Film: “Avengers: Infinity War”; Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo; Cast: Robert Downey Jr and the rest of the Marvel marvels; Rating: **
Rating: **(2 stars)
Halfway or somewhere after the middle section — we can’t tell because the interval is forced into the drama — the characters of the Avengers franchise, all well-known and beloved characters, converge on Wakanda the imaginary African country where the last big Marvel film “The Black Panther” unfolded.
That is the cue for a big battle — the battles in these comicbook adaptations are never bloody never indigestible, always miraculously sanitised and pristine. The battles are relentless, and yet fascinating in their aversion to actual bloodshed. In the first quarter of the sprawling saga we see New York being devastated by the super-villain Thanos(played with unnerving splendor by Josh Brolin).
The lengthy sequence of plundered skyscrapers and wrecked cars is humorised by the super-heroes who one after the other, pop up from the sky challenging Thanos.
We know from the outset what the super-heroes probably don’t. Thanos is a more formidable enemy than any that the super-hero films have faced in the past. He is learned, scholarly, philosophical and suave. And he truly believes that destroying half of civilization is the only way to preserve the other-half .
Thanos is probably the most compelling and persuasive super-villain I’ve seen in the Marvel series. A true descendent of Raavan, his erudite pragmatic approach to violence is compelling. His dialogues with his adoptive daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) are the emotional highlights of the narrative, creative undulating rhythms into what is otherwise a straight-and-narrow configuration of assemblyline super-heroics.
Very often as I sat through the elaborate set-pieces, shot with the painstaking preening and posturing of a super-model who knows she will set the ramp on fire come what may, I felt I was watching a film that tries too hard to justify the coming together of the mighty powers that make the heroism of the comicbook realm look fashionably mottled and majestic.
The dialogues among the Big-Boy-Heroes are of the kind that we hear in high-school plays where pre-pubescent boys with false moustaches play a bantering game to a battered finale. Except for Mark Rufallo’s shaken-and-dithering Hulk, not one of the actors playing the patented parts get a chance to have their say in any definitive way. They all saunter in and out barely getting a few minutes of me-too-time before the co-directors scurry back to the arching intellectualised villainy of Thanos.
Parts of the film are fun to watch provided you don’t question why the super-heroes don’t harness their collective energies into defeating the unconquerable villain. Come to think of it, Josh Brolin’s Thanos is not a villain. Not really. Not when his heart beats to a distant drum of humanism even while dreaming of destroying half of civilization.
The biggest problem with this excessively zealous super-hero film is it finale. So arrogant in its defeatist tone, so definite in its defeatism I wondered why the film’s scriptwriters bothered with the buildup to a suitably grand climax when all along the film favoured a whimper over a hurrah.
Say what you will, “Avengers: Infinity War” is a gravely lopsided topheavy work with superstars waltzing in and out sometimes barely getting a few minutes of playing time. This is specially true of the female actors. A star like Gwyneth Paltrow playing Ironman Robert Downey Jr’s Significant Other barely gets a chance to prove her significance.
“Avengers: Infinity War” is the kind of cinema that treats its epic intentions with calculated casualness. The dialogues have an improvised goofiness to them when in fact a film as ambitious as this needed to sound far more uniformly restorative. Sadly this overblown franchise film doesn’t heal. It only titillates.