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Grave stones
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR is Marvel movie no.19 in 10 years. On the whole, it’s been fun with humour and action deftly distributed throughout each outing. Joss Whedon kick-started the whole Avengers initiative and the Russo brothers have brought everyone together for the third. Camus tries to keep track.
 
  "There’s no 'What If' scenarios. Everything that happens in these movies happens in these movies. There's not like, you know, some potential, a tangential reality. It doesn't affect the story. If it happens, it happens. We wanted to commit to the storytelling and the most complete way and not give ourselves any kind of, you know, potential outs, like it was all a reality dream."
  Co-director Joe Russo*

 

Oh, if all that were true! Get to the end of Infinity War and read the above quote again. It's hard to believe a single syllable of it. Movies risk a great deal not honouring narrative decisions that have far reaching consequences. May I remind you of the properties of the universe that are controlled by the infinity stones; Tesseract (Space Stone); Aether (Reality Stone); Orb (Power Stone); Loki's Sceptre/Vision (Mind Stone); Soul Stone; Time Stone; and Sharon Stone. OK, maybe not the last one (bringing peace to Israel/Palestine?) Right. Think about that lot. When Russell T. Davies had exhausted his villains' ambitions in season three of the Doctor Who reboot, he had Dalek Supremo Davros rail against reality itself – talk about scraping the MacGuffin barrel. Destroying reality is a bit of an own goal, isn't it? Just look at what those stones purport to have control over... space, reality, power, mind, soul and time. With a dedicated stone for superfast broadband and perhaps one for regular, healthy bowel movements, we'd have the set. I'd say that if you have that lot embedded in your custom made gauntlet, you'd be absurdly confident singing 'Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)'. To some degree, the ownership of the stones cheapens narrative decisions that no longer stay rooted in a responsive chain of temporally rigorous events. In fact, a being with power over all those elements is really showing a distressingly profound lack of imagination by actually punching someone. It's like owning a Death Star and throwing a hand grenade. The big bad Thanos (all too often reminding me of his wholly CG nature) is a great villain but too easily and frequently he was able to be where he needed to be throughout the universe and that set me thinking. What about everyone else? How did they get to where the story needed them to go? Thanos has infinity stones so can alter the structure of reality itself so I guess if he thinks it, he's off to where ever the hell he needs to be. We accept that but flesh and blood, stoneless human beings? Doctor Strange has the power of relocation via hand-swirly, crimson Catherine Wheel sparkler holes (as you do) so he's spoken for. But the rest of them? My review, as it is, is in the following two paragraphs. After that, it's time to have a little fun at Marvel's expense.

Avengers: Infinity War

Even though I dimly recall there being a 'Part One' tacked on to the end of the title at some point in its distant genesis years ago, some wise marketing person probably reasoned thus... “Hey, Kevin, if we market it as a Part One, we are not going to win any popularity contests.” The least popular Harry Potter movie – adjusted for inflation was, yes... Deathly Hallows Part One. Who can promise a well rounded, cinematic experience with full dramatic closure if we all know it's only Part One? This is why Joss Whedon swims against the tide in not regarding The Empire Strikes Back as Star Wars' finest two hours despite its obvious pedigree in all other aspects. It's a middle episode with no satisfactory conclusion. A 'real' movie gives you everything within its running time. To be frank, we were well into the third act of Infinity War and I had convinced myself that Marvel was going to do something extraordinary to wrap all this stuff up – the hat was well positioned and the rabbit desperate for its freedom - and I really looked forward to that moment, a moment abruptly replaced by a cut to black and the directors' credit. Huh? Wha? WTF x 1,000? Man, I was annoyed. Here's the potted review. In its usual Marvel style, heroes bicker, fight and join forces. Big bad Thanos planet hops from here to there in his doughnut-shaped space ship with © Star Wars force-power wielding sidekicks helping him to add infinity stones to his specially forged gauntlet. Unhappiness ensues and selected heroes are mixed and matched like a series of carefully crafted culinary dishes. I always knew Rocket would respect Thor despite the latter calling the former a 'rabbit'... More than once. He never made it out of that hat.

For the fist time in all nineteen movies, the cutting of an action scene confounded me. It was just one scene but it was annoying that this particular line had been crossed. So the Avengers are drawn in following parallel narrative paths and to be honest, there is a great deal of fun to be had as the humour competes with the action quotient. Ice Cream flavour Stark Raving Hazelnuts tastes chalky I understand. There's no doubt that as a mainstream entertainment, this film – as long as you are invested in the Marvel universe – is about as satisfying as it gets, except of course for the closure or rather lack thereof. So for my own entertainment I'm going to let this paragraph end the review and muse on a few things that on their own never bothered me but now, with every character cascading and smashing into each other like demented pinballs in a pile up of lorries from Giant Magnets Inc., things like physics are suffering gangbusters. So, no specific spoilers but if you're a dedicated fan, you may want to look away now. OK, let's step out of the review box for a moment and pursue a more (I hope) light-hearted take on the nineteenth Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. None of this should make you care. I offer the information purely to explain why we shed no tears when the filmmakers might have hoped we would.

Avengers: Infinity war

Marvel vs. Physics; A Summing Up to the Jury

Drama is conflict and conflict cannot happen unless those conflicted are in the same location. Skype drama lacks a definable something, don't you think? A Facetime fist in the face is not exactly painful. Characters have to physically interact. So we end the 80s inspired and humour-fest Thor Ragnarok with a spaceship full of Asgardians, Thor, the Hulk and Loki. Two minutes in to Infinity War and whoah, here's Thanos playing merry hell with bodies strewn all over. OK, so how in the seven levels of narrative sense did Thanos know where to find Thor and co.? Thor and co. didn't even know where they were. A bold and extraordinary guess? Wishing on a star? The Satnav Stone? OK, yes. I am going to be ripping the logic apart just for fun because as Marvel got bigger and bolder, its grasp on physics became as reliable as a promise on the side of a bus. OK, let's look at the way Asgardians travel the universe... The BiFröst. Now, all credit to Marvel for nicking this from the actual Norse mythology. A rainbow bridge exists between Asgard and Earth (and eight other realms). Idris Elba's Heimdall is able to exploit this 'hyperspace' superhighway and essentially with a downward thrust of his sword anywhere he happens to be (huh?), opens up the rainbow motorway to those who narratively need it. In this case, it's just the one character transported. Why? Plot expediency. Trying to make sense of it is like trying to reconcile Kevin Spacey with his own career. But whatever its logical and physical reality, this method of transportation is absurdly useful to get characters where they need to be. I mean the first character to use the BiFröst in the film literally lands on Dr. Strange's doorstep. Convenient doesn't begin to cover it. As a way of moving pieces around the chessboard, it's like a brightly coloured deus ex machina.

Space has rules... Remember space? That dark void, that vicious vacuum, that gravity-free expanse that makes up a near infinity of the universe? It's the place Douglas Adams said “...was really big.”? Well, Marvel just kicks space's ass. Artificial gravity is such a dull staple of science fiction but unless you want to tweak any science fiction movie budget northwards by about twenty five per cent, you assume all ships have artificial gravity. OK. I can handle that. But what about surviving in space? Thor is a fascinating character because he has a humanoid body but is so much more than human. In fact, it's hard to imagine his limits. Apart from the several life-ending pummellings he took in Ragnarok, he floats around in space for a few hours none the worse for wear and later in the film, he is able to speak from space and be easily heard and withstand an enormous amount of what one might consider energy on the warm side (a few minute's blast from the energy at the heart of a star). A human being would incinerate to nothing in a nanoth of a nanosecond. Thor gets a few mild burn blisters. This blond magnificence, this immortal walking among us, this god seems absolutely invulnerable. Which is fine. It's to Chris Hemworth's credit that we care despite the fact that like the Hulk, he seems impervious to physical harm.

Spider Man in Avengers: Infinity War

Ah yes, physical harm. Here is where Marvel has more fun in Physics-land than it has in space. Remember the first Iron Man? I have brought this up before but forgive the repetition. Indiana Jones tried to get away with this one too and his and the filmmakers' reputations went suitably south because of it. Encasing yourself in metal does not make you near-indestructible. Tony Stark has died about forty times in his career as Iron Man. Sudden stops and impact hits would have putrefied his organs with or without a metal suit. The first time he takes off in the Afghan desert and lands with a resounding thump should have ended his life just as surely as a well placed bullet albeit in a considerably less messy manner. But audiences have become extremely used to seeing human characters shrug off life-ending and life threatening injury. It was bad enough in the 80s when characters jumped off a many storied building and landed with a little roll. No. Physics says 'dead'. My favourite silliness of modern action cinema is the suggestion that explosions take thirty seconds to enable the hero to out run the advancing flames instead of taking the split second real life demands. But hey, it's just a bit of fun, right? Yes, OK but I don't think you can care as deeply for comic book characters because of this reality distortion. In fact, any single punch in Marvel-land from a 'super' would have fatal consequences to any human being. Captain America and Spider-man are both enhanced 'supers'. Tony Stark, Natasha Romanov, and Sam Wilson (what happened to Hawkeye?) are all human beings and therefore if smacked by a 'super', they are simply dead. Hit hard enough, a human jawbone will deliver the brain penetrating death-blow. There's a nice thought for a wet weekday morning.

Let's muse on overkill for a few moments. There seems to be a need firmly planted in the filmmakers' minds that more has to follow as one movie trumps the next in spectacle and jaw-dropping action. The main culprit of this overdoing it is the increased capability of the umpteenth Iron Man suit. Like Bond's gadgets, it seems to be absurdly tailor made for whatever situation Tony Stark finds himself in, especially those that could only have been foreseen with the aid of the Time Stone and a De Lorean. There is not enough physical space in the suit for these ridiculous additions and this silly habit has crept over to what used to be the pinnacle of superhero costumes, the Spider-man suit. This gossamer thin leotard allowed Peter Parker maximum physical freedom and enabled him to exploit every ounce of his spider-proportioned super strength. In Infinity War, he's saddled with mechanical spider legs that spring out of his back for no reason whatsoever except to allow the audience to whisper "Oh, that's new..." In the blurry rush of action, these modifications pop up with the burdened characters expertly exploiting their advantages while seeming to be surprised that they are there. Overkill tends to (ahem) over kill. The more enhancements, the less emotional engagement. Again, you are too busy being wowed to be adequately moved.

I'll take emotional connection over spectacular narratives any day. But I freely acknowledge that I'm in the minority and part of a demographic that even Marvel has probably passed on. But then, you do not make three quarters of a billion dollars in five days (!) and think “Where did we go wrong?”

 


* https://screenrant.com/avengers-infinity-war-russo-brothers-interview/

Avengers: Infinity War poster
Avengers: Infinity War

USA 2018
149 mins
directed by
Anthony Russo
Joe Russo
produced by
Kevin Feige
written by
Christopher Markus
Stephen McFeely
based on comics by
Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
cinematography
Trent Opaloch
editing
Jeffrey Ford
Matthew Schmidt
music
Alan Silvestri
production design
Charles Wood
starring
Robert Downey Jr.
Chris Hemsworth
Mark Ruffalo
Chris Evans
Scarlett Johansson
Don Cheadle
Benedict Cumberbatch
Tom Holland
Chadwick Boseman
Zoe Saldana
Karen Gillan
Tom Hiddleston
Paul Bettany
Elizabeth Olsen
Anthony Mackie
Sebastian Stan
Idris Elba
Danai Gurira
Peter Dinklage
Benedict Wong
Pom Klementieff
Dave Bautista
Vin Diesel
Bradley Cooper
Gwyneth Paltrow
Benicio Del Toro
Josh Brolin
Chris Pratt
Sean Gunn
William Hurt

UK distributor
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
UK release date
26 April 2018
review posted
3 May 2018

related reviews:
Avengers Assemble
Avengers: Age of Ultron

See all of Camus' reviews