Avengers: Infinity War

 

            Comic book superheroes are definitely “a thing” in Hollywood these days:  there is considerable box office revenue to be made among (mostly younger) moviegoing fans who cheer out loud during previews.  And the sustained success has attracted many of Hollywood's A-list actors to play characters patently cartoonish.  And yet its very success has spawned many proliferations---so many different charcters with varied profiles and a variety of superpowers that we have trouble keeping them all straight.  To elminate a few of the more “marginal” ones would create heightened melodrama as well as sharpen the focus for the “main” ones.  So what better method than to enlist yet another comic pulp anti-hero, a cosmic super-villain to plot their demise?  Thanos (the voice of Josh Brolin, with the torso of a monstrous body builder) is appropriately named:  the Greek word for “death” decides that the overpopulated world desperately needs some thinning out, but nobody has the stomach for it---except him.  He claims he's actually saving the world by planning to destroy half of it.  Kind of like an “intentional burn” in a forest in order to guarantee long-term viability.  Except that all our “good guys” in spandex tights are appalled at this threatened genocide of the innocents, and decide they need to band together to meet this dark threat to the world's very existence.

            Yes, it's 160 minutes long, and even longer, if you count having to sit through all the credits to catch the last couple of follow-up scenes.  And yes, there are some 76 characters in this story, some of whom will be unfamiliar to all but the most maniacal of comic book hero superfans.  But even for those of us who are more casual observers of the genre, there's some rapid-fire repartee that helps lighten the mood considerably.  Yes, there's plenty of friendly rivalry even among the “good guys,” which include, by the way, a number of females (but not the recent wildly popular Wonder Woman---that's another playing field altogether).

            With such a large ensemble cast, there's only so much screen time to go around, so don't expect anybody to stop and explain who all these characters are----if you don't already know, you have to figure it out from the particular superpower they wield.  Or just roll with all the non-introductions.

            The story line goes like this:  Thanos is trying to collect all six super-powerful “infinity stones”, so that he can become the most powerful force in the universe; enough to fulfill his dream of thinning out the population to leave more elbow room for the remainder. (We used to fight huge wars and suffer endemic diseases to accomplish the same thing, but alas, our technological advances have staved off the spread of disease, and the monstrous destructive capability of our nuclear weapons has created a holocaust standoff, because any nation trying to nuke others will also destroy itself.)  Of course Thanos has to be absolutely loveless in order to attempt such a pyrrhic victory, and he thinks he is, except that he discovers he has some emotional attachment to rebellious offspring that surprises even himself.  Even the ultimate bad guy is not evil enough to free himself completely of all feeling.

            Of course in mortal combat all strategy is out the window after the first shot is fired, and on a bloody killing field, there are many random combat scenarios, and serial opportunities for unintentional consequences.  By the time we quit quipping and get to really fighting, violence hangs over the grisly proceedings like a palpable pall.  There's even the “martyr” dynamic of heroes needing to choose whether to risk sacrificing self to save others, or worse, debating whether to help comrades with their requests to become martyrs for the cause.  After a while, we wonder what “the cause” really represents.  But that happens in the aftermath of all wars, however infinite. 

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association