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Avengers: Infinity War

Year: 2018
Studio: Marvel Studios
Director: Anthony Russo/Joe Russo
Producer: Kevin Fiege
Writer: Christopher Markus/Stephen McFeely
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Benedict Wong, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Guria, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Pom Klementieff, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, William Hurt, Letitia Wright, Stan Lee

The biggest problem with The Avengers franchise has always been stakes. When every character needs thier own movie, sequel and franchise there's no real danger no matter how fraught things get.

Writers Christopher Markus and Steven McFeely and directors Joe and Anthony Russo are well aware of that, so in finally bringing the long-teased Thanos (Josh Brolin) to the front of the action you can't get much higher stakes than half the life forms in the universe dying at the click of his fingers once he gets all the magic stones from across the franchise for his showbag glove.

The narrative of the last few months before the film's release contained the giddy realisation that several major characters might not make it, especially because the contracts of some of the above-the-line stars were expiring. Also, and despite my constant complaining that these movies are all the same thing over and over, Marvel knows how to up the ante when things threaten to turn stale (see the visuals of Doctor Strange and the humour of Thor: Ragnarok). Even before the Russos confirmed major deaths would take place, it was kind of a given.

Being a massive two-parter, it was also a given some of those deaths would occur right at the end, leaving just enough time for Thanos to look over his work with satisfaction before the credits rolled.

One thing I'm curious about was if everyone thought the same thing I did about the denouement. Now, I don't know this so it's not a spoiler, but doesn't Dr Strange's green Infinity Stone control time? Won't that just reset everything in the explosive climax of Infinity War Part 2 when they finally get hold of it, much like Wolverine's actions did at the end of X-Men: Days of Future Past?

In fact given the incredible array of superpowers on display in what feels like a cast of dozens, the plot doesn't stand up to much scrutiny before the holes start to emerge, a lot like the eagles in Lord of the Rings. Can't Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) keep opening up their rings of sparks and magic Thanos and his minions to the other end of the universe or the Phantom Zone or something?

Of course, if they did it wouldn't give us the superheroeyist smash-em-up in forever. After seeing teasing glimpses of the MCU's biggest bad guy in end credits scenes since time immemorial, finally Thanos is executing his dastardly plan to spontaneously execute half the life forms in the universe, a kind of comic book Club of Rome who thinks humans and their ilk are going to ruin environments everywhere with their rapacious appetites for resources.

Owing to the sheer number of heroes on hand, it's up to several individual teams of them racing to the far flung corners of the universe to an array of CGI planets to try and stop him.

We pick up the action after Thanos' ship comes across the Asgardians escaping from the ruins of their city following the events of Thor: Ragnarok, and after laying waste to the ship and people, only a few survivors like Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) get away.

While Banner makes it back to Earth to alert the others of the looming threat, Thor teams up with the Guardians of the Galaxy when they come across the wreckage to do their bit. Dr Strange, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Spider-man (Tom Holland) jump aboard one of Thanos' giant ring-shaped craft and ride it back into deep space to do their bit.

And after Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) are attacked by Thanos' forces in London trying to get the Inifinity Stone out of Vision's head, they're rescued at the last minute by Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a couple of others, who take them to Wakanda to do their bit.

The flying guy with wings (Anthony Mackie), the flying guy with the Iron Man Suit (Don Cheadle) and almost everyone else (Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Paul Rudd as Ant-Man are nowhere to be seen) is in the overstuffed cast too, and the fight (s) is on.

So it's very plotty and it's full of action, but it's a bit hard to really engage with, and here's why. I've never been the biggest fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and the sequel really crystallised why. Apart from the jokes it was so overstuffed with swirling CGI lights and colours it could have been Jupiter Ascending all over again, and Infinity War had the same problem. Some of the MCU movies – most notably Spider-Man: Homecoming recently – have kept all that stuff to a minimum, setting the story in a real world with real texture that happened to have some effects where they were needed.

This film starts on Earth (and briefly returns there for the end credits sequence), but soon takes off for one computer generated landscape after another, each one feeling less realistic and tactile than the one that came before. Where the Spider-Man of Homecoming was a kid in a real New York neighbourhood who just happened to have an amazing suit, here he's like an alien in an alien landscape (the upgraded suit doesn't help), only his face feeling real like Sandra Bullock's was in Gravity – and without half the soul.

Couple that with the knowledge that nobody's going to stay dead long and it's very hard to buy into any drama or emotional attachment. The running time does the best possible job it can considering it seemed to feature every actor in Hollywood and probably needed every technician available near the Atlanta set at the time, but it's still unmistakenly a Marvel movie. How much that excites you will depend on how exicted you are by this whole canon.

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