There’s an early scene in “Infinite,” Antoine Fuqua’s sci-fi thriller on Paramount+, that seems like an outtake from a social-issue drama. Mark Wahlberg’s Evan McCauley attends a job interview at a restaurant, the place the slimy proprietor grills him about his previous struggles with psychological well being earlier than dismissing him rudely. “Who’s going to hire a diagnosed schizophrenic with a history of violence?” a dejected Evan wonders in voice-over as he walks again dwelling. I used to be disarmed by the human-size pathos of this scene: Evan’s received payments to pay and capsules to purchase, identical as us all.
But “Infinite” is a film about superheroes, which implies that the stakes need to turn into, at minimal, planet-size. As it seems, Evan isn’t delusional: He’s particular. He’s one among a choose group of souls, known as “the Infinite,” who’re born (and reborn) with the power to recollect all their expertise and experiences from previous lives. Among this lot are dangerous guys who wish to blow up the world and good guys who wish to put it aside. (That each factions make use of related strategies — crashing souped-up vehicles by means of metropolis streets with nary a take care of collateral harm — goes unaddressed, although I wouldn’t be stunned if a sequel devoted itself to hand-wringing in regards to the better good.)
Chiwetel Ejiofor performs the snarling alpha villain, Bathurst, who’s so sick of rinsing and repeating his existence that he’s invented a system — elegantly named “the Egg” — to raze all of life. Evan stopped him in a earlier go-round and should achieve this once more, however first he must unclog centuries of reminiscences and superpowers. And so Nora (Sophie Cookson), one of many good gals, whisks Evan away to a mystical Wakanda-like vacation spot, dwelling to a Xavier Institute–like analysis middle, the place he undergoes a Batman–like coaching routine to avoid wasting humanity from a Thanos-like villain’s Infinity Stone–like totem.
There’s a joke to be made right here in regards to the oppressive déjà vu of a film about countless reincarnations, however I’d really feel like a damaged file for making it. To demand originality from these algorithmic franchise-starters is to overlook the purpose. But the issue with Antoine Fuqua’s spin on the method is that it’s principally method and hardly any spin. It’s as if Fuqua and his writers (Ian Shorr and Todd Stein) discovered the supply code to the style and Three-D printed it with none of the primal thrills that make such blockbusters watchable: intricate, ever-expanding world-building; big objects whizzing into one another with satisfying booms; charismatic characters defying loss of life with panache.
Instead, “Infinite” muddles round with some wishy-washy Eastern philosophy, and has principally charmless actors (except Ejiofor, magnetic in opposition to the chances) duel and drive whereas mouthing exposition that lacks even a wisp of subtext. Evan and his ilk are known as the “believers,” Bathurst’s crew are the “nihilists,” and Jason Mantzoukas performs a tech genius who controls his fancy devices with pronouncements like “Open weapons room door!”
What’s attention-grabbing about all this unabashed literalness is how nakedly it makes the case for the movie’s personal perpetuation. “Infinite” ends with a pop-psych spiel about how each new story is a probability at hope and risk. Who can blame Bathurst for being uninterested in reliving the identical stuff over and over? Yet whereas he desires to burn the world down, I’m nonetheless holding out hope for the films.
Rated PG-13 for giant explosions and bloody duels. Running time 1 hour 46 minutes. Watch on Paramount+.