Despite the warnings, I never got lost in ‘The Infinity War’

Avengers poster
I was warned that walking into ‘Avengers: The Infinity War’ without screeds of background was going to be a tough one – but maybe because I am a writer and have a plot-brain which fills in lacunae if they occur, or because I had a basic underpinning of knowledge some of which I wasn’t even aware I had, it wasn’t THAT bad.
I mean, I don’t want to think about someone with literally no grounding in genre wandering in there – but then why would they? I’m certain the die-hard fans (Sheldon Cooper I’m looking at you) probably get more out of this stuff than I did – but I wasn’t lost.

So. A few thoughts.

Did it live up to the hype? Dude. With “war” in the title it isn’t unexpected to have 80% of the movie exist in terms of someone fighting someone, with all kinds of interesting variations on the death theme. I think the true hype was really for the true aficionados so I won’t answer that question for them. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed it.
But here are the casualty lists. Oh, lord. Spoilers. If you haven’t seen it and desperately want to do it before you get to read this – well, this isn’t the first write-up out there. Skip until further notice together with more august publications like Time magazine and the Independent.

Who snuffs it?

A whole heap of folks. Let’s’ see: Loki, Heimdall, Doctor Strange, Vision, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Black Panther, the entire Guardians of the Galaxy team with the exception of the raccoon (that’s Groot, Gamora, Star-Lord, Mantis and Drax), Spider-Man, Maria Hill, and Nick Fury. That’s quite a swathe. But unh. With more than a dozen superheroes biting the dust (or becoming it…) we have a large clearing of the decks.
But here’s the thing. A number of these characters have either officially or unofficially confirmed sequels – I mean, come on, can you see them NOT making a sequel to the billion-dollar juggernaut that was Black Panther? – and I am thinking sequels, unless these are all prequels and backstory which could get really old and (let’s face it) completely confusing down the line if they take that route, imply, um, continuity. So, as at least a couple of write-ups of the movie suggest, the murderous actions of Thanos in this movie are probably going to be reversed in some wise for the already-announced upcoming Avengers 4.
Dammit, I LIKED Spidey. With his snark and his “cultural references”. That scene where he’s flying around on his webs gathering up superheroes scattered by the explosions of the battle with Thanos (“I got you… and I got you… and I got you… I’m sorry, I don’t know everybody’s names…”) is positively endearing. I resent his snuffing it. I do.
The Romeo-and-Juliet tragedy of Vision and the Scarlet Witch was actually rather moving.
It is possibly interesting that the first hero to die is Heimdall (played by Idris Elba – damn, they killed Idris Elba! The monsters!) and the last is Nick Fury (played by Samuel Jackson) – and they DISINTEGRATED T’CHALLA! – am I being oversensitive if I note that black superheroes have a, hm, apparent disadvantage here…? I wonder how much of this was already planned and shot before Black Panther the Movie became such a juggernaut. But we’ll get back to Wakanda in a moment.
The entire original Avengers team appears to have survived the culling. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Black Widow and Bruce Banner all live to tell the tale. So does Rocket Raccoon, thank god. I think he and Spidey were genuinely a saving grace of humor and a leavening of wit and snark. I’m glad at least one of them made it.
Not specifically a superhero but possibly about to be recruited as one seeing as fully half the team has bought the farm, Okoye lives, too – and missing in action, neither confirmed living or dead, is potential Black Panther successor Shuri (apparently she does, in a bunch of comic storylines, assume the mantle – although I do hope they don’t do it here, I like her too much as the resident Mad Genius Girl – and besides, have they found a new crop of the heart-shaped herb somewhere…?) Gamora’s sister Nebula (all right, I don’t know the full backstory of that one. They look like unlikely siblings.) also survived and has reason to hate Thanos.
Who also appears to have survived. (confirmed by a Thanos Will Return message in the end credits, even if we didn’t see him, gauntlet-less, emerging into a sweet pastoral scene in the aftermath of having Thor’s magic axe practically cleave him in two. How’d that happen?)

Okay, so let’s just touch on a little bit of the meat of the movie.

1) Peter Dinklage as a giant “dwarf” space blacksmith presiding over a forge fueled by a star where weapons for gods are made was an entire surprise. I don’t think I knew he was in here. Not much to do – but he has a few scenes where he looks earnest and disheveled and, well, it isn’t too hard to believe that he drinks and knows things, much like his other alter ego for which he is so much better known these days.
2) Why do all the villain’s henchmen have to look like they’re first cousins to Voldemort and there’s been a lot of inbreeding involved? There’s even a Dementor in here. A floating figure in black rags, who greets Thanos and Gamora at the Soulstone cliff. Before he settles back down to earth and becomes a cross between Skeletor and that immortal monk-knight in Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail, the one who intones “he chose poorly” when an unfortunate choice of chalice reduces the baddie to a withered mummified skeleton in seconds.
3) You know, that StarLord character in the Guardians team is someone whom I would dearly love to slap on the nose with a folded-up newspaper and tell the puppy-boy to just chill. I mean that scene of bombast where he is so so so verklempt over the loss of his Gamora that he literally dooms the universe by not letting the others have enough time to remove the wretched gauntlet from Thanos’s meaty paw (and that’s another thing. A glove isn’t THAT hard to remove) – that’s manufactured drama, by a puppyish idiot who really should have been gagged in advance if they knew he couldn’t be adult enough to control himself. And maybe that’s the problem – the Guardians of the Galaxy team play for the laughs, they’re a kiddie team in a way, they’re just weirdly funny as a gestalt (a space tree, a talking raccoon, a green girl and a girl with glowing antennae and an apparently rather dozy character who thinks that by standing still for an hour he can render himself invisible) and when they get thrown into the adults’ wars, well, they can’t be expected to keep up.
4) Although Spiderman does. Dammit.
5) I suppose I could always Google this to find it out – but just exactly when and how did the sacred Norse halls of Asgard and Valhalla end up in a spaceship floating out in deep space? There’s just something in that that makes my teeth itch. Ever so slightly.
6) Poor Wakanda. From hidden paradise to Anihilation Ground Zero. Damn, that’s cold. I’ve heard people talk about this who suggest that in this movie Wakanda was literally used as a stage dressing rather than any attempt being made at making it into a real place (“evacuate the city”, T’Challa says at one point, but never do we actually see anybody except the King, his sister, and his immediate entourage – evacuate whom, exactly? All the extras have already vamoosed, it seems…)
7) Yes, I know that there is supposed to be another movie to come – but I’m still not clear on how Thanos gets out of this one. It should have been a price of his success that he too is part of his “culling” – he should have “ashed away” too. His survival appears to condone his actions.
And while he makes for a good villain – he does all these awful things, from tossing his daughter into the abyss for gaining a coveted prize to  genocide on a cosmic scale, for what seem (to him at least) to be eminently good and defensible reasons – we shouldn’t have, perhaps, have been left with a feeling that he escaped his punishment completely. They had to invent kryptonite for Superman to work at all – everyone has to have a weakness, an Achilles’ heel, because otherwise it is completely useless to fight them (because they will always win).
They made Thanos and his cohorts overwhelmingly powerful and numerous (in the battle of Wakanda, and as one of “our” side succinctly put it, “This is the end of Wakanda”) – if you’re one of the good guys in a battle what is the point of fighting it if all you’re doing is throwing yourself in to die? WHAT IS THANOS’S WEAKNESS? It doesn’t matter that they haven’t exploited it yet – but I want to know what it is. Because otherwise all I am doing is watching characters I am supposed to care about being annihilated by their adversary and swatted aside like gnats. This does not make me feel good. This crosses from entertainment into angst and anxiety. I have enough of that in real life. I want my superheroes to have fighting chance, dammit – or at least the option of one, the knowledge of one, the dream of one.
And no, by that I don’t mean Doctor Strange saying that we have one chance in fourteen million umpteen thousand and seven and that’s why he gave Thanos the stone that killed half the universe. I want to have at least a hint of why that sacrifice was necessary. And I want to know (at least in this kind of story) that the good guys win. Otherwise… what am I watching? Why am I putting myself through this? Why did I just watch Loki throttled, Spidey beg for his life, the Black Panther (whom they’ve spent a lot of time and a LOT of money making a lot of people care a lot about) being reduced to a pile of blowing ashes. I need to know that it’s all going to be worth it. And watching Thanos the villain alive and well in a pastoral paradise in the aftermath just doesn’t leave me with that feeling at all.
Why does he suffer no consequences?No, don’t tell me about the suffering of his soul. He just killed trillions of sentient beings. I don’t care about his reasons. HE JUST COMMITTED GENOCIDE MULTIPLE TIMES while I watched and I gather that wasn’t his first rodeo. Why am not seeing any consequences to this? If there are going to be any why do I have to wait two years to find out?

Speaking of consequences….

When I was doing a LITTLE bit of homework for this movie, little birds chirped at me that if any superheroes might die here it could be the BIG guns, Captain America and particularly Iron Man (who was rumored to need what had become entirely too expensive an actor to portray…) but instead it was some of the newer guys that disappeared, Except that you look into the future (hey we all have that superpower these days when it comes to knowing which sequels are brewing in Hollywood) and we see that there are not-too-distant sequels promised for Spiderman (“Spiderman: Homecoming 2” is due in 2019) and the Guardians of the Galaxy (volume 3 is set for 2020, and with the ENTIRE TEAM except for Rocket gone there will either have to be an entirely new crew or some shenanigans will need to happen…)
And I am betting the bottom dollar of anyone who cares to put one up that Disney is not going to NOT make a sequel to Black Panther, a movie that brought so much gold into their coffers. I mean admittedly there could be a brand new Spidey (aww. I LIKED this current guy.) and/or a whole new Guardians team, and possibly a whole new Black Panther (in which case I’m rather sorry for the short reign of the poor actor who only got the glory for one and a half movies before being erased to make room for somebody else altogether…) – but that’s a whole reboot. It’s a huge restarting of the gears. With all the momentum they have at the moment they’d have to re-start the franchises with a whole new cast.
They might have to do that anyway post the next Avengers movie – one of the articles I read on the subjects posits that it’s going to be a sentimental last hurrah of the current (and original) Avengers team, (they suggest a marketing theme of “this time, it’s personal”, and a title along the lines of “Avengers: Resurrection”, which actually isn’t too unthinkable…) In this case it would behoove them – if they wished to keep the lucrative franchise going – to have the old Avengers pass on mantles to a new young team to take it into the future. I mean, the actors portraying some of the surviving superheroes (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor) have all suggested that the next Avengers movie is the one where their contracts expire and that it might well be their last. In which case, look for a similar heart-wrenching culling at the end of Avengers 4 when it rolls around.
What is to come in the future? Well, there’s a new superhero in the offing (the Easter Egg postcredit Infinity War scenelet actually messages Captain Marvel and seems to bring the new character into the storyline right there). And it’s been suggested that a certain amount of overlap might begin to happen in future stories with franchises like the X-Men coming into Disney’s possession. So maybe the new Avengers might have Wolverine in tow…

Bottom line.

Enjoyed the offering. It isn’t the kind of movie I walk out of wanting to see again (like I did, for instance, with Last Jedi). It doesn’t give me absolution, salvation, a sense of having overcome; it leaves me oddly aching, like someone pulled out a tooth and it’s settled down into a quiet throb over a hole that shouldn’t be there. No, well, it isn’t quite as unpleasant as that sound. But still. There’s a sense of that. There’s a sense of… unfinishedness… which is perhaps inevitable in a movie like this which is part of an ongoing series… but “Black Panther” stood on its own. This movie doesn’t. It’s a Lego brick in a large wall and it’s nice that it’s there but the wall isn’t done and there’s a hole in it and I can’t help being aware of that hole and the winds that blow through it.
Maybe it’ll all come together in the next war

Beware paper vampires

In Burmese, AIN HTAUNG, the word for marriage, means … uh … HOUSE PRISON. Icelandic is also hard on marriage, The word for wedding means – ‘bride to buy.’
These examples come from an article in Mental Floss titled “25 Foreign Words With Hilarious Literal Meanings.”
Read the others HERE