'Avengers: Infinity War': An over-plotted and overly long superhero epic

At one point in the Avengers: Infinity War, we are informed that some of the characters have entered “Knowhere.”

I can relate. The more you know in this 156-minute plate of plot spaghetti, the less you feel like you’re getting somewhere.

Avengers and warlocks and witches careen all over the universe on a scavenger hunt to find so-called infinity stones, the key to power in the universe. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have at least four plot threads going at once, all headed in the same direction — evil guy Thanos (Josh Brolin, purportedly) wants the stones because when they are affixed to his magical gauntlet, he will acquire unlimited power to wage a campaign of extermination across the universe.

One of these stones, by the way, is called the Soul Stone, and while I don’t want to tell Stan Lee or Marvel how to tell a superhero story, how is it possible the Soul Stone does not reside in Wakanda? (Or Detroit, or right here in Philly?)

I call B.S.

Also, are we really meant to take Thanos seriously? He’s presented as a digitized muscle-man, so as to appear fearsome, but every time he attached another sequin to his uni-glove, I kept waiting for someone to drop a Michael Jackson joke.

Hey Thanos, didn’t I see that Infinity Gauntlet at Neverland Ranch?

That should have been a line for Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but like the rest of the Avengers, he’s been placed on a severely restricted diet of wisecracks for Infinity War — a problem, since the occasional jokes are the only thing keeping Infinity War watchable. For the most part, it’s one of those long-faced MCU outings that pretends the Avengers are in actual mortal (or immortal) danger.

If that is so, then why do they spend so much time on petty squabbles? The Russo brothers allot gobs of screen time to internal Avengers bickering  — Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), of course, and then Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans). Actually, within a few minutes, Ironman/Tony Stark has alienated Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Quill and his hyper-critical of protégé Spider-Man (Tom Holland).

These MCU movies are best when they have time to devote to a manageable range of characters. Infinity War contains just about everybody but Ant-Man, as if the sheer volume of Marvel characters would give the movie dramatic force.

The opposite occurs.

Characters overflow on the screen, crowding out emotional investment, and there is a severely misplaced emphasis on the power of special effects — many characters appear to be entirely digitized, and none has much screen impact. Action sequences pass by in an undistinguished blur — an attack on Wakanda looks a lot like an outtake from 2016’s Matt Damon flop Great Wall.

Thanos has Josh Brolin’s voice, but he’s visually uninteresting. His thick limbs make his movement graceless and artificial, as phony as his supposed Malthusian motivation for killing half the living beings in the universe.

Thanos’ issues are probably most deeply felt by the Russos, who are trying to manage their own dangerously overcrowded universe, while selling us on the notion that — no, dudes, seriously — some of the Avengers are in REAL DANGER.

As if.

For one thing, we’re told we’re in a world where time and reality can be manipulated, so seeing is not believing, and nothing carries much weight.

For another, Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok made $2 billion combined.

Those characters aren’t going anywhere.

MOVIES

Avengers: Infinity War

  • Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. With Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin and Tom Holland. Distributed by Disney.
  • Running time: 2 hours, 36 mins.
  • Parents guide: PG-13 (violence, language)
  • Playing at: Area theaters.