.
Further, the Starbucks joke is indicative of a larger issue with the use of Black Panther characters in Avengers: Infinity War. Many Marvel heroes took a backseat to certain characters who were more central to the storyline of Thanos acquiring the Infinity Stones, but beyond the battle scenes (and sometimes even in the battle scenes), the characters introduced in Black Panther are mostly utilized to bring humor to the movie. Okoye cracks the Starbucks joke, T'Challa waves off Bruce Banner's attempt at bowing, Shuri pokes fun at Bruce for the construction of Vision. It's obvious Infinity War was written and filmed before Black Panther became the worldwide phenomenon it did because these depictions of the characters are frustratingly one-dimensional - especially in comparison to Ryan Coogler's movie.
Beyond the fact that the joke comes too soon after Gamora's death and feels slightly off for Okoye's character, it's also a blatant product placement. Product placement has become more and more integrated into film and TV but in light of Starbucks' recent publicity, this one feels especially poorly timed both in terms of the film's narrative and current real world events. While the quip will no doubt work for many Avengers: Infinity War viewers, it still may be the least successful joke in the whole movie.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019