INFINITY WAR (2018) review

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WARNING: SPOILERS

 

Infinity war is loud, colorful, logistically amazing and tons of fun. It is also not a film in any ordinary sense of the word. ALL of its emotional texture is borrowed from other movies, and I can’t imagine what this would feel like to someone who hasn’t seen them. All of them, really.

 

The only character who is treated like an actual being is the villain Thanos, whose dream of “restoring balance to the universe” is actually somewhat affecting, especially once we realize that he actually has feelings, isn’t just a CGI special effect. That there is an actual performance in there, thanks to Josh Brolin.

 

For those unaware of the story, it deals with Thano’s search for the six “Infinity Stones” that will give unlimited power to their holder.  He wants to wipe out half of the universe. Basically, every MCU hero teams up to stop him.

 

The problem is that the story is simply too unweildy, there are too many characters to expect any human being to juggle them all gracefully. Here, you have the Russo brothers doing it together, and I think they do about as well as anybody could expect them to. Better.  There really is a lot of fun to be had here. But at the expense of human moments, and some jarring character choices.

 

(Just for instance: in what world is the Hulk a coward?  I’ve watched that character for half a century, and that just isn’t part of the equation. Banner being basically useless is almost as jarring. When in THOR: RAGNOROK they had Thor spouting astrophysics while Banner sort of mumbled along, I thought it was a director’s joke: the big blonde guy had never seemed much one for book larnin’ and it was a good laugh. But not giving Banner a single decent thought seems…thoughtless)

 

There are emotional connections that really do work: between Wanda and Vision, and among the Guardians of the Galaxy (although the bit with Groot anchored to his video game seemed a little wearing after a bit).

 

The problem is that we only care about the action if we care about the people, and we only care about the people here because of what we’ve seen in other movies.  So Thor has Loki, Tony has Pepper, Cap has Bucky, Spidey has Tony (again), and so forth. But searching for that emotional texture means that when it doesn’t show up we FEEL it.   No real Natasha-Bruce reunion?   Really?  Seems…like an odd choice.

 

Without those connections, its just kinetics and effects. GREAT ones, often, but you don’t want to mistake that for real quality. This is really the first Marvel film where I could see the seams showing pretty clearly.   Joss Whedon was overwhelmed by ULTRON, but while it was a modest little boutique movie compared to INFINITY WAR, it also had more genuine entertainment overall.

 

I liked INFINITY WAR.  It was a pretty decent translation of the comic to the screen. It is just that movies demand an opportunity for their actors to act, not just posture and throw punches.

 

I have to give it a “B-” in more ways than I really wanted to.   And if you weren’t a Marvel geek?   Man, I can’t see any reason you should go at all.

 

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WARNING.  SAMBO ALERT.  AND SERIOUS SPOILERS

 

I loathed the “Infinity War” comics, because for all practical purposes they killed off ALL the black characters in the very beginning, the kind of choice that is only made when ALL the decision makers are white.  And one problem with the movie lies right in the same uncanny valley.

 

Heimdall dies saving Bruce Banner.  Thor vows revenge.  Ah, the Sacrificial Negro inspiring the mighty hero.  Screw them.

 

Neither Rhodey or Falcon have EVER been shown to have any human connections with anyone beyond their male white benefactors.  No wife, girlfriend, mother, father, friends…nothing.  Nothing at all.  They are satellites only.

 

In BLACK PANTHER, Wakanda was a vibrant land filled with diverse, brilliant peoples with their own history and traditions, fashions and life-ways, ruled by a king with deep spiritual roots and the soul of a warrior.

In INFINITY WAR, Wakanda is a place to stage some nifty action sequences, with little or no sense of the inwardness of any of the people involved, let alone the deep and searching decisions that would have to be made before bringing an interstellar war to their doorstep.  Black Panther makes one interesting decision, Shuri is useless, and Okoye delivers a funny line.    This is precisely what I’d been afraid about with BP, and why I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Ryan Coogler was announced: I knew that as a black filmmaker he would have no problem addressing the “inwardness” of the characters.  This is why it is critical to have more diversity BEHIND the cameras, because otherwise you end up arguing with people about “how much humanity is enough?”

 

So the message for white readers: if you create black characters, invest them with the same humanity you give your white characters, or leave us out of your damned stories. We don’t exist to uplift you and your children.

For black readers:   Don’t settle for being second-bananas in someone else’s fantasies of power and glory.  Just…don’t.  Create your own.  And if you aren’t creators, support the films that understand that you aren’t a sock puppet to die nobly protecting white people. You just…aren’t.

 

Get mad, but don’t “get even.” Win by showing how its done right.

 

Namaste

Steve

www.afrofuturismwebinar.com

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