They’re are back! The amazing folks at Disney invited me and my friend Chad to a special early screening of Avengers Infinity War, the latest installment in the MCU, Phones safely locked away, we got to enjoy the film a whole three days before release and were placed under an inter-galactic non-disclosure agreement — #ThanosDemandsYourSilence  — so with that in mind, here’s a spoiler-free Avengers Infinity War review.

While we can’t say that Avengers: Infinity War is the most anticipated film ever (the Star Wars films probably still hold that title), it definitely comes to us with the most expectation. The culmination of 10 years and 18 films-worth of storylines in the most diverse cinematic experiment in history. No pressure.

Avengers Infinity War – the premise

The Russo Brothers directed film is set two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War and seemingly directly after the events of Thor: Ragnarok; Captain America, Falcon and Black Widow are still in hiding, Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Pepper Potts are trying to get on with their lives. Our newly minted Spider-Man is still in high school, and Thor is captaining the good ship Asgard with Loki and Hulk. As you may have guessed, going into Avengers Infinity War without any knowledge of the last 10 years of Marvel films may leave you a little bewildered.

Enter Thanos, the big baddie we’ve only seen in glimpses before. He’s the man behind the alien invasion in the first Avengers film. He’s the guy hunting down six elemental gems with the power to, you guessed it, destroy the universe (hey, this is a superhero movie after all – a roster of dozens of good guys need a suitably big bad guy to fight). This leads him to hunt down The Collector (from Guardians of the Galaxy), Doctor Strange and The Vision, who each hold one of the stones (sadly his off-camera adventure to get the Stone held by the Nova Corps robs us of a Glenn Close cameo). Our heros are split up, across space, to make Thanos’ quest more difficult before having a giant smack-down back in Black Panther’s Wakanda. The cry of “Wakanda Forever!” may have been a bit optimistic.

More characters than you can shake a stick at

Almost every character (and there is no shortage of characters) gets a moment to shine and their own personal plot developed slightly. The plot manages to rearrange these characters into new and fun combinations – Thor and Rocket bond over their love of weapons; Scarlet Witch, Black Widow and Black Panther’s stand out character Okoye get to fight side-by-side; Iron Man and Doctor Strange spar as only two men with huge egos can. A few major Marvel characters are completely absent and most of the action here belongs to the Guardians of Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Thor, The Vision and Scarlet Witch.

The biggest character arc of the film however belongs to Thanos, our big purple people eater (okay, he doesn’t eat people, but he does want to kill a lot of them – 50% of the universe to be precise. Yes, there is a reason for this. Whether you think it works as a character motivation will be totally up to you, but it is at least internally consistent. While most of the Marvel villains have been forgettable, the filmmakers have gone to real effort to make Thanos a fleshed out character, the film really feels centered on him with Avengers scrambling around him, the and it works… mostly.

The grand finale

Avengers Infinity War has a tough job to do. It attempts to tie up the loose ends and teases of the last 18 Marvel films. From the Infinity Stones that have acted as plot points in at least five of the movies (starting with Thor back in 2008), to juggling a cast that can barely fit on the one poster, while doing justice to each storyline. All of this makes Avengers Infinity War the Rolex of movies. An intricately crafted piece of engineering, moving a ridiculous number of parts in synchronicity, to a seamless result. More than anything else this has to be due to the teams working behind the camera. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, have created most of this universe from the ground up (Markus and McFeely especially have written most of the Marvel mythology – few writers have had this level of influence over a franchise, other than maybe James Bond’s Neal Purvis and Robert Wade). As a creative unit these men know the world so well because they helped make it from the ground up. There are call-backs to previous films that will surprise and delight. They manage to keep all the pieces moving in ways that never break character and even give the final big CG-orgy of a fight some justification – the cannon-fodder isn’t just cannon-fodder.

And major kudos to the cast, most of whom manage to make their few minutes of screen time memorable (Scarlett Johansson especially fills Black Widow’s reserved front with a wealth of restrained emotion).

A faultless outing?

For all the love and praise for what will no doubt be one of the biggest films of all time, there are few negatives worth mentioning. The CG is a let down at times, especially Thanos’ side-kicks, the Black Order. While Thanos himself is beautifully animated, the Order (especially Proxima Midnight) look like they’re a few years in CG-development behind him. It’s shame we don’t get more time with them, a few are particularly fascinating. There is also a disastrous animation of Bruce Banner in the final scene which even the most obliviously wont fail to see.

The finale’s for some of our heroes feel less than satisfying (for reasons you’ll only understand when you see the film). While some developments hit hard, others feel merely like setting up plot points for the next film.

To its credit, Avengers Infinity War delivers on the high expectations people have of it and it changes the status quo for almost all of Marvel’s franchises. The film goes from 0 to 100 in the first few minutes and barely pauses to take a breathe for the remaining three hours of the film (the cinema was boiling hot as the credits rolled due to the sweating and tension from the audience). It effortlessly segues between high drama, humour, tension and sadness in a ride that begs to be seen multiple times just to ensure you did really catch everything (we’re already booked in to go again). It will be interesting to see where they all go from here (other than the obvious, and as yet unnamed, fourth Avengers film).

Oh, and as is tradition in Marvel scenes, and end-credits scene does appear right at the end. So pay attention after seeing the names of the thousands of people who worked on this film!

Thanks to Chad for helping with the review, follow him on Twitter!

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Written by Neil Thornton
London-based coffee drinker. Editor by day, blogger by whatever time he finds spare.