On this episode of Fresh Films, the guys ponder whether it is ethical to kill half the population of the universe in order to drastically improve the quality of life for the other half. If civilization could survive such great losses, would this utilitarian effort wreck every economy in the universe?
[The Spinners - "Rubberband Man”]
Elliot Kronsberg: What about Natasha Romanoff?
Marco Cartolano: So they going to explain the blonde at some point or is that just natural hair?
Marcus Galeano: I assumed it was she went undercover or something.
Elliot: Yeah because everybody’s looking for a redhead Russian woman. You dye your hair blonde, nobody’s looking for…
Marcus: Oh for Captain America, just put on a fucking beard and grow your hair out just a little bit.
Elliot: Everybody’s like, “Oh that’s just Scarlett Johansson, no need to pay any attention to her.” It’s not like anybody in the Marvel Universe has ever seen Under the Skin.
Marco: Ok, so welcome to Fresh Films, we’re a podcast devoted to reviewing new movies in Evanston. I’m Marco Cartolano.
Marcus: I’m Marcus Galeano.
Elliot: I’m Elliot Kronsberg.
Marco: Today we’re talking about the newest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s one of the big ones. It’s Avengers: Infinity War.
Marcus: All right, so this is the new pinnacle of big, stupid comic book movies in which all the heroes you know and love come together to fight Thanos, the guy they hinted at the end of the first Avengers. His main goal is to bring peace to the universe by eliminating half of it, thus reducing the amount of resources that people take just by existing.
Elliot: It’s a very weird film in that it’s all about utilitarianism. It’s about whether the universe would be best served by killing half of all living things so that the other half could then enjoy a much higher quality of life. Or if it’s better to not destroy half the universe and instead try to share. I feel like Thanos’ ultimate goal is kind of compelling because you’re like, “yeah I want to live a better life.” But then also you realize the people who die end up being the people you care about. It’s not like when half of the earth dies it’s going to be like four billion people that you never met. No it’s going to be like, “Oh your mom dies, but your dad doesn't. Your dog dies but your cat doesn’t.” So then that’s not really a lot of fun. Though I’m interested in what this motherfucker is trying to do, even if I think he’s doing it the wrong way. Kind of what I feel about Killmonger.
Marcus: Oh my god, Thanos is a million times more compelling than Killmonger. You kidding me? “I’mma burn it all.”
Marco: Of course, these movies also can’t at all consider the fact that maybe he can use those powers to do something to solve overpopulation, other than kill everybody.
Elliot: Like, wait wait?Marcus: Por ejemplo?
Marco: Like maybe create more resources because it seems like he can do anything else.
Marcus: I don’t think that’s in his powers. He’s got that one thing that can make illusions.
Elliot: I think maybe he could create more resources, but that wouldn’t solve any problems, cause there’s a finite amount of space, you can’t just suddenly double the amount of food in the universe, that would crash every economy in the universe.
Marcus: Very true.
Elliot: I mean, I guess also killing half of the people would also wreck all of the economies. So, you know it’s a double edged sword. But in general, you can’t just solve problems by creating more.
Marco: Ok, so I want to get off some of the positives about this film. First off, this film actually has very good spectacle because Marvel and Disney have loads of cash and they can throw it to make some very cool space scenes. There’s scenes with Thanos that look pretty great. Thor has really cool scenes in space. Particularly one set piece with a sun. Also, these characters have been around for 10 years now. Everyone involved, from the directors to the writers to the actors are familiar with them and they feel comfortable with them and they know how to set them off against each other to create good chemistry. There’s a scene with Thor and Star Lord, it’s really good. Iron Man and Dr. Strange play off against each other pretty well.
Elliot: But something I really like about this film compared to other big ensemble superhero movies, I liked that in this movie we kept the heroes fighting heroes to a minimum. Of course when people never met each other they’re a little distrustful and so you get a little bit of antagonism there, but generally we’re not looking at a film completely built off of superheroes fighting superheroes. Because, frankly that’s kind of stupid.
Marcus: I would sort of hesitate to even call this a film. It doesn’t really go through acts per say. It’s just each little segment of the Avengers spread out across the galaxy are in a little place. They do a little thing, then it cuts to another section of the Avengers doing a little thing and eventually they all kind of coalesce to fight Thanos. It’s so spread out that you don’t really get a lot of character development for each character, but they’ve already been developed so you know who they are and you appreciate the interactions that occur. The main emotional and character crux of the film is definitely Thanos. I’d say he’s more the protagonist than anyone else. Or like the main character, cause he’s the villain so he’s the antagonist. His motivation and his way of thinking are understandable in the context of the movie and you sort of relate to him in that way and you sort of empathize with him when he goes through struggles even though he’s villainous in his actions and it worked for me.
Marco: But it’s still the most comic book sort of plan for a villain to be like, “I’m going to kill half of the universe’s population.”
Elliot: I grew up reading comic books. I mean I’ve been reading them since I could read. And I mean, this is Thanos’ M.O., his modus operandi. It’s always been. He’s obsessed with bringing balance to the universe. The thing that I couldn’t get over was even though I’ve seen him a million times and I know he’s a giant ugly purple thing. He looks like a giant buff grape, and I can’t get over it, I don’t know why…
Marcus: He looks a little silly.
Elliot: He looks like he’s halfway into turning into a raisin, but he’s just like this very odd purple shade and it’s especially weird considering the fact that he’s of a race that usually looks very human-like. But on a completely different note how about that Peter Dinklage?
Elliot: He was my favorite.
Marcus: Are you serious?
Elliot: Yeah. When I saw him and he’s a giant dwarf, that’s just mind blowing. I’m like, no one but Marvel could be both this obvious and this quirky in a not indie-quirky way. In a corporate quirky way.
Marcus: So I noticed this a lot in Black Panther. And I noticed it a bit now in Infinity War. It’s that they’re not really stylistically modelled after the director’s work. Ryan Coogler, before he made Black Panther, he used a lot of handheld and a little shaky cam right?
Elliot: I guess a lot of these directors don’t have much work before the Marvel – like the Russos, they did what like some episodes of Arrested Development, some episodes of Community, and You, Me and Dupree.
Marcus: Right but even in the Captain America movies, the way they shoot action scenes, for example, it’s a lot more close quarters. More martial arts-based. You could see the, executing every little move, that’s very impressive. They found a way where it’s akin to the Jason Bourne style, but where you can tell that they know their shit when they’re fighting and with this film, you lose a bit of the auteurism, I think. Because it’s just such a vast thing.
Marco: And you replace it with a bunch of guys fighting CGI monsters.
Marcus: It is a Frankenstein’s Monster, but the script is tight enough and the interactions work well enough where I enjoy the film.
Marco: My big critique of the film is that, you mentioned it doesn’t really feel like a film, I kinda think it feels like three or four different films that are really edited together and it’s kind of fighting each other attention almost. I understand why that’s there, but sometimes it feels more so that all these different aspects of the film are just trying to get from point A to point B. And we sometimes have moments where there should be very emotionally impactful things, but they have no room to breathe because you have to advance the plot. There is a moment in the Thanos plot that should be very emotionally resonant, but I just think it got suffocated in the fact that they need to go to the next big fight scene or the next big set piece.
Elliot: I can’t actually think of a time in these Marvel movies where I’ve actually felt real emotions, because they’re just corporate monstrosities. It’s like Disney manipulating our minds. I only trust 20th Century Fox a little more because I know Disney’s trying to swallow them up.
Marco: When they do stuff like that,it takes the wind out of some of these scenes. It takes the wind out of their sails because they just don’t have that time to land, almost. Because you have to go from what happens with Thanos to “Oh look Spider-Man and Iron Man are fighting in a spaceship.” You want to move on to the ending of this film?
Marcus: It’s bullshit. It’s all bullshit.
Elliot: I mean do we really need to talk about the ending. Can we just leave it at “It’s bullshit?”
Marcus: In the context of the film, it’s very effective but…
Marco: I think the ending loses a lot of power because of how much Marvel has been planning so much for the future that there’s stuff that happens there that you know is going to be so easily retconned. Because the machine of Marvel won’t let those changes hold.
[Ramones - “Spider-Man”]
Elliot: So how ‘bout those final thoughts guys? What do you think Marcus?
Marcus: Well, if you like these Marvel movies you’ll enjoy this. If you don’t and you think it’s the death of cinema, you’ll hate this one even more, so don’t watch it. But I had fun with it. It’s an enjoyable time at the movies If you like these movies, you’ll like this one.
Elliot: What about you Marco?
Marco: So, I was always afraid that there’d be the one Marvel movie where I would just be out of link with everyone else and just think, “This is pretty meh. I don’t get it anymore.” I think that this is getting pretty close to being that for me. I think it focuses on all the stuff about the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I don’t particularly care about. I don’t care about all the Infinity Stones, I don’t care about the big overarching plot. I don’t care about the action scenes. I never watched these films for the action scenes. I watch them more for all the fun characters, if there’s some cool effects I like that a lot of the time. This film feels pretty overstuffed and I enjoy parts of it, but it kind of collapses under the weight of all that it has and I think that its ending is undercut by the fact that we know it’s going to get reversed pretty easily for the sake of marketing. But if you’re a fan I’m sure there’s a lot about it that you will love. If you’re still on the Marvel hype train I’m sure you love this too. Elliot, what’d you think?
Elliot: So, I was not really in the mood for this film. I’ve watched all the Marvel films. I’ve watched probably like any comic book movie that’s come out in the past 30 years. But there are just so many characters and I knew the direction it was going before I stepped into the theater. I mean I had a fine time, it another Avengers movie. The Russos clearly have this down to a science. My brother saw the film an I think he’s probably more representative of Marvel’s target demographic. So let me just say, if you are an 18-year old boy who grew up reading Marvel comics, watched the TV shows, owns several superhero t-shirts you will probably enjoy this film. And I got to say, a lot of the film I enjoyed as a 21-year-old who fits all of that description. I’m not going to say don’t see this film because you’ve already seen it. Instead I’m just going to say there are some things I like. All those great cameos – Peter Dinklage, Carrie Coon. It’s nice to see everybody together in one film. Just had to buy one ticket, and I get both the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers. It’s a giant movie. Marvel probably paid quite a large fortune to make it, and they’re probably going to make several times that. But anyway, good film, not great. Go ahead and see it ‘cause I know you’re going to see it anyway. So this has been Fresh Films from NBN audio. You can catch us online in the audio section of North by Northwestern. Or you can find us on Apple Podcasts. If you want, subscribe; if not, that’s okay too. I’m Elliot Kronsberg.
Marcus: I’m Marcus Galeano.
Marco: And I’m Marco Cartolano.
Elliot: See ya.
[“Enola Gay” - Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark]