AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
And the world's longest and most expensive soap opera continues.
I know many people who love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so much so that they were willing to forgo a day+ of their lives by staying virtually locked in theaters to watch most if not all the MCU films in a marathon. Part of me admires their devotion, even as I remember that these same people for the most part would not dare sit through the nearly three-and-a-half hour Seven Samurai because it's "too long, black-and-white, and in Japanese".
Avengers: Infinity War is loved by many fans, who have told me that old 'I laughed, I cried' line.
For me, I found it hollow, empty, boring, devoid of anything worth the adulation. I know more than a few MCU fans would qualify Avengers: Infinity War as 'Shakespearean', whatever that means. In their honor, I'll quote Shakespeare when it comes to Avengers: Infinity War. "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".
A short plot synopsis is "Thanos (Josh Brolin) is on an intergalactic treasure hunt to wipe out half of all living things to save on resources. Various superheroes, some affiliated with The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy accidentally meet up to fight him, he wins, some of them appear to die, the end'.
I was forewarned that I should see Thor: Ragnarok before seeing Infinity War, and perhaps I should have, as we start in medias res with a defeated Thor (Chris Hemsworth) being tortured by the 'Children of Thanos' into revealing where the Tesseract is. The Tesseract is really one of the Infinity Stones, a collection of intergalactic jewels that will grant the wearer unlimited and absolute power over all. A few more deaths from Thanos before Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is sent back to Earth.
Now, Bruce channeling Kevin McCarthy from Invasion of the Body Snatchers goes on and on about Thanos to those he's crashed onto: Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong), one of Strange's Tibetan friends. Now Strange drags Tony Stark/Iron-Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and the invasion to get to Strange's Infinity Stone by attacking New York City means Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) jumps into the fray. To wrap this part of the story, this group save Wong and Banner are taken into outer space.
Out in outer space we have the Guardians of the Galaxy: Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), his girlfriend Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper), Drax (Dave Bautista) and a surly teenage Groot (Vin Diesel), more interested in video games than in anything. They find Thor, and our Norse god goes back to his old pompous pronouncements/tones, dismissing the 'morons' to find a dwarf to make him a weapon with which to take on Thanos. He takes Rocket and Groot with him to have his weapon forged while the other Guardians go Knowhere to find another stone kept by The Collector (Benicio del Toro).
Pity Thanos is already there, as while Star-Lord comes close to granting Gamora's final wish to kill her so as to protect her secret, Thanos manages to not. Torturing her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora reveals where another stone is at, though at a terrible price.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, other Avengers are working to get yet another Infinity Stone out of Vision (Paul Bettany), once a machine now a lovelorn sentient being in a relationship with Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). That group, made up of Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) save them and taken them to the newly-opened nation of Wakanda, where King T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) opens up their technology.
This also opens up for Thanos' minions to attack to get at this Stone.
To wrap this up, Infinity War then becomes a series of battles across the extended universe with various groups fighting Thanos or his minions to stop him from gathering all the stones and placing them in his gauntlet. The plan almost came to pass, until Star-Lord went all Brad Pitt in Seven and found that his beloved was dead. That so enraged him he forgot about his own plan and caused it to fail. Thanos then popped down to Earth, took the last Stone and won.
With that, the following people were turned into dust in no particular order: from The Guardians of the Galaxy there was Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Groot, from The Avengers there is Falcon, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch with Vision killed by Thanos when he got the last stone through a little 'timey-wimey', Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who wasn't affiliated with either, also turned to dust in the wind.
Not since perhaps the Doctor Who 20th Anniversary Special The Five Doctors have I seen so many figures from a series brought together and, to quote Jay Mohr's book title, "Gasping for Airtime". Like in The Five Doctors, various people were paired together where I figure screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus thought 'hilarity would ensue'. I know a lot of people laughed at particular points, but I don't think I laughed once.
Anthony and Joe Russo were fond of using the Guardians in particular as comedic foils, and an instructive bit of how not to use comedy in this mashup is right after Gamora asks Peter to kill her rather than let her fall into Thanos' hands. They kiss, only to find Drax observing them by hearing him crunching some snacks.
We could have stopped there, but instead we kept the scene going by having Drax insist he was now so stealth he could go unobserved, despite being perfectly observable. It isn't until Mantis comes in and says, "Hi, Drax", that he finally relents.
All that could have been cut out of this bloated nightmare, but the Russos and everyone at Marvel Studios doubled down on trying to trot out comedy bits at serious moments. From Thor and Star-Lord having a metaphorical dick-measuring contest, down to everyone telling the latter he was getting flabby (a most dubious charge given it's Chris Pratt) to the Odd Coupling of Strange and Stark to where you almost expect The Odd Couple theme to start playing, Infinity War could not get out of it its own way.
I simply don't understand why Infinity War kept ramming comedy when the situations called for at least a modicum of seriousness.
There was no directing here. Ruffalo did nothing but look frantic, Holland's "I'm so young I think Aliens is a really old movie' and calling him 'Mr. Stark'" shtick is now tired, and worse, makes Parker look like a total idiot and not a 'plucky' kid.
As a side note to that, it's interesting that even Tony Stark has grown tired of this Millennial's constant 'pop culture references' as he called them. In that case, I think he was speaking for at least me. Not that Stark isn't above pop culture references, incurring Star-Lord's anger when Stark refers to Quill's plan as 'plucky'. I too found Star-Lord's sincere belief that Footloose was 'the greatest movie ever made' as idiotic as Stark and Parker did, though given how Parker is, I think our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was thinking Star-Lord was referring to the Footloose remake rather than the Kevin Bacon 1984 original, which would have been far too long ago for him to know of. Peter Parker as written here and in Homecoming and as played by Holland probably wouldn't even know there was an original Footloose.
Bacon's name gets another unexpected drop when Rocket Raccoon, whom Thor always calls 'Rabbit', is asked if Bacon is an Avenger. He says he might be since it's been a while since he's seen the other Avengers. It might have been Thor, or it might have been Strange. At this point I genuinely don't care.
Boseman's nobility as T'Challa/Black Panther now too is fast grating on my nerves. I never cared for Bucky, so I'm hoping he is not just merely dead but most sincerely dead.
Moreover, Infinity War never made me care about anything in it. The film follows Doctor Who at least in the newest version, in this way too: 'killing' off characters we know are coming back. As we know there's an upcoming Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy sequel and an almost for-certain Black Panther sequel, we know these characters are not really dead. As such, why would anyone, casual viewer or die-hard Marvel Cinematic Universe devotee really get emotional when there will be no costs to these 'sacrifices'?
Even in something that should be more 'moving', like Gamora's death, I felt nothing. Perhaps it was the loud Alan Silvestri score doing its damnedest to make me feel. Perhaps it's because that Soul Stone was being guarded by something like Darth Maul's cousin. Perhaps because the emotional impact just wasn't earned either from Thanos or Gamora, but I felt nothing.
As a side note, why did Gamora get so huffy about Star-Lord not killing her when he asked given she too gave Thanos what he wanted to save someone, in her case Nebula?
I also have a question of logic. When Iron-Man and Spider-Man rescue Doctor Strange thanks to a plot point from "that really old movie, Aliens", the thing that looked like the Cryptkeeper was killed as it went into space, but neither Strange or Parker felt anything when they too were sucked out into the vastness of the universe, even if briefly?
Avengers: Infinity War left me bored and slightly irritated. I confess to never having enough emotional investment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to bother keeping track of the nuances of all our characters, but there has to be something wrong when, while watching, your mind starts thinking of Avengers: Infinity War as a nerd version of Battle of the Network Stars.