NOTICE: There are NO SPOILERS in this review.

There’s a lot to be unpacked here, and I’m not going to sit here and pretend like all of my feelings are lined up perfectly in a row for careful analysis. Nor do I really think it’s a film that requires that as its main goal here is to be entertaining, but you knew that it would be out of the gate. The Russo Brothers have taken over the helm of the “Avengers” series from originally helmer Joss Whedon. The rip-roaring success of “The Avengers” in 2012 was slightly taken down by the simply good “Avengers: Age of Ultron” in 2015. It’s not that “Age of Ultron” was bad in any way, it just had a lot to live up to now that the novelty of the first film had passed. After the immense success of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War,” generally both received as the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (along with “Black Panther,”) the Russo Brothers took the helm from Whedon and fans could not have been more excited. Marvel’s hand also couldn’t have been more well-played at this point in time due to the immense success that “Black Panther” has brought on the MCU bost critically and financially, becoming its highest-regarded and highest-grossing installment in all 31 films. But where does “Avengers: Infinity War” fall?

After films upon films have been built up to it, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is finally personally out for blood looking for the remainder of the infinity stones to help purge the world of most of its citizens to bring it to a more manageable state, mercilessly slaughtering anyone in his way to stop him. Unfortunately for him, those in his way include Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Wong (Benedict Wong), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Groot (voice of Vin Diesel), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) and Star Lord (Chris Pratt).

Of course, there’s technically more to the plot than that, but I describe it as such for two reasons: 1. I don’t want to even tread close to anything that could be considered a spoiler, and 2. I really wanted to illustrate just how jam-packed this film is…I mean, it is stacked. Even in its 159 minute runtime, the film still often feels like no one really gets the center stage treatment, which I was unsure of at first, but I then found myself used to the idea of Iron Man or Captain America taking center stage, but without a set focal point of a “main character,” the film really does feel like a true anthology film of superheroes. Are there too many heroes? Sure, but the fact that the Russo’s pulled it off with relative success is a feat all its own.

Where do we even begin? Let’s jump in with the tone of the film, which is an absolute stark contrast from the more light-hearted tones that the previous films have spun. I spent most of “Avengers: Infinity War” with a pit in my stomach, one I couldn’t shake for the life of me. I wouldn’t consider myself someone who actively concerns myself with these characters, but the fact that my body was physically tensing up at the thought of anything bad happening to them is something else. And that’s no joke, “Avengers: Infinity War” is dark, darker than most blockbusters could ever dare to be. Thanos is a power that has been teased for many, many films up to this point, and he delivers; he delivers in the way you feared he might. One might think that the filmmakers would make Thanos less powerful so the Avengers could defeat him with a little elbow grease, but no. Thanos did not come to play, he came to slay, and the tone that “Avengers: Infinity War” spins with that is one of sinister beauty.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of fun to be had in “Avengers: Infinity War,” because there is. The humor is as present as ever, and many characters who have never met before coming together with their respective senses of humor works really well for the laughs. I need to go back and watch the film again knowing what happens to truly appreciate the humor the film has without being so damn nervous the whole time.

The direction of the Russo’s is different than their previous films in the past, as it’s less rooted in reality and far more in the stars (both literally and physically), and for the most part, it works. The challenge here is that the filmmakers basically have to combine all the respective styles of the individual films into one big cohesive image of a film. When combining films like “Captain America” and “Iron Man” together, that’s not too terribly hard, but when you begin to incorporate “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Doctor Strange,” you’re dealing with different beasts that take a lot of molding to mesh nicely with everything else. There are times where the vibes of each world don’t always match up with the characters on screen, primarily in that of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequences and scenes on Wakanda. For the most part, it works, but not 100%.

And this is where a few of the issues I have with the film come in. With so many characters, the film is overstuffed, and while I liked the idea of not having a central character, there are just so many characters at a point that I hardly could keep focus at some points. I get that the “Avengers” films are supposed to be a huge culmination of everything the MCU has to offer in one film, but there are still too many characters that simply don’t need to clutter the screen if they don’t have to. This is why something like “Captain America: Civil War” worked so wonderfully, because they got to pick and choose who to include in the film, and cut out everyone they didn’t need to. “Avengers: Infinity War” feels like a family reunion with so many people that you can’t talk to all of your cousins before the end of the day.

The film, though not specified anymore in the title, is a part one of a bigger finale piece set to be released next year. This leaves the film to work its way up to something huge to be left unanswered until next year. The reason I find this to be an issue is that they changed the title of the next film to avoid the “Part 1 | Part 2” stigma that has come to many blockbuster films of late. With the suggestion by the Russo’s that this film is not a part one chapter at all, one might expect it to act differently, but it doesn’t. Without a specification that this is to lead to something bigger, it could lead to some disappointment when the film simply ends after spending a ton of time setting itself up.

And it spends a long, long time doing so. The film really does, for the most part, feel like one big set up, that really only resolves itself in its final act where everything finally meshes. Once the film can be viewed in its entirety with its second chapter, I’m sure it will feel much more organic, but without it, it can often feel a bit slow. This being said, the world that these characters inhabit is interesting as hell even in its slower parts, and I could watch people in simple dialogue scenes all day. It’s a double-edged sword that is objectively fine, but when put into context, might feel a bit rote.

Shot entirely on IMAX cameras, this film is made to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Disney elected to only screen the film for press in 2D, but even then, the visual experience at hand here is unparalleled. Pair this with Marvel’s typically strong showing in the 3D market, and you have what might possibly be the most fitting film to see in IMAX 3D yet. Accept no less.

But here’s the thing overall: I like “Avengers: Infinity War” in the same way that I like “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.” It’s an incredibly well-made film with a ton of merit and a lot of fun to be had. I’m mostly just frustrated because I know I sat through something to get me to something better which requires a wait time. This doesn’t reflect on the film in any way other than its structure set forth by the studio. With the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” nearly all of my frustrations with the first part were resolved when my questions were answered, my anxiety was mostly gone, and the experience as a two-part whole felt very organic and deserved. I expect this to be the same with “Avengers: Infinity War” and its as-of-yet unnamed follow-up. I think keeping the “Part 1 | Part 2” monikers would’ve helped the film overall, but that doesn’t change that, despite being incredibly overstuffed, “Avengers: Infinity War” is a fun, epic and beautiful film that brings us all the things we love about the MCU together. It also brings forth a lot of character juggling, pacing issues, and a cliffhanger so maddening I thought I had dissociated through the final 10 minutes of the film. It’s not without its issues, but “Avengers: Infinity War” is one sturdy prologue.

4/5

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios (Disney)

Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, featuring Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, with Gwyneth Paltrow, with Benicio Del Toro, with Josh Brolin as Thanos, and Chris Pratt.
Runtime: 156 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.
Also available in RealD 3D, Dolby Cinema, IMAX and IMAX 3D.

Marvel Studios presents, “Avengers: Infinity War”

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Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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