Avengers: Infinity War
It's set in Edinburgh! goes the cry, and I only wish it had been, or at least, much more than the five minutes that we get to see Edinburgh. Like the ten-second use of Northern Ireland in Hell Boy II, I was left wondering, what was the point?
Locations-wise, the big winner in Avengers: Infinity War was outer space, with its stunning purple and maroon nebulas, so evocative of what I liked most about Doctor Strange. Concurrently, the stars of this Marvel movie are those suitable for, well, the stars: Thor, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, a special space-suited Spiderman, and yes, the Guardians of the Galaxy. Very quickly, these become the warriors searching for, and then duking it out with, the film's brick-shit-house villain, Thanos.
Elsewhere, though, the high number of heroes means some have to give way. Scarlet Johansson's Black Widow says barely nothing, and Anthony Mackie's Falcon and Sebastian Stan's Bucky even less. Of the scenes in Wakanda, Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther has one or two sentences of quiet nobility, expressing a lot with the little he's given. Mark Ruffalo's Hulk is bizarrely under-utilized, flitting around scenes, unable to summon the Hulk with what I think was meant to denote sexual impotence. Perhaps the most criminal under-utilization, though, was that of Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch, the film's most charismatic figure to my mind, with a love story involving Paul Bettany's tender Vision that had potential. It's never really explored, but then again, in a film with so many protagonists, how could it be? More so than even Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War feels like an exercise in plate-spinning.
Underpinning this sense of superficiality, CGI-designed Thanos is a problematic villain. His plan is to cull the universe of half its (humanoid?) life to solve the issue of overpopulation. Why he feels this is necessary or logical, given the dynamics of an infinite and ever-expanding universe isn't clear. We're given a back story that he's done it before, on a planet somewhere, and it worked then, in a brutal, genocidal kind of way, so it's worth doing again, even if this time it involves killing the person dearest to him. What does he get out of such destruction? What happens after the job's complete? Retirement on a beach somewhere? The stock market?There are in fact different points where the moral choices don't appear to make sense and I wondered if this was deliberate. At one point Doctor Strange rescues Ironman, to the cost of a trillion or so lives. Doctor Strange never explains this anti-Spock design, muttering something about too-late, nothing-to-be-done. Chris Pratt's Peter Quill earlier commits the stupidest act in the entire film. Is this the message of the film? There's nothing you can do, just stoically accept your fate, and that of everyone's, and of the world's. Who wrote the screenplay to this film, Bashar Al-Assad? Or the anti-environmental lobby, perhaps. At best, this is a thought-provoking prompt: should we accept we're all going to hell in a handbasket? Is our advanced capitalist system, with its insatiable need for growth and consumption and profits, leading us to another historic cull? Avengers: Infinity War may well be a zeitgeist movie, but if so, it's one of pessimism and dark forebodings.