How 'Avengers: Infinity War' and 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' shatter fan expectations to be the riskiest movies in their franchises
- "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" both ask a lot of each franchise's fans in terms of letting go of expectations.
- "Infinity War" puts its characters in vulnerable positions audiences haven't seen before, and "The Last Jedi" asks its characters to forget the past.
- These ideas push the Marvel Cinematic Universe and "Star Wars" franchises forward.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."
"Avengers: Infinity War" and "Star War: The Last Jedi" have more in common than just being huge, Disney-owned installments of beloved franchises. They both set new standards thematically for their respective franchises, and therefore, ask their audiences to let go of expectations they've established based on previous movies.
Upon its release in December, "The Last Jedi" was met with heated debate from fans over its depiction of franchise hero Luke Skywalker and its many non-answers to Rey's parentage. Director Rian Johnson said he even received death threats from enraged fans.
But many of these expectations were set by fans themselves.
Fans often love theorizing about their favorite franchises, and the secret to Rey's parentage offered that opportunity. "The Last Jedi," though, chose a path in which Rey's parents aren't anyone we know, and therefore no one important. That stung those who spent the two years between "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi" guessing who her parents might be.
Theories were made about "Infinity War," and the movie took similar risks with fan expectations. But for the most part, it seems to have so far dodged much of the complaints fans had about "The Last Jedi," despite both movies being more similar than audiences may think (as pointed out in this piece from The Guardian).
Maybe it's because the devastating ending to "Infinity War" - in which many of the Avengers fade into dust with a snap of villain Thanos' fingers - will most likely be reversed in some way (even though the writers say the deaths are "real").
But if those characters are actually gone for good, and next year's sequel "doesn't do what you think it does," as screenwriter Christopher Markus said, then that will be another example of pushing the boundaries of what this franchise is willing to do to its characters.
Before "Infinity War," Marvel wasn't willing to do a whole lot. It was rare for main characters, besides villains, to die. Whether or not its sequel reverses its ending, the movie still stripped its characters of their ability to be in control of their own mortality. In a franchise about God-like beings who rarely have to question their own vulnerabilities so vividly, this is a big departure for a fanbase that has grown accustomed to heroes who always come out on top.
Similarly, "The Last Jedi" asked its characters - and audience - to forget the past. It's even more forward about its intentions to disrupt fan expectations than "Infinity War," which is probably another reason why it received more criticism for doing so.
Kylo Ren literally tells Rey to forget the past and "kill it" if she has to. The entire movie hinges on this theme, which might have been hard for longtime fans to stomach. "Star Wars," after all, has always been rooted in the past, and "The Last Jedi" was about moving forward.
The fan reaction to "Infinity War" and "The Last Jedi" may be different, but by taking the risks that they do, both movies point out flaws in fandom itself. Fandom can be both a franchise's key to success and its worst enemy. Both movies did incredibly well at the box office ("Infinity War" just got started, but is well on its way to crossing $1 billion worldwide soon). But they also both have impossible expectations to meet that have been set by fans.
In the end, the creators made the best movies they could that were true to each franchise while pushing them forward - as fans, that should be the only thing we expect.
More on the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
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