“Infinity War” – Infinite /facepalm

This posting contains spoilers for Infinity War.

I saw Infinity War last night and I am still trying to massage the hand-mark off my forehead, from all the /facepalm I did. What a beautiful, utterly pointless, mess of a movie.

It’s basically a bunch of special effects about punching people. And people punching gods, gods punching buildings, spacecraft punching gods, people punching spacecraft, people in armor punching people in spandex, and people in spandex punching people in armor. Sometimes a knife or an axe or a spear appears but it is pretty quickly discarded in favor of fists. Well-designed planned defenses like the border of Wakanda turn out to be defended by people with spears and fists, instead of fusion bombs outside of the shield (“everyone close your eyes there is going to be a brief flash as the enemy disintegrates into component atoms!”)

It’s pretty, but stupid at every level – there is not just tactical stupidity, there’s strategic stupidity. The villain is a great big mountain of stupid, with stupid motivations. But that’s OK because he’s being opposed by all the good people in the universe so he shouldn’t succeed. Except, [spoiler] he does.

The villain wants to collect a bunch of rare drops so he can craft a powered-up glove that will let him kill half of everyone. Back when I played World of Warcraft a lot, I really would have sympathized: sometimes you do have to whack your way through mobs of people trying to stop you, because you’re supremely powerful, so that means: time to send a minion. Thanos’ use of minions is nonsensical.

If you’re supremely powerful, why even have minions? I’d send a lawyer to explain my wishes to the opposition and otherwise I woukd crush them personally. Minions always screw up in movies.

Need I mention that within about 10 seconds of the movie starting, people are punching eachother? And, the furious rate of punchings continues without let-up until half of everybody dies.

None of the above gets close to the heart of the absurdity of the movie, though. The absurd part is the bad guy, Thanos’, motivations: he wants to kill half of everybody because the planet he was from was overpopulated. Here’s this great, powerful, warlord with a bunch of high tech stuff, including space travel and his solution to overpopulation is: “half of you die.” Not “half of you get on this spaceship and go look for someplace empty or fun to invade.” Nope, “half of you die.” But the absurdity is universal – because his planet was overpopulated he wants half of the universe‘s life to die.

Population of Europe after WW21

Was Thanos’ stupid plan to somehow cause a permanent dip in population, or was he just trying to drop the population for a decade or so? Populations replace themselves pretty quickly if you stop punching them for a while.

I kept expecting Benedict Cumberbatch’s oh-so-hip Dr Strange to try to explain it to Thanos, “Thanos, why don’t you just go around distributing birth control and stop acting like a god damned southern republican?”

The special effects were glorious – the people who created the designs and assets did a fabulous job. Things like the Hulk’s version of Iron Man’s armor – delightfully executed. Unfortunately, all in the service of an incredibly dumb plot.

Another aspect of the movie that really riled me was the impedance mismatch between the Guardians of The Galaxy characters and the Avengers characters. Guardians of The Galaxy is practically a parody of the superhero genre, and jamming together with Avengers, which takes itself seriously, harmonizes like a baloney milkshake. Drax, who is basically a parody of over-muscled god-blockheads like Thor, in the same movie as Thor – it does not work. It badly does not work. So, rather than make it work, let’s punch some people!

Lastly, there is the delicate subject of the Wakandans. I really enjoyed Black Panther because of its beautiful design elements and some of the inspired acting. But I kind of thought the whole “we are going to defend our homeland with spears and clubs” was maybe leaning a bit hard on certain … stereotypes. Seeing the king of Wakanda die, making a stupid stand (instead of having Stark whip up some fusion battle-cannon) was eerily reminiscent of Zulu, and not in a good way.

Summary: a fun punch-up that wanted to be much better than it is. But that’s an impossible order, given that it’s completely painted into the corner of spandex and explosions punch-up movies. I was glad to see half of all the superheroes die at the end but I’m afraid they’ll be back for more bad movies.

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Iron Man: why didn’t he just whip up a few H-bombs, if he’s got nanotech, that would be a snap. Considering that Stark started off as a weapons designer you’d think he’d have, you know, designed some weapons.


  1. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Why does that graph of Europe’s post-WWII population end five years before WWII ended?

  2. says

    Acolyte of Sagan@#1:
    Why does that graph of Europe’s post-WWII population end five years before WWII ended?

    Because I mis-labelled it. It’s a map showing population effects of WWI.

  3. cartomancer says

    I have often wondered quite what it says about America that its popular superhero comics are so tediously punch-centric. At first glance it doesn’t really seem to fit with a nation so in love with firearms that its national sport is mass shooting tragedies and its national flower is Cordite. I wonder whether this is some kind of earlier, more working class, tough-guy toxic masculinity raising its head again? Possibly rooted in bar-fights in prohibition-era speakeasies or frontier saloons? I don’t know. Or did it arise in comics as the convention because there were strict prohibitions on the depiction of guns, and it’s just an accepted quirk of the genre now?

    My brother and I were discussing this sort of thing the other day. We concluded that it is rather revealing of a modern nation’s character the way they like to remember the Second World War, and particularly the way they like to think it was won. The British, for instance, tend to emphasise the codebreakers at Bletchley Park cracking the Enigma, because we like to think of ourselves as cerebral and clever – we succeed because we can out-think everyone else. The Russians think of Stalingrad because they place great stock in ideas of endurance, toughness and stubbornness in the face of impossible odds. The French think of the Resistance, because they like to imagine themselves as suave, dashing, dynamic secret agents. The Canadians just blush and say they really didn’t contribute much anyway, despite their substantial contributions. The Americans, meanwhile, tend to think of their atomic super-weapons and the gung-ho fighting spirit of their endless masses of soldiers as the thing that made the difference – Americans like to think of themselves as better equipped, more motivated and more numerous than everyone else – which tends to get conflated with the American way being normal, ubiquitous and therefore unquestionably right. That’s when they’re not casting it in simplistically Manichaean terms and claiming it was their unique moral uprightness alone that made the difference.

    Given the huge shadow that the Second World War has cast on attitudes to war and conflict ever since, it would be surprising if this film owed nothing to the fond imaginings of the American mind about what the last word in universal war should look like. The emphasis on the numbers of combatants present seems particularly American, as do the high-tech and rugged determination elements. Also the role given to the massively destructive super-weapon and the framing of evil in terms of grand-scale eugenics.

  4. jrkrideau says

    @ 2 Marcus
    The graph caption now seems to read “Population of Europe after WW21“.

    people in armor punching people in spandex, and people in spandex punching people in armor
    Reading this was a bit worrying as I was just pulling on the spandex prior to taking the bike out.

  5. Dunc says

    I have often wondered quite what it says about America that its popular superhero comics are so tediously punch-centric.

    Interesting question…

    Or did it arise in comics as the convention because there were strict prohibitions on the depiction of guns, and it’s just an accepted quirk of the genre now?

    Well, there weren’t exactly “strict prohibitions on the depiction of guns”, but the 1954 Comics Code probably had an impact, with its prohibitions on “[s]cenes of excessive violence”, “[s]cenes of […] excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay”, and so on. I’m not by any means an expert, but I’m having trouble coming up with many well-known US comics characters (well, heroes…) associated with guns between The Shadow in the ’40s and The Punisher in the ’70s… Meanwhile, in Hollywood, you have the golden age of the Western, so it’s not a wider cultural thing. I would guess that the Comics Code is a big part of it.

    I invite immediate and severe correction by an army of comics nerds.

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    Seeing the king of Wakanda die, making a stupid stand (instead of having Stark whip up some fusion battle-cannon) was eerily reminiscent of Zulu, and not in a good way.

    I’m not seeing the connection.

  7. psanity says

    I don’t think the tradition of punching in comics has to do with gun love/hate or the Comics Code.

    It’s because SUPER, duh. You don’t need SUPERPOWERS to just shoot somebody — that’s what those ordinary, non-super-hero folks do. The non-super comic heroes are mostly either, like Batman, ethically determined to solve problems without a gun, or, like Nick Fury and his gang, guns are their job.

  8. Dunc says

    psanity, @ #8: But is fashion for superpowers in US comics the cause, or part of the effect? If you look at early 20th century US comics, superpowers are not nearly so ubiquitous – there are several entire genres of comics that effectively disappear with the introduction of the Comics Code, leaving superhero comics as almost the only survivors.

    Superpowers are also not nearly as ubiquitous in British comics… In 2000AD – by far the most notable British sci-fi comic, and the closest equivalent we’ve got – even the guys with superpowers often also have guns (although that’s a somewhat later time period).

  9. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I didn’t enjoy it myself because it felt way too forced, and too many of the characters acted stupidly and out-of-charater when they should not have. Marcus gives several examples, but there’s many more. The technical term on tvtropes is “the idiot ball”, aka a proverbial ball that is sometimes passed around the characters in a movie, and someone acts like an idiot while they’re holding it.

    I didn’t like Thanos’s motivations either, but I ignored that for the most part in the movie. Only after did I start to dissect it. Of course, a little while afterwards, I’m like “wait, with the infinity gauntlet, couldn’t he just conjure up more resources for everyone instead?”.

    I preferred the motivations of the first comic Thanos: He fell in love with the avatar of death, and he wanted to give her a present: The death of half of all living things. It could have been perfect for the movies! Bring back Cate Blanchett as Hela, goddess of death. We didn’t see her die in Thor Ragnorak. Thanos and Hela could kill half of everything together. Hela could suggest that they should kill half of everything as a statement of their superiority as part of 1 of taking over the universe, which would be a perfectly reasonable, understandable, and relatable motivation. Perfect I’m telling you. I’m going to pretend from now on that this is the movie that they made, and that it was awesome.

    I did not like the movie, and I almost entirely blame the script.

  10. secondtofirstworld says

    Oh, finally one thread where I can comment on the movie. In recent years, thanks to the movie industry making “wait for the DLC” their own by intentionally leaving stuff out from the theatrical cut, I waited until it was available for digital download.

    I imagine one of the most awkward viewings must have been in Ukraine. To elaborate on that, I liked the movie, and Marcus, they couldn’t integrate Lady Death just yet because as she’s Deadpool’s on again of again lover, she belongs to Fox. Given that Feige stated the MCU won’t make R rated movies, chances are high due to its high profitability, the Deadpool franchise will run on separate rules.

    So, Ukraine. I appreciate that in this version Thanos is an ecoterrorist borne out of scarcity, and because I know you’re very familiar with our European history, you know that scarcity pre-WWII has always led to genocides. Highlighting this type of danger is very topical, which is also why I wouldn’t be surprised, autocratic and illiberal fans cheer on Thanos. His opponents had a multicultural background with diverse opinions that confronted his single-minded mission helped by zealots, who previously manipulated heroes and villains into fighting each other.

    But in Ukraine, where some might easily recognize Thanos is like a certain world leader, who was booted from G8, they themselves aren’t that different when it comes to opinions on people who’re not them. Under such circumstances, they hoped for the “best” that “half of the Earth” means Western culture. Thanos even draws on the Stalinist defense that he merely prevents a Holodomor by a genocide.