It has been a decade since Iron Man kickstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe. During the following ten years, many heroes and (fewer) heroines have donned costumes and suits of armor, and become champions of justice. Sometimes they dealt with their own problems alone, other times they teamed up together as the Avengers to combat greater threats. But behind each victory the Avengers secured, it was gradually revealed there was a single villain behind those failed plots, and he was starting to lose patience for manipulation and subterfuge.

And so with Avengers: Infinity War, it is time for this villain to act, to come fully onto the field of battle.

Thanos, the mad titan, is hunting down the Infinity Stones. These powerful objects each represent an aspect of existence: Space, Time, Power, Reality, Mind, Soul. With all six stones on his Infinity Gauntlet (a weapon specifically designed to harness the power of Infinity Stones), Thanos will finally gain the capability to fulfill his mission: eliminate half of the sentient population of the entire universe, in order to prevent total extinction. And it’s up to the Avengers to stop Thanos and his lackeys from carrying out a cosmic-scaled genocide.

Directed by Marvel Studios’ new favorite household directors Joseph and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Infinity War is set after Captain America: Civil War and the dissolution of the Avengers, and it has de-throned Civil War as the tonally darkest entry of the MCU, but not for the lack of jokes. Thanos is the most formidable opponent the Avengers have ever faced, and he poses a threat not just to Earth, but to all of the universe. Besides his unrivaled battle prowess, Thanos is also a brilliant tactician that never once loses his eye on his goals. He’s an egomaniac, yes, but he’s also the type of villain who would only give a monologue when he’s 100% certain he could get away with it. Thanos and his forces hound the Avengers at every step, leaving the super team with not a moment of respite. Although Infinity War contains plenty of humorous banter (definitely more than The Winter Soldier ), the uneven distribution of quips combined with the mounting tension give the impression that the movie itself was straining to crack jokes.

The film builds tension with unrelenting assaults from Thanos and his lieutenants. Most of those lieutenants exhibit efficient tactical planning that could place them on the top brackets of the overall MCU villain list, and every one of them takes on more than one Avenger at a time. Thanos and his lieutenants engage the Avengers in constant planet-trotting attacks and counter-attacks for Infinity Stones. Infinity War is the most action-packed superhero movie yet. Heroes old and new obtain new gear and new looks, and they fight with great ferocity and beautifully executed power-combining moves. The movie alters between different locales and different teams of Avenger to give the scenes some time to breathe, before jumping back into another battle, without fatiguing the audience.

The problem with action scenes taking up most of the two-and-a-half hour runtime is it leaves very little space for everything else. The standalone movies released previously all had character progression (for example: Thor learning responsibility in his debut film) or social commentary (the morals of mass surveillance and pre-emptive strikes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier ). When the Avengers assembled in the past, they didn’t just fight, they had to tackle the issues of trust and cooperation. Fans who were looking for a deep dive into the minds of their favorite heroes will definitely be disappointed. In Infinity War , some brief thoughts on mortality take place, but another battle soon finds the heroes needing to engage.

I suppose it is pointless to hide it now, “it” being the reason why Marvel had started the Twitter hashtag “#ThanosDemandsYourSilence” to combat spoilers online. The superheroes the audience knew and love are no match for Thanos and his gauntlet, and there will be casualties. The mortality of the main characters in Infinity War takes the story toward unexpected directions, straying away from accustomed Marvel formulae, but certain plot developments (which I will not get into) cheapen the rising stakes greatly. Infinity War is the culmination of ten years’ worth of buildup, and the wildest ride Marvel Studios has ever delivered. The exciting energy this film contains is unfortunately hampered story-wise by being the first part of a two-parter. Fans of the franchise will appreciate the spectacles provided by the largest cinematic crossover to date, that is until the next Avenger movie arrives.

★★★★

Written by Chi-Tsung Chang

Taiwanese. Film, Sci-Fi novel, Florence + the Machine enthusiast, and amateur audiophile. @AtravellerERA on twitter https://letterboxd.com/Atraveller/

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