Sally Jane Black’s review published on Letterboxd:
Over-population is a myth.
The truth is, there's more than enough for all of us on this planet. There's enough food, enough homes, enough teachers and doctors. Scarcity is an intentionally created condition. Corporations throw away food and leave homes empty to drive up the prices. It's part of the capitalist model.
This film shows over-population as the motivation for a genocidal villain (usually, over-population is a lie made up by genocidal villains, but this one seems to believe it's true). Instead of refuting this idea, the film instead takes a different route: it takes an individualistic, moralistic stance. Genocide is the single worst crime. It's the destruction of nations, the destruction of cultures, the destruction of millions (or more, in this case). The scale to which this film takes it (and the original comic books, if I recall correctly) is so much bigger, but "genocide" is the biggest word we have for it. What is particularly egregious about it is that it's a collective death, an attempt to exterminate (and that's the word they would use as they do it) groups of people, whole identities of people. It's so much more than a single person.
The film repeatedly pits the heroes against their own morals, and repeatedly, it shows them seeking to save a single person over the fate of trillions. That's monstrous. What sort of vile cowards are these alleged heroes? Vision is literally willing to sacrifice himself, and they refuse. They let trillions die. The entire scenario is preposterous, of course, but it's a comic book movie. In real life, very rarely will the death of one person save any significant number of people. Going back in time to kill baby Hitler probably wouldn't prevent the Holocaust (if it would, it would be an easy choice). There were many Nazis. The ideas and conditions that led to it were more than just Mein Kampf. The idea of individualism is a lie as well, and one that traps us. That's why oppression has to be understood collectively and systematically; it's not about just one person. Your enemy isn't the president, or the Koch Brothers, or Jeff Bezos. It's all of them; it's the bourgeoisie collectively. It's the capitalist class, which has a class interest in oppressing, exploiting, and even killing you. Genocide is the monetization of murder on a massive scale (remember: the concentration camps earned German capitalists billions).
This is all to say that genocide is not a subject that superhero films can really handle well. The premise of these films is the power of an individual (or small group of people). It is inherent to these stories that individuals are the ones who change things, who make a difference, who are heroes and saviors and villains. And that's never the case. Genocide isn't committed by just one person; class struggle isn't about individuals. Our salvation will come collectively or not at all. It would be absurd to expect such a genre to tackle either the subject of over-population or genocide (ideas that go hand-in-hand, one the lie that "justifies" the other) well, but it's also impossible not to watch these "heroes" repeatedly make terrible choices on an individualist basis that leads to the death of trillions.
It would be infuriating, except that, well... I know how films work, how comic books work, how the original comics go, and how capitalism works:
(a) Besides the fact that this is the first part of a film split in two, this story isn't over, obviously. You'd have to be asleep not to know that Dr. Strange's insistence means there's some sort of long-term salvation coming, even if you couldn't just know that movies like this don't let trillions just die.
(b) It's actually kinda neat that the trope of "comic book death" is built into the narrative here. You can already see the resurrections coming, and if this weren't in the hands of incompetent storytellers, it might lead to a powerful moment.
(c) A lot has changed from what I remember of the original comics this is based on, but it's hilarious that the ending of this movie echoes the silliest fucking part of a very silly comic book.
(d) To state the obvious, they ain't killing off that many cashcows permanently.
(e) Law of fives filler spot.
Which means that, of course, all of these sacrifices they just showed lack much emotional impact. It's less about crying over Superhero A's death than it is about the mystery of what comes next, of how they're coming back, of how they outsmart Thanos in the end. That's a fine source of tension for competent storytellers, but again: the filmmakers here aren't that. We have performances ranging from wooden and dull to ridiculous and hammy to better than the script deserves. The script is... if they weren't making billions off of this, I'd expect these actors to feel very silly with these lines. I don't expect much more from this genre, but at times, it felt like they weren't even trying. The spatial awareness in the fight scenes (which are most of the movie) varies scene to scene (not terrible in New York; completely unfollowable on Titan). And the spectacle of it all is just... wasted. Unimaginative. The few moments where we get a feel for something unreal, something wondrous, something horrible, are brief and incomplete (the neutron star rings, the pit where the Soul Stone is). The rest of it, everything from the fields of Wakanda to the alien ships are repetitive, ugly, or very limited (we see maybe a half mile of Titan?). You have the entire cosmos to play with and this is what we get?
It also means that, of course, the themes are incomplete. So much rides on the ending of a story. It ties everything up; it puts the period on the end of the sentence. The thoughts here aren't fully formed. I don't know what the film's understanding of over-population and genoicde is because it hasn't finished telling me. But so far, it's liberal, individualistic nonsense.
Other complaints include but are not limited to
* Who the fuck is Anthony Mackie playing? Why does he just show up and then vanish? He had no role in the plot whatsoever.
* Wakanda is a completely wasted setting in this. Of course, they're relying on my having seen Black Panther, which I haven't, but any good film should have some self-containment.
* These stones have so much power, but Thanos spends a lot of time just blasting things. What a fucking waste of my time.
* I thought Scarlet Witch could alter reality by speaking. In this she just shoots red lasers. All of the women just kinda are there, supporting the men, who have things to do.
* All? of the main leads are boring white dudes.
* Benedict Cumberbatch is really insufferable, but somehow, Robert Downey Jr. makes him look tolerable by comparison. Hanging the franchise on that obnoxious fuck would turn me off of it if I had any interest in the first place.
* That Hulk subplot is really familiar and might have been in the original comics, but it feels contrived, just a bad writers' way of keeping the over-powered hero out of things.
* Not gay enough.
* Not gay at all.
The one thing I liked:
* When Thor shows up and obliterates a buncha things at once, it actually felt like a superhero moment. They ignore how powerful he's supposed to be a minute later, but it was pretty fun when it happened.
This is what happens when I let the Internet chatter convince me to give a comic book movie a chance.