Stu: "Hey, want to go see Infinity War tonight? There's a showing at 8:00."
Me: "Eh, it'll be so packed, we'll have to queue up for seats if we don't want to sit in the front row."
Stu: *big eyes*
Me: *long-suffering sigh*
We decided to buy our tickets early and go for dinner near the theatre figuring that would leave us with enough time to find decent seats. Also we were going to a 2D showing, and hoped it would be less packed than the others.
It was not less packed.
After dinner, leaning back in the admittedly quite comfortably plush and reclining chairs of the fourth row from the front, I contemplated my feelings.
I had no expectations of this film. I'd loved Spider Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther beyond all reckoning, and didn't think any of the things I loved about those movies would feature in this one. I'd also read Emily Asher-Perrin's Tor.com post titled "Why I Don't Care if Anyone Dies in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR" and nodded along. I was looking forward to seeing the cosmic crew again, enjoying some quipping, blinking at a lot of pretty lights, and appreciating at least one shot of a thoroughly muscled man trying to hold on to two things pulling in separate directions.
As it turned out, I was unprepared for how much I would, in fact, care, and be affected and impressed.
I was even less prepared for the interruption of a climactic battle by someone in the theatre's back row screaming about having seen a knife.
A white man in a pink hoodie was standing up and screaming "she has a knife! She has a knife, I saw it!" at the woman next to him. The woman in question seemed bent over and hardly moving, but it was hard to see anything from down at the front, where Stu and I were. The theatre was emptying out as people tried to give the screaming person space, as others called security; I was two digits into calling 9-1-1 when the tenor of the scene seemed to change, as people surrounding Pink Hoodie started shouting back "no she doesn't have a knife." The police arrived. Pink Hoodie tried to get away but a number of people called out to stop him as the person who'd made all the trouble.
It turned out -- so far as Stu and I could piece together from being near people giving statements or talking about it -- the woman next to him thought she was having a heart attack and stood up. Pink Hoodie started shouting at her to sit down, and when she wouldn't, he started screaming about her having a knife.
What made this all especially surreal is that for the first five minutes of the altercation, the film was still playing. Stu and I kept looking from each other to it, uncertain of what to do; the situation was being handled in front of us, but it felt as wrong to stare at someone being escorted out of the building for medical reasons as to ignore them in favour of a blockbuster film. I found myself looking at everyone else who'd stood up from their seats -- most of the theatre -- seeing the same uncertain decision-making playing out on their faces.
Once they paused the film, it felt as if everyone in the theatre relaxed. Some people left, perhaps to get refunds; others stayed; we all looked at each other with disbelief, nervous laughter, shaking heads. I took a photo of the stopped film (which should give away nothing except that Thanos is in it):
And then, after all that, a manager came in, apologised for the disturbance, said one guest was escorted out and another was receiving medical attention, and that they could restart the movie after backing it up 15 minutes.
So we all sat down again and kept watching.
It was difficult not to reflect on the distance between the enormous cosmic weaponry on the screen, and the threat of a non-existent knife in the theatre. How much of the former I brought to my experience of the latter. How much the latter had affected us all. How, looking up at the back rows while people were shouting, I found myself tense with unexamined confidence in my ability to take someone down through sheer force of will, as only someone who's never been in a real fight can.
It made for a very strange experience. I'm still thinking about it. I hope that woman was okay, and that the screaming man faced some consequence for further distressing her.
And, for my sins, I'm really looking forward to Avengers 4, whatever it ends up being called.
(Let's please also avoid spoilers in comments, if you've seen it too.)