Filmgoer’s Flamethrower #19 – Avengers: Infinity War

Posted: April 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

I have seen the modern Ben-Hur and its name is Avengers: Infinity War. I mean this bold statement in the sense of sweeping main category awards this year. None of the Oscar-bait to drop, as it always does, between October and New Years Eve will ever be quite as meaningful as this movie. And the past predicting the future tells me that when the nominations come out next year I expect to shout – “they wuz robbed!” – at the TV and boycott the show.

Why? The Academy has a long history of automatically assigning less value to genres like science fiction and spandex and voting for the usual Oscar-bait. Don’t get me wrong, I like Oscar-bait as one glorious facet of filmmaking (I’ll be caught up with much of last year’s Oscar-bait on this site within four weeks), but eventually science fiction and superheroes have to go to the dance. And, no, this is not about refighting Annie Hall versus Star Wars. The Academy actually had a point there. This is the year and the movie for it. Nothing will come of it.

In fact to grind this axe further, you’d have to send the worst most drunken scary dentist (played by Clint Howard probably) to pull teeth to get a great Horror or Fantasy past the gate as well. The difference is that in some cases the Hollywood system actually sent the dentist for Get Out, Lord of the Rings and The Exorcist. Let’s see if Avengers: Infinity War gets an appointment.

So what is it about this movie that very well could have been a Kitchen Sink movie where everybody and his brother jostles for screen time that just is so good? Everything. Somehow the writers found that sweet spot, the groove where the arrow allows hits as taught in Zen archery. No wasted scenes. Surprises by the dozens and I’m glad to have skimmed over all the social media blovius that needs to predict and spoil the movie.

Thanos (Josh Brolin) seeks to acquire the Infinity Stones and use them to lessen the workload for his holy mission to kill half the universe’s population, the ultimate Malthusian act. No character is safe. Many die or would die but for being characters in a comic book inspired franchise where few stay dead forever. There that’s all the plot you need on this one. The pieces all fit and this screenplay will be taught in film school for generations, possibly replacing or complementing Chinatown in the curriculum.

The script and movie brilliantly handle the “here we are in three locations spread across interstellar distances” necessities of this kind of story. Fights happen in New York (it’s Marvel, sooner or later everybody comes to the Big Apple), several outer space locations and finally back to Wakanda. The filmmakers clearly watched lots of Star Wars to get this part down and they did it better.

Another really brilliant aspect of this script is the pairings. In order to completely imbed all aspects of the MCU in with each other for all subsequent phases of the franchise, they played mix and match giving us at least four mega-crossover giant size annuals if this story were to land back in the comics from whence it spawned. These pairings are all slightly unexpected and therefore brilliant.

Thor ends up with Rocket and Groot (Vin Diesel). Tony Stark, Dr. Strange and Spiderman (Tom Holland) end up teaming up with Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) to handle the main battle in space. Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and the rest of the Avengers fall head long for the big meeting in Wakanda. In the years to come there will be a lot of arguing about who really should’ve gone with whom…trust me they got it right the first time.

Complementing this brilliant script is just all around great acting. We get to see Thor (Chris Hemsworth) crying over his recent losses (Thor: Ragnarok) comforted by Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), of all people. We see Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) get into it with each other largely because they’re both personalities that land just south of overinflated and pompous.

But, mostly we get to see Josh Brolin earn what should’ve been Andy Serkis’ Oscar for motion capture acting Gollum. The Mad Titan defines resolute seeing himself as an agent for the good because his slaughter preserves the survivors best chance of a good life with plenty of resources. And despite the pain caused to his daughters, he’s also a proud and loving (after a fashion) father trapped by what he sees as his destiny. Like much of this movie you’ll cry seeing Thanos and Gamora share the screen.

To the extent that I could even tell you about editing and the other technical departments, I found everything served this storytelling very well. I didn’t see any obvious flaws and smarter people than me will tell you why this work was so great. It all fits together to create one amazingly fast paced movie where even the character moments seem faster than they are.

Composer Alan Silvestri finds musical perfection worthy of the Wagnerian scale of this movie. The score is pretty much a wall to wall toss it to the orchestra extravaganza that should be appearing in my Pandora film score music feed as early as two weeks from now. Unlike in other Marvel movies, not all of them named Guardians of the Galaxy, there is only one pop song to complement the orchestral score: The Spinners – The Rubberband Man. However, you don’t notice the lack, nor should you want more.

Anyway, all of these elements mesh together for an amazing fast-paced movie that you absolutely have to sit all the way through. This is not the movie where you will be rewarded if you have to get up to pee. You will miss something far more important than in most movies. Hit the bathroom just before taking your seat. And you should get ready to cry, as this film wallows in sadness. After that you need to repeat to yourself – Right, it’s a cliffhanger ending and they’re all coming back – because, yes, I guarantee you the filmmakers just wanted to see how far they could push the Han Solo in Carbonite narrative trope. We have a year to wait…

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