Saturday, November 3, 2018

Movie Reviews: Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War
directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
I didn't see this film in the theater. I don't remember why. I do remember that after its debut two different people told me their concerns about what they considered the film's unfortunate implications. Their issues, which I will mostly avoid mentioning here, put me off from seeing the film for a while. This Marvel film is designed to appeal to the largest possible audience. This movie was the fourth highest grossing film of all time. It's entertaining and long. This movie successfully combines action, humor and some bleakness. It raises some serious questions about morality and overpopulation. Most people won't get upset when it becomes apparent that deer numbers have grown to the point where deer are harming the environment and/or other animals and must be culled. Heck, even I wouldn't mind eliminating the invasive Canadian Geese who often stay in Michigan year round and make an absolute mess. Rational humans, even sentimental ones, can recognize when a particular species has become overly destructive. 

But humans resist recognizing this about themselves.  There are 7.6 billion people on this planet. As recently as 1974 there were just 4 billion people. Humans have been very busy making other humans. A little over half of the world's population is Chinese, Indian, or African. As those three populations increase what will be the impact on carbon emissions, political power, food prices, climate change, wildlife, military conflict, ocean pollution, migration, etc? It may not be "good" from a First World standpoint or from the standpoint of the world in general. Some argue that free market capitalism can continue to produce enough for everyone. Others argue that socialism is the best bet for dealing with questions of scarcity and equity as we near a population of 10 billion.

Others don't believe there is a problem. They say that people raising alarms are mistaken or regurgitating barely veiled racist eugenics. Some insist that it's unfair that some people are reproducing so much. Obviously birth control is warranted. Many feminists point out that women in most societies rarely want to have as many children as men do so improving women's education, health, legal protection, and financial and sexual independence slows birth rates.

Finally some people believe that there are already just too many people. We must reduce our numbers for our own good. The titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) is such an individual. Thanos has reasons both moral and practical for his stance. Thanos is a utilitarian. 

Thanos is not concerned solely with the earth. He intends to reduce sentient life by at least half on a universal scale. Thanos is not strictly speaking completely an omnicidal maniac as he doesn't want to kill everyone, but few people see the distinction, something which frustrates Thanos. Thanos is firmly convinced that he's the good guy doing the right thing.  Avengers: Infinity War is about the titular team along with some other superheroes trying to stop Thanos.

The film is unusual in that, apparently purposely, it centers Thanos as the hero. It's Thanos who is misunderstood. It's Thanos who has to sacrifice and struggle to reach his goal. It's Thanos who is betrayed, outnumbered and must stand alone against his enemies. YMMV on this but with the possible exception of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) I didn't get a heroic vibe from any of the "good" guys.  Hemsworth is just that cool.

It's Thanos who was behind many of the events in the prior Avengers or other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Thanos has been searching for the six Infinity Stones. If he gets them all he will have the power to manipulate time, space and reality. Instantaneously, he will be able to eliminate half of the universe's population. He won't have to do it the long way by hand with his armies. 

Having grown tired of working thru agents and dupes, Thanos reveals himself (well at least reveals himself to Earth) and starts to gather the Infinity Stones he doesn't yet have. Even without all of the Infinity Stones, Thanos is a formidable adversary, ready, willing and able to go toe to toe with heavyweights like Thor or the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and more than hold his own.

During Thanos' quest to take all of the Infinity Stones for himself he runs into many people attempting to stop him, including but not limited to the aforementioned Thor and Hulk, Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman),  Groot (Vin Diesel) Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Drax (Dave Bautista), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), and The Falcon (Anthony Mackie). A fan favorite from HBO's Game of Thrones also makes an extended cameo.

There are fights, fights, and more fights, and lots of snarky superhero one-liners. These are punctuated by misunderstandings, doomed love stories, humor and ruminations on why the struggle is necessary. The special effects are outstanding. There are plenty of references to past and future Marvel films crammed into this movie. Blink and you'll miss them. However they are not necessary to enjoy the film. There is obviously violence but it's generally not explicit. The actress Elizabeth Olsen expressed some displeasure about the revealing costume she wore in this film and previous Avengers' installments. I think the directors/producers heard her. The directors reduced but did not eliminate the number of downblouse fanservice camera shots. Again the film seamlessly integrated humor with the unusual for Marvel films feeling that anyone can die. There is loss here. The film missed some opportunities in having Wakanda as backdrop.
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