Opening as it means to go on, Avengers: Infinity War sets out to decimate the Marvel cinematic universe as the characters we love suffer and the rules of this reality are bent into an unfamiliar picture. This is the culmination of ten years, nineteen movies and billions of dollars. Its epic, beautiful and heart wrenching; just a pity its only half a movie.
When the previously post-credit threat Thanos finally plays his hand, it is up to the heroes of the Marvel cinematic universe to try and stop him claiming the infinity stones in a story split across the galaxy. Basically a near three-hour long fight sequence, Infinity War rushes past with very few breaks for air; a move that is inevitable given the scale of the conflict and in the moment feels exhilarating but one that requires little of the viewer. From start to end, you witness extraordinary action and special effects as big bad Thanos crushes the heroes we have grown to love with ease yet once the credits roll there isn’t much left to draw you back, instead you are left yearning for a conclusion; one that won’t come for another year.
Balancing such an expansive cast is incredibly difficult and the sheer scale was one of the main red flags going into Infinity War but the Russo brothers prove their worth in keeping the film surprisingly tight and streamlined; of course, it jumps around a lot but the cuts feel natural to the breakneck pace of the film. The Russos had previously shown they could tackle a wide cast with 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and their more grounded style compared to Joss Whedon is perfect for the darker tone of the third Avengers feature. While a lot of characters do feel the impact of the films massive scale, each is at least given one moment to shine amidst the chaos of the key action set pieces that act as the film’s structure. In the end, the only character actually given a lot of development within the film is the villain Thanos himself; Marvel does a great job of creating a three-dimensional antagonist whose reasoning and motivation is fully understandable. It is ironic that with all the criticism of their villainous characters in the past, Marvel places their strongest threat yet as the emotional and dramatic core of their massive cumulative event.
The definition of excess, Avengers: Infinity War is bursting at the seams with plot, characters and action yet the 10 years of cinematic build-up and the controlled direction of the Russo brothers somehow keeps it in check. The only word to really describe the film is epic with its few downfalls an inevitable result of achieving this status. Alone it would be a mess but as the final act of a sprawling cinematic universe, it is brilliant.