, ‘Infinite’ Review: Another Streaming Disaster That Makes Theaters Look Good, The Nzuchi News Forbes

‘Infinite’ Review: Another Streaming Disaster That Makes Theaters Look Good

It’s exactly the kind of “was supposed to be in theaters” stinker that now ends up being treated as an A-level event for streamers.

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of J.J. Abrams’s Super 8. The film was a solid hit ($250 million on a $50 million budget) and continued the wave of 1980’s pop culture nostalgia that began with Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer. From its Super Bowl teaser to the film’s pre-release press, the narrative for the Joel Courtney/Kyle Chandler/Elle Fanning sci-fi flick was that it was an old-school movie-movie, a throwback to a time when you didn’t have to be part of a mega-bucks franchise to make a pop culture impact. The irony was that the Paramount-released flick served as counterprogramming to the likes of Paramount’s Thor, Paramount’s Kung Fu Panda 2, Paramount’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Paramount’s Captain America.

Paramount was once such a tentpole powerhouse that it released the summer blockbusters and the counterprogramming to those blockbusters. That makes the Viacom-owned studio’s current state all the more tragic, as this morning sees the release of Antoine Fuqua’s Infinite not in theaters but on Paramount+. In a world where Pixar’s Luca goes to Disney+ and Sony Animation’s Mitchells Vs. the Machines goes to Netflix, the notion of Mark Wahlberg’s big-budget sci-fi actioner skipping theaters is not automatically a representation of quality. However, in this case, Occam’s Razor applies, as Infinite is a miserable experience, a cut-to-ribbons, poorly-structured and artistically irrelevant knock-off of The Matrix. The only difference between itself and The Cloverfield Paradox is that it’s on Paramount+ instead of Netflix.

, ‘Infinite’ Review: Another Streaming Disaster That Makes Theaters Look Good, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Yes, it’s an example of “rip-off, don’t remake.” That philosophy gave us (offhand) Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Fast & The Furious and Insidious. A vital component of that old rule is having content that differentiates itself from the genuine article. There is nothing in Infinite that would make anyone choose to watch it over The Matrix. I wasn’t big on Wanted. However, that R-rated actioner had unique elements (Angelina Jolie as a femme fatale, Morgan Freeman cast against type, huge-scale action-violence, etc.), which made it a viable alternative to the genuine article. Infinite is like choosing Asylum’s Transmorphers: Fall of Man when Paramount’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a click away.

The film inexplicably stars 50-year-old Mark Wahlberg not as the Obi-Wan or the Han Solo but as the gee-whiz Luke Skywalker. Wahlberg plays a man tormented by mental illness, which turns out to be visions of past lives, which hint at untapped skills and unknown powers. While Evan McCauley doesn’t have schizophrenia, this is the second time (along with Mile 22) he has played a mentally traumatized genius/killing machine. The film (based on D. Eric Maikranz’s 2009 novel The Reincarnationist Papers) asks, “What if The Matrix opened in 1992, starred a past-his-prime Tom Berenger cosplaying as a much younger man, took place in our drab real world and offered little in the way of eye-popping imagery or dazzling sci-fi ideas?”

What’s odd about the film is that its enjoyable-enough car chase prologue features Dylan O’Brien as the “previous life” of Wahlberg’s protagonist, and it’s frankly inexplicable that he (or someone in his demographic) wasn’t the lead with Wahlberg playing the proverbial Morpheus. It certainly would have avoided questions about Wahlberg being indirectly paired with 31-year-old Sophie Cookson. Chiwetel Ejiofor has some fun (more so than in The Old Guard) as the heavy, a fellow immortal who wants to end all life on Earth so he can finally die, and Jason Mantzoukas adds some life toward the end as a brain rewiring specialist. Otherwise, everyone is painfully detached, and the film goes through the motions, coming off like “Generic Mockbuster: The Movie.” 

Fuqua almost single-handedly kept the R-rated actioner alive (Tears of the Sun, Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer, etc.) during a decade of post-Columbine PG-13 madness, so it’s dispiriting to see him helming this assembly-line nothing-burger. Infinite also commits the sin of ending on an epilogue teasing a far more enjoyable movie. But will audiences on Paramount+ will “press play” merely because it’s a star-driven “supposed to be in theaters” biggie? The most straightforward answer concerning its streaming-specific fate could be that Peter Berg’s Spenser Confidential racked up around 85 million views on Netflix. That film played like a mid-1990’s television pilot, but it at least had a little personality. Infinite plays like a standard “Hollywood sold it to streaming because it was terrible” offering.

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