Rated PG-13. Running Time 2 hours 29 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 5; Language 0; Sex Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
During one of the many, many rescue scenes in Marvel Studio’s new Avengers movie Peter Parker, aka Spider Man says to one of the heroes whose life is saved by his web-spinning, “I got you. I got you. Sorry, I can’t remember anyone’s names.” He expresses exactly my feelings about this over-stuffed but intensely exciting movie. I have a friend who can recite the complicated history of every character in the huge Marvel universe and wished greatly that he had been present while I tried to recall to whom the next vaguely familiar face, dropping into the action, belonged.
Just to list the major characters is taxing for my brain. There are the brothers Thor and Loki; the Avengers—Tony Stark/Iron Man, Bruce Banner /The Hulk; Spider Man; even The Guardians of the Galaxy—Peter Quill / Star-Lord, Rocket, and Groot. There are Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch and Vision, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Sam Wilson/The Falcon, Dr. Strange, Steve Rogers/Captain America, James Rhodes / War Machine, King T’Challa/Black Panther and his sister and other Wakandans. Plus, I was delighted to see the diminutive actor I first enjoyed in The Station Agent Peter Dinklage as Eitri. Oops, I forgot Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier. And in the teaser at the end of the huge credits list (which must have lasted 8 to 10 minutes, more than enough time for a bathroom break!) we have S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury and Deputy Director Maria Hill, who attempt to contact Captain Marvel. Last of all, we have the super villain Thanos and his aides Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw, Corvus Glaive, and Maw. Whew! Part of my wonder over this huge film is how the two Russo brothers (Anthony and Joe), who directed it, kept track of the huge cast!
The plot is the traditional quest, taking us to far-flung planets and their marvelous cities. Thanos’s quest is for six Infinity Stones, super powerful substances that are the foundation of the universe, and the possessor of which will be in complete control of the universe and all its diverse peoples. He places each stone that he acquires in the huge gauntlet. Sometime during his formative years Thanos must have absorbed the gloomy Malthus Theory of Population. He believes that by destroying one half of the population of the planets he conquers, the survivors will have plenty of food and such. In a flashback we see his tender side also when on one conquered planet as his minions are about to exterminate the unfortunate half of the people, he spies a little orphan girl named Glamora, upon whom he takes pity. He turns her eyes away as his soldiers mow down the captives, and apparently during the years leading up to the present, raises her as his daughter. It is she, and thus his humane values, he will have to give up if he, as in the passage from Luke, is to gain “the whole world” (read Universe for world).
The quest of our screen full of heroes, of course, is to block Thanos from fulfilling his quest. In the Marvel Studio movies over the years their mission has grown from the small and local to the universe-traversing. Peter Parker has serves as a good example of this growth—originally, he was concerned with stopping crime in his neighborhood, then in the city, and then in the previous film, with his recruitment into the Avengers team, the whole world, and now all of creation. No wonder every superhero is called into action. No one of them would be equal to the present task.
The CGI action and accompanying pulsing soundtrack are truly mind boggling. I am old enough to recall the crude special effects of the science fiction/fantasy effects of the 50s, so I am truly in awe of the ones in this film. The massive space ships and hyperactive, teeming metropolises shown remind me of the wonderful covers of such pulp s-f magazines of the 1940s as AMAZING STORIES, ASTOUNDING, and THRILLING WONDER STORIES that appealed to the imagination and our near worship of science back in those innocent days. I saw the 2-D version, and am satisfied, but suspect that the 3-D one probably is worth the extra cost this time.
One of the features that I have always loved about the Marvel films is the keen sense of humor if their creators. Some examples this time—and these are just a few:
Even amidst the chaos of a battle scene, the following banter:
Tony Stark: If Thanos needs all six (Infinity Stones), why don’t we just stick this one down a garbage disposal?
Dr. Stephen Strange: No can do.
Wong: We swore an oath to protect the time stone with our lives.
Tony Stark: And I swore off dairy, but then Ben & Jerry’s named a flavor after me. So…
Dr. Stephen Strange: Stark Raving Hazelnuts.
Tony Stark: Not bad.
Dr. Stephen Strange: Bit chalky.
In Wakanda as they prepare to fight their invaders, T’Challa’s sister tells him:
Okoye: When you said you were going to open Wakanda to the rest of the world, this is not what I imagined.
T’Challa: What did you imagine?
Okoye: The Olympics, maybe even a Starbucks.
A running joke is Steve Banner’s inability to summon up The Hulk by getting angry. is trying to While fighting Obsidion in the Hulkbuster armor he again fails, declaring:
Bruce Banner: Hulk. Hulk, I know you like making your entrance at the last second, well, this is it, man. This is the last *last* second. Hulk! Hulk! HULK!
Bruce Banner: Oh, screw you, you big green asshole! I’ll do it myself!
An important part of the film humor is where or how creator Stan Lee will make a cameo appearance. These are always brief, but fun moments. This time I will say only that Peter Parker and his school mates are involved, so be prepared.
Although I still believe that such a small film that I saw the same day as The Leisure Seeker* is worth a dozen of these blockbusters, I nonetheless enjoyed this wild, wild ride with our heroes. The ending surprised me, veering away from—well, let’s just say it leaves you wondering and eager to discover what comes next. It is obvious that this was Act One of a two-act play. What comes next is Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 in 2019, so we will have to wait until next year to find out if what Chronos has done can be undone. At one point Dr. Strange did tell Tony Stark that he has gone into the future to see the thousands of thousands of possible outcomes of their war against Thanos. When Tony asks in how many do we win, he starkly replies, “One.” I presume that it is that “One” we will see next year when I hope that the characters who have disappeared in this film might be resurrected. You never know what the Marvel people
*A road trip film starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, reviewed elsewhere in this issue.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the May issue of Visual Parables.