Combustible Celluloid
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With: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, William Hurt, Letitia Wright, Peter Dinklage, Winston Duke
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references
Running Time: 149
Date: 04/25/2018

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Having the Stones

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It must have taken a superhuman effort to pull together this massive production, the nineteenth in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which features just about every single character from all the movies thus far (except, sadly, San Francisco's own Ant-Man).

But, though the result could have been an unwieldy, top-heavy, all-star mess like 1963's It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Avengers: Infinity War is a super movie, gigantic, but with an undeniable, powerful, humanity.

The movie's plot has been teased in Marvel movies for years. Galactic bad guy Thanos (Josh Brolin) is attempting to collect six Infinity Stones, and when he does this, he can control everything; it will be the end of the universe as we know it.

It's an old plot, but it has gravity. Like Killmonger in the current Black Panther, Thanos has his reasons for doing this, something he thinks is for the good of all, even if it comes with a vicious price. As the movie goes on, the weight of Thanos's task becomes heavier, and Brolin's canny mo-cap performance makes the character almost touching.

It would be ludicrous to describe the events, except to warn viewers that viewings of at least the last six movies in the franchise (Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther) are more or less required.

Suffice to say that the screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely divides our pack of superheroes into smaller groups, which are more easily managed.

Roll call, in alphabetical order by superhero name, goes like this: Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America (Chris Evans), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

The Guardians of the Galaxy are: Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and surly teen Groot (Vin Diesel).

Then: Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Vision (Paul Bettany), War Machine (Don Cheadle), and the former "Winter Soldier," Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).

The list includes many others: Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Benicio Del Toro, Gwyneth Paltrow, Peter Dinklage, Winston Duke, Benedict Wong, etc.

At one point, Spider-Man, while trying to help some colleagues, gives up and says, "I'm sorry... I can't remember all your names."

Humor — carried over from funnier entries like Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok — is most welcome, and nicely interspersed with more dramatic moments.

Meanwhile, brother directors Anthony and Joe Russo (of the Captain America movies The Winter Soldier and Civil War) keep up a snappy, coherent pace.

In the past, the Russos have been camera-shakers, and they still occasionally tend toward the too-quick cut, but they have improved. Avengers: Infinity War is their smoothest, best looking movie yet.

What this movie does differently is that it has consequences. There are losses here that mean something, and it's a disquieting effect. These characters have been with us onscreen for ten years now, since 2008's Iron Man, and even longer on the comic page. How is it we can care about them so much?

The answer could be twofold. Superheroes appeal to geeky, awkward kids because it's the promise that underneath a misfit exterior lies a special power, if only others could see it. Many never grow out of that feeling.

But in this troubled world superheroes also appeal to adults because of their decision to use powers to help others. It's comforting to think that any of us would do the same, if we could.

In short, superheroes, while not perfect, are our best possible selves, freed and visualized. Avengers: Infinity War knows this implicitly. And it helps.

Part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.

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