Avengers: Infinity War

First off, Captain America’s cell number has a 678 area code. So I guess that’s pretty cool.

That’s about the only new thing of interest we learn about any of our beloved superheroes in the long-awaited Avengers: Infinity War. Otherwise, it’s two hours and 40 minutes of galaxy-spanning mayhem and physics-defying battle sequences, regularly peppered by quick-witted quips and banter – which are usually the best part of any Marvel movie anyway. Their writers get it, these characters are distinctive and the actors in the suits and CGI are perfect, clearly having fun with it. And it’s enough to sustain this ride, not only a continuation of the ongoing, interlocking MCU serial but the first half of a two-part Avengers story arc. By way of the films leading up to this climax, we’ve grown to know these heroes, their strengths and flaws – there’s no more development needed on their end, not for this episode, anyway. They’re tossed together in this battle to kick ass and crack wise, and on those two fronts, mission accomplished.

With most of their suits now completely black (just in case you had any doubts that they really mean business this time), the team’s not exactly reunited, but they’re all fighting the same enemy from various far-flung fronts, augmented by the goofy Guardians of the Galaxy (who, aligned with the equally hilarious Thor (Chris Hemsworth), provide most of the biggest yuks in an epic tale where the fate of the universe rarely gets in the way of a corny joke). Ensemble action films like this one, where audience expectations are already exceedingly high after the buildup from previous entries in the franchise, always run the risk of attempting too much, overreaching with the pandemonium, cramming too many characters into a non-stop mess where no one really gets to shine. For the most part, Infinity War valiantly avoids such pitfalls. Not everyone benefits, however. As Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson is pretty much lost in the shuffle, but she’s getting her own movie now anyway so that’s an acceptable consolation. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) can’t seem to get it up (i.e. Hulkify), which provides a running joke throughout but is ultimately rather, er, unsatisfying. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) does little other than helplessly dissolve. That’s better than Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who didn’t make the cut whatsoever. And once again, Gwyneth Paltrow (as Pepper Potts, now engaged to Tony Stark/Iron Man) basically just makes a cameo in Piedmont Park to straighten Tony’s collar and express concern for his wellbeing before Dr. Strange whisks him away to save the world. Her screen time amounts to maybe two minutes total, so she probably made double what she pocketed for popping up at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming.

On the other hand, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), now established as a couple, figure far more prominently than ever before, as ultimate baddie Thanos (Josh Brolin) needs the Mind Stone embedded in Vision’s forehead to complete his magic gem collection, supersize his power exponentially and exert his utopian concept of population control over the entire cosmos, which means randomly aborting half of all living things everywhere.

Now, whether he actually accomplishes this by the end of Infinity War is somewhat irrelevant, because (a) there’s a sequel coming next year that continues this whole affair, (b) characters die in comic book and sci-fi stories all the time, only to be brought back later, (c) the Time Stone, and (d) Tom Holland’s about to start filming another Spider-Man movie that takes place after this, so we have to assume he’s not going to be playing Spidey’s ghost. I’m more interested in how he instantly learned how to used Stark’s shiny new Iron-Spider suit (complete with four creepy extra spider legs – bad idea visually!) when he never really got the hang of the last one throughout Homecoming. And did Stark and Hank Pym collaborate on miniaturization technology since Civil War? How else does an entire working Iron Man suit expand out of nothing to envelop his body in a matter of seconds?

See, these are the things that were running through my brain while taking a whiz after watching Infinity War, not whether Black Panther’s alive or dead. But, look, it’s a fun, thoroughly entertaining movie, and you don’t need me to tell you to go see it. You probably already have, maybe twice. So go see it again.