Catherine and I went to see the latest Disney comic-book flick today. Yep, we followed Black Panther with Avengers: Infinity War, and quite frankly Black Panther was better. But it was her idea and she was paying, and all I had to do was drive the car, keep my opinions to myself, and let her enjoy the movie, so that’s what I did.

However, I’m under no obligation to refrain from inflicting my opinions upon you, gentle reader, so here’s the deal. I liked Avengers: Infinity War better when it was a SNES JRPG called Final Fantasy IV. You think the comparison’s unfair? Here are the similarities:

  • Both have a guilt-ridden protagonist (Tony Stark vs. Cecil Harvey)
  • Both involve an epic battle on a moon that can’t exist in reality.
  • Both have a villain whose nefarious scheme involves collecting a set of magical crystals.

Only instead of Golbez, who struts about in ornate black armor, we’re stuck with the unholy love child of Hellboy and Barney the Dinosaur: Thanos the Mad Titan.

And what makes Thanos mad? Apparently he was the only one out all of the teeming millions on Titan who realized that their world’s population was too big to be sustainable. What solution did he propose? Condoms? IUDs? Anal sex instead of vaginal intercourse? Compulsory homosexuality? Nope. He suggested a murder lottery. He told everybody that half of the people should be killed off.

Naturally, nobody listened. This suggests that the people of Titan were more advanced than us in at least one respect; they knew better than to try to solve complex social, economic, and ecological problems with mass murder. Unfortunately, nobody thought to take Thanos into custody for psychiatric evaluation, and the Malthusian apocalypse Thanos predicted ended up coming after all.

Thus vindicated, Thanos gathers himself an army and goes from planet to planet, culling populations one world at a time and occasionally adopting girls that he himself had orphaned, until he has an epiphany. He realizes that there’s got to be a faster, easier way to murder half of all of the people in the universe.

And that’s when Thanos the Mad Titanic Love Child of Hellboy and Barney the Purple Pedosaur decides to get his Golbez on and start his quest for magic crystals that will let him bring down the Rapture and reduce half the population to dust in the wind.

Naturally, he has to kill a shitload of people along the way, while laying on the Incredible Hulk so epic a beatdown that Bruce Banner spends the rest of the movie unable to hulk out no matter how angry he gets, because the Hulk is nothing but a big green bully who turns out to be chickenshit as soon as he takes a hit from somebody his own size. And, because the plot requires it, we’re supposed to believe he gives enough of a shit about Gamora (one of the orphans he made and then adopted) that throwing her to her death counts as a sacrifice worthy of one of the crystals? Bullshit.

Then again, the whole movie is bullshit, but Marvel and Disney have everything going so fast that it’s hard to realize they were bullshitting you the whole time until after the ending credits roll, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury sees the Rapture happen, and gets caught up in it before he can finish delivering the only sensible response an intelligent person could have to this bullshit: “Motherf—”.

Here’s what bugs me: while I can’t say I was ever a huge comics fan, I’ve read more Marvel comics than I’ve read DC, and many of the Marvel comics I’ve read have been issues of the Avengers. You know what I remember about those comics? The quiet times when the individual members were interacting with each other instead of fighting together to foil some outlandish plot with unbelievable stakes.

I remember shit like Tony Stark and Thor trying to teach the Vision how to ask women out for dates and failing miserably. That’s not the sort of material you see in the movies, except when a bit of comic relief is needed between set pieces, but it’s the sort of material that makes you care about these characters and their larger-than-life struggles.

But Avengers: Infinity War doesn’t give you time to give a damn about its protagonist. Nor does it give you enough information to care about Thanos, understand his motives, or consider the possibility that his methods might be necessary. Instead, we’re supposed to suspend our disbelief in both Thanos’ motives and methods, and that’s more than even I could bear.

Despite all of the above, I will probably end up seeing Avengers: Left Behind or whatever they call the damn sequel. My wife will want to know what happened, and I’ll be curious as to whether Disney and Marvel have the guts to not retcon everybody back to life like Marvel does so often in the comics.

I mean, they couldn’t even make Captain America stay dead after Civil War. Instead, we get Captain America Reborn starting with a paraphrase of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. — “Listen: Steve Rogers has come unstuck in time.” So maybe it’ll turn out that all of the people Thanos raptured away aren’t dead, but stuck on some other plane of the multiverse. It’s how I would handle this clusterfuck of a plot.