Were Infinity War And Last Jedi Really Doing The Same Thing?
These two movies are predicated on doing some heavy lifting for a bigger story. They're the setup for a big conflict-resolving final chapter, couched in being the slightly leftfield and unexpected installment. Things go wrong and we see our heroes and villains from new and (hopefully) surprising angles, getting a greater idea of what's really at stake and who stands for what. They're both bold pictures, of that there is no doubt, but the methods in which they deliver their shocking twists and big reveals are very different.
Infinity War is a wonder of narrative engineering, 18 films brought together into one massive blockbuster that somehow stands on its own. Whatever you may think of the Joe and Anthony Russo's directing, they deserve credit for Avengers 3 not being a complete mess. Very little of what the film does is explicitly new or surprising, but therein lies the accomplishment. It didn't need to do anything special, it just had to bring all these disparate parts and tones into one story while keeping the contrivance down. Most of the heroes' time on-screen is just them all meeting up, and that's all that was needed to feel exciting – the actual big story is Thanos and his plans was the big hook that needed the appropriate emphasis.
The Last Jedi is telling a radically different story. It's the second-to-last chapter of a saga now over 40 years old that many fans have waited generations to see. There's a much greater reliance on bringing something new to the table and pushing forward this epic narrative into its big finale in an engaging, thoughtful way that balances canon with new perspective. And instead of trying to walk a tight-rope between fan perception and being new and innovative, The Last Jedi just favored the latter, doing things nobody expected and interrogating lots of the historical context the series is steeped in.
Rey's parents being nobodies, killing Snoke, Poe getting Vice Admiral Holdo wrong – these are plot-points that refute how we think Star Wars stories go. In Force Awakens, Abrams set a precedence for worshiping the Original Trilogy that Johnson cast aside to tell a tale that was all this trilogy's own. Last Jedi's plot follows the protagonists being wrong and failing at just about every turn before they survive by the skin of their teeth, hope exclusively lying in the hands of the new cast, who're heralding a more diverse future for the franchise.
There's a strong argument that nothing in the new Avengers is as shocking bar perhaps Red Skull's return. A lot of the broad strokes like Vision's death and there being two distinctive plot-lines following Stark and Rogers weren't unanticipated. The employment of such a harrowing ending is the film's most unforeseen aspect, especially watching so many heroes fade away into non-existence – far more than that of Last Jedi.
But a key difference is that the MCU retains the ability to walk back any major death or plotting it wants to. That's literally the power of one of the central plot devices. And if the Infinity Gauntlet functions anything like the comics, the lives it erases from our existence can be restored using the same magic. In Star Wars when someone dies, they are dead. So when Last Jedi kills Snoke and Luke, those become immovable points in the timeline. And when the continuity is that sincere, the how and why can be very contentious, as evidenced by the severe beliefs held either way for both Snoke and Luke.
Fans Were Ready For Infinity War
Being candid about it, Episode VIII had a near-impossible job. If any series is loved too intensely its Star Wars, and Last Jedi had to be the middle child in the property's big return. There's just nothing that could wholly match the hype that worked for everyone. The villain for the third Avengers was revealed back in 2012 and the rest of the foundations were built across the rest of the down films since then. Audiences knew what Infinity War was going to do and how it was going to do it. Thanos is going to come in, he's going to gather the Infinity Stones, and the ending will feed directly into Avengers 4. It's the basic plot of the Mad Titan's introduction in the comics from 1994. Despite the more esoteric fan theories, people knew what was coming and the general manner it'd be delivered.
Episode VIII could have been more predictable, but instead, Rian Johnson took it to places audiences really weren't prepared for. Luke as an emotionally cold exile who actively resists getting involved and Kylo revealing Rey's heritage defy traditional Star Wars and thus defied fans. People felt some aspects were contrarian for the sake of it, despite the story being drafted before The Force Awakens' release and thus before speculation on what that film setup really became a thing. Whatever the case, neither this nor Infinity War have give their follow-ups next year an easy job, that's for sure.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Star Wars 7 / Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) release date: Dec 18, 2015
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017