The Mundane Magic of Marvel.
Everyone dies. The End.
Audience gape in shock as Star-Lord fade to ashes [ooo-spoilers!], gnash their teeth when T’Challa float away on breeze, cry in anguish as Spider-Man say, “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good…” But all we have to do is glance at imdb to see that sequels to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, BLACK PANTHER and SPIDER-MAN are in production. So…not really dead then, huh?
It’s what scriptwriters call zero stakes. Nothing is at stake in these Marvel movies any more, because we know Marvel is going to milk its lucrative properties dry. Dja hear what I called these “heroes”? Properties. These are not “characters” to care for over the course of a film – they are merchandising properties. And a movie is merely one way their images earn money for the corporations that own them. There are no spoilers, there are no stakes, there is only the consumer dollar.
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR is a dichotomy of grand filmmaking underpinning a patchwork quilt of asinine ideas that will, nonetheless, sell one billion dolls.
A big blue ballsac named Thanos seeks 6 mystical Infinity Stones to “bring balance to the universe.” And 4,534 superheroes can’t stop him.
Movie opens on Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) bleeding at the feet of Thanos (Josh Brolin, mo-capped to the max), as he wrenches the tesseract from Loki’s grasp, crushes it to make an Infinity Stone, then crushes Loki’s neck to make women stop touching themselves. Thanos adds the stone to his Infinity Gauntlet (an iron glove that scares the pants off children), then he beats up the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and kills Heimdall (Idris Elba) and—
Wait! Wait! Hold on! What the hell is happ–? And who is Heim–? What’s a tesser–? What’s the Hulk doing here?! And who is this velvet-voiced gorilla who can beat him in 10 seconds?! For the Casual Moviegoer, INFINITY WAR is not a standalone movie. Thanos has been putting on his big boy pants for 18 previous post-credit scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and now he’s steppin’ out in this 19th MCU installment to confuse everyone. Because if Might is Right – as all the punching seems to imply – then Thanos is the hero we’ve been waiting for.
But Thanos is NOT the hero. He’s supposedly the villain. But he’s a big blue ballsac after my own heart. He goes beyond Darwinism (Survival of the Fittest) to Neo-Malthusianism – that if a population outstrips its resources, it needs to be artificially controlled: “If life goes unchecked, life will end.” He’s right. His noble solution – unpopular though it may be – is to acquire all six Infinity Stones (birthed from the Big Bang), which would give him the power to “snap his fingers” and randomly eradicate half the life in the universe.
Hooray! Less traffic on the 405!
And less above-the-line paychecks for all these supers! At over 300 million dollars, INFINITY WAR is in the top 3 of the most expensive movies ever made. Any wonder? It involves every super from every Marvel film since IRON MAN screwed on his steel trousers in 2008.
No Ant Man. No Hawkeye. Audience sad. [sarcasm]
Banking on the last decade of MCU films indoctrinating the bejesus out of the dimwitted Earth populace, Marvel Studios expects you to know all these supers by now, so directors Joe and Anthony Russo and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely can artfully weave them without backstory into a prosaic plot that a fourth-grader might write with his pants on fire. (Does anyone see the irony in the fact that comics fans who know the complete mythology of these MCU movies and their attendant comicbook canon are now regarded as the cool kids, and those who do NOT know the Marvel universe have become the nerdy outcasts?)
Vision (Paul Bettany) wears one of the Infinity Stones on his head like a tiny hat. He and Wanda the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen, the most beautiful woman in the world) have been hiding out and banging for two years straight, when Thanos sends his CGI henchmen to collect the Stone. Captain America (Chris Evans, bearded like a marooned sailor) steps in for the save, with his pals Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, the most beautiful woman in the world). In order to keep the Stone from Thanos, they must destroy it, but it would kill Vision – and Wanda would lose her pummeling penis-engine. And Vision would lose a nice hat. So the gang visits Wakanda, from a previous movie, home of the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), so that his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) can remove the Stone without killing Visz, using her special effects lab.
Meanwhile, Hulk has crash-landed from Thor’s ship into the mansion of Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who holds another Stone in his big-ass medallion. (We’ll get to that Hulk appearance when I talk about Magic.) After being bested by Thanos, seems Hulk has performance anxiety and refuses to rise to the occasion, so Hulk is Bruce Banner for the duration of this film and inhabits Tony Stark’s “Hulkbuster” armor to get it up. Irony.
Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) meets Strange (whom he calls “the wizard”), and he, Banner, Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) face down the magic of two “children of Thanos” who have come for Strange’s big-ass medallion, Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) and Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary)…
Meanwhile, Thor is hoisted onboard the Guardians Of The Galaxy ship. And everything gets funny, as Star-Lord competes with Thor’s muscles for Gamora’s affections… Here is that tone that the makers of THOR: RAGNAROK tried so desperately to capture only to end up wallowing in bathos throughout their production. Markus and McFeely show the RAGNAROK writers how to effortlessly coax laughs from the cocky-but-jealous Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), somber Gamora (Zoe Saldana), oblivious Drax (Dave Bautista), raunchy Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), CGI Teen Groot (Vin Diesel) and empath Mantis (Pom Klementieff).
(Vin Diesel is once again wildly overpaid for a job which anyone with a voice could do, the irritating, spoiled Groot spending no more than 3 minutes onscreen, which means Diesel must have traipsed into the recording studio unshaven, wearing pajamas, and with his groin still smelling of cheese from the previous night’s groupie; spat a few versions of “I am Groot,” and bounced back home for some morning glory with aforementioned groupie who was still in bed, wondering where he went.)
Spider-Man (Tom Holland) thwips into the Iron Man/Strange/Ebony throughline and they are whisked off-planet in Ebony’s spaceship/ferris wheel. From out of nowhere, Stark calls on his Iron Spider Armor to fly out and magically dress Spider-Man, which gives Spider-Man even more magic than he already has.
let’s talk about magic
… which has been insidiously building in Marvel movies until it is now at a level where our eyes just give up and let the rapist filmmakers have their way with us.
Iron Man’s suit can do, oh, anything that comes into the screenwriter’s head, like make giant guns appear and float 4 feet away from his body, his two boots can merge into one giant afterburner, his armor can fix a stab-wound in his shoulder. What the actual FUCK is going on with this magic Harry Potter suit of Grimbledumb? How is this any different from Dr. Strange’s Cloak Of Three-Stoogery, that can fight with Thanos by itself when it wants to? We learn the armor is from the Bleeding Edge collection and works on nanotechnology. This doesn’t in any way explain where the extra matter comes from when it creates flying guns with unlimited ammunition or when a full iron suit appears out of his chest emblem. Why not just call it what it is? Magic = bad storytelling = run out of ideas.
The other supers are magic as well. How else can we explain all of them being as powerful as each other when they need to be? For example, Panther’s women warriors led by Okoye (Danai Gurira) and all his tribespeople sprint madly at their thousands of foes and then engage in gut-wrenching battle. But only Panther has supped of the special effects flowers that give him super strength. How then, does everyone battle with as much vigor as Panther? Captain America is on super soldier steroids, so he’s raunchily punching, but so is everyone else. No one gets tired! Hulk can stop a Chitauri Worm in AVENGERS (2012) yet is taken out by Thanos here. So how does Cap hold back Thanos’s hand? Does that mean Cap can stop a Chitauri Worm now? We do not gain any understanding of the scale of powers. Peter Quill aka Star-Lord might be half-Celestial, but his strength is human – so how does he hold Spider-Man, who has the strength of 20 humans? Thor is crushed by Thanos, then later withstands the power of a sun at his back to create his new hammer, Stormbreaker—Whoa, now! Go easy on the cocksure names, my woman-hipped son! (Wasn’t Thor’s arc in RAGNAROK one of self-discovery: that he didn’t need Mjolnir and was able to channel thunder and lightning through himself? So why the new hammer? And how does Groot’s arm become holy enough to become the handle? Since it’s a shark jump, we can’t even see it as a sacrifice from Groot. It’s all magic who cares fuck you.)
Ebony Maw is more wizardly than Dr. Strange, yet for all his power of manipulating gigantic pieces of matter to hurl at foes (which means he can control their flight), Ebony is sucked into space, not able to make himself fly back onboard. (I guess LAST JEDI made the Russos too scared to go full Mary Poppins.)
Vision uses magic to phase through matter. Yet baddies keep hitting him, and he gives the classic “one-line plothole fix” that screenwriters can smell a mile away: “His sword canceled my ability to phase.” Sure, Visz! So according to science, his magic is more magicky than your magic. From being the most powerful, coolest cat in the galaxy, Marvel emasculate Vision, sending that age-old message: Pussy makes you weak. And Wanda is the most powerful magician on the battlefield. I can tell just by staring at her jeans.
Heimdall uses magic to send Hulk to Earth in an eyeblink—Waitaminute! Asgard’s people are all on a spaceship from a previous movie, flying to Earth so slowly that Thanos caught up with them in that movie’s post-credits scene. Are you telling me that Heimdall could have spirited everyone to Earth instantaneously? Then what is the point of this spaceship? And what was the point of that Rainbow Bridge?! I thought the Bridge was a wormhole between dimensions, but apparently Earth is on the same dimensional plane as Asgard, the Realm Of The Gods, and can be reached in a straight line through spacetime! The gods ARE just like us!
Every time a masked super speaks, his helmet/mask would magically dis-integrate off his face, then magically re-integrate when he has to continue punching. What the HELL is this? It’s a CHEAT – that’s what it is: they want us to see the actors emote, yet they want a feasible way to remove and restore their masks instantaneously – so the best of both worlds, with the One-Line Plothole Fix: nanotechnology. But this isn’t nanotech – it’s straight-up magic who cares fuck you.
On the planet Gloomypants where Thanos lives, both Iron Man and Spider-Man – two of the strongest supers in this mofo – are struggling like sissies to remove Thanos’s Infinity glove. These guys are SO STRONG they can hold up shipping containers, throw tanks and bend steel with their bare hands – but this one guy’s glove, well… And this guy is threatening to destroy half the life in the universe! Why pussyfoot around? – AMPUTATE HIS ARM! I’m sure there’s a circular saw somewhere in either of their magic suits!
Remember, boys and girls – it all comes down to punching.
Back on Earth, the stupidest ground battle in history: Thanos has sent monsters – that look like Venom with six legs – to attack the Wakandan force shield. They can only get through one at a time, making them easy targets for the thousands of warriors and supers, yet Falcon gives some idiotic rationale that sounds suspiciously like a One-Line Plothole Shart, “If they get behind us, we’re dead,” which prompts Panther to open the force shield letting all the monsters flood through at once – for no reason other than to get a trailer shot of The Avengers Running Together In Slomo.
Marvel LOVES this imbecilic image.
Opposing forces running towards each other. In this age of technology and guns and people who can fly – everyone running towards each other, like it’s ancient Braveheart or something. Scarlet Witch is with Vision in the special effects hospital room – she can literally look out those windows and put a hex on all the Venoms to stop them dead in their tracks, yet – here we are – running towards each other. In tight trousers.
The Venoms are led by Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), a tall, horned CGI chick who suffers the Steppenwolf Syndrome, looking like my synthetic Real Doll girlfriend. Too much budget spent on the 4,534 supers and not enough cash left to render her properly.
In the end, Thanos simply teleports inside the Wakandan force shield anyway. Meaning, tactically, the Venoms did NOTHING: didn’t make it possible for Thanos to arrive, didn’t cause a diversion, didn’t deplete the number of foes, didn’t get Vision’s hat, they didn’t even tire out or dishearten their foes. They were just there. Because we needed a reason for The Avengers Running Together In Slomo.
In what could have been a cheese-eating role, Josh Brolin gives a magnificent underplaying performance. He is fully motion-captured, yet rendered enough not to be Steppenwolfed. He does not come across as a time-wasting villain, or even a selfish one – his demeanor is one of exhausted calm. With the most screentime of all the stars, he could very well be the protagonist. He’s tried to make others see the sense of his plan, but their minds are closed; thus is he burdened with the knowledge that only he can carry his quest to conclusion – and be misunderstood for it. He is above the resistance and clamor and backbiting. He is above the quipping and punching. His grand mission statement describes our insignificant existence: “In time you will know what it’s like to lose; to feel so desperately that you’re right – yet to fail all the same. Dread it, run from it: Destiny still arrives.”
As Marvel did with BLACK PANTHER, they have given the supposed villain the most poignant arc. We even see him in flashback, meeting young Gamora, taking her in as an orphan whose world he destroyed, raising her as his lethal daughter.
let’s talk about love
Amidst all the punching and magic and greenscreen, Gamora pleads with Quill to kill her. For love. Vision pleads with Wanda to kill him. For love. Both Gamora and Vision have something Thanos wants – if they are to die to save the universe, they want their loved ones to pull the trigger. In amazing plot twists, both Quill and Wanda try to, in fact, end their loved one, tears flowing, hearts breaking, yet their attempts are thwarted by Thanos!
Yet when Thanos kills the one he loves, it is a shock to our senses – and a bigger shock to the person he kills, who never comprehended that he loved her! In other words, the villain succeeds where the heroes fail – to kill the one he loves!
What message does this send? That it’s easy to love those whom you are conditioned to love. And infinitely harder to love your enemies – those who are the most in need of your love! But for a soupcon of love, would Thanos have turned his gaze to wiping out life?
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR is Chapter Seven of Phase Three in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Can anyone explain this to me without looking like you live in your mom’s basement?) From New York to Scotland, from Titan to Knowhere, this swaggering epic reads like a regular thriller with many concurrent storylines all spiraling toward an explosive nexus. It almost feels like none of these people are supers, just regular folk – because when everyone is magic, no one is magic. Nothing that happens onscreen is too far-fetched. We’ve been conditioned to accept anything for the sake of tight trousers and pearbottoms.
Peter Dinklage is a giant; Thor calls Rocket “rabbit”; no one calls Captain America anything (his hero name is never mentioned! Is he The Captain now? Nomad? Steve-O? Squidward? What?); Nebula (Karen Gillan) is pulled apart and put back together again (employing that old jail trick to escape – entice the jailer with something quirky, then knock him out when he comes to investigate. Really?)… there’s War Machine (Don Cheadle), Bucky (Sebastian Shaw) and M’Baku (Winston Duke).
As you may guess with this many supers, not everyone can arc as poignantly as the main protags. Stark has moments of intense drama, as do Strange and Wanda and Thanos, but there is zero emotional resonance with Cap or Panther or Loki, three large properties whose dolls need to keep moving to keep Marvel solvent.
Whiplash ending. Finger snap. Villain triumphant, yet sad, introspective, solemn. Not feeling like a middle film; feeling like an ending. Strange curdling emotions, as we witness the shocking climax to all the punching and tight trousers. Thanos can “finally rest, and watch the sun rise on a grateful universe.” (Well, the sun is a star, and can’t possibly rise on the universe… so…) Quietude, as he steps out onto his porch – his porch?! – to calmly gaze at the rising sun, the ghost of a smile playing across his wrinkled ballsac.
You know why they lost? No Hawkeye.