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Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Josh Brolin, Chadwick Boseman, Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dave Bautista, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Karen Gillan, Peter Dinklage, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow and Vin Diesel.
Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo.


Rating: 3/5

The intergalactic threat to end all intergalactic threats (we’ll see…) is the catalyst to bring together Marvel’s divided superhero collective for the fight of their lives in Avengers: Infinity War. At least, that is what the pre-publicity marketing spin would have the slavering MCU fanbase believe; in fact, it is not really that at all.

What it is, alternatively, is one of the loudest, longest first acts in cinema history; 150 minutes of story set-up. The ‘bridging episode’ arc is a tough narrative one to pull off; a strong, self-contained story must exist, ensuring audience investment in the moment, but the storyteller must always be mindful of the open-ended ‘cliffhanger’ finale. When done well, it plays like The Empire Strikes Back or The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, whereas Infinity War exhibits just how hard it can be to serve two masters.

Surprisingly, the key protagonist emerges in the form of ‘villain’ Thanos, played with mo-cap mastery by Josh Brolin; in addition to a nice line in malevolent menace, the actor gets to sink his purple teeth into a handful of dramatic moments that link him to that chestnut theme of the MCU, patriarchal legacy. Driven by the belief that overpopulation is destroying the star systems, Thanos is myopically driven in his search for the ‘Infinity Stones’, pretty jewels that represent the galactic essentials of Mind, Soul, Time, Power, Space, and Reality. To possess the full set of six will grant Thanos the power to perform horrendous acts of genocide in the name of saving the galaxy from its inhabitants. Environmental advocates who argue that humans are a virus on this planet, that our thoughtless use of natural resources will lead to the death of Earth and all who live here, may side with Thanos ideologically, although his methods are unforgivably mass-murdery.

So the Avengers have to reconnect to see off Thanos and his flavoursome henchmen (led by an enjoyably campy Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as the psychotic sycophant, Ebony Maw). Expectedly, fans will cheer when they are re-introduced to Steve Rogers/Captain America (a sullen, oddly detached Chris Evans) as he emerges from the shadows; as Bruce Banner (a twitchy Mark Rufalo) struggles with his green-hued alter-ego; and, as the pompous Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and smart-arse Tony Stark/Iron Man (a visibly aged Robert Downey Jr) wage a quip war. Meshing with the traditional Avengers line-up are the Guardians of the Galaxy crew, the good people of Wakanda, led by T’Challa/Blank Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and teen hero Spiderman (Tom Holland).

However, the tantalizing mass melding of franchise heroes occurs in the cast list only; the key Avengers are divided, even more so the Guardians (the decision to turn Vin Diesel's Groot into a surly teen sapling proves a dire miscalculation); several favourites are relegated to bit parts (notably ScarJo’s Black Widow), while some don’t make an appearance at all. The promise of a mass Marvel army onscreen never comes near to fruition.

Working from Christopher Markus’ and Stephen McFeely’s workmanlike script, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo direct with a suitably vast eye for spectacle and melodrama, colouring in landscapes against which massive effects-laden conflicts can take place. Once the film gets past an opening salvo of meet-cute reconnections, the smash ‘em/bash ‘em mayhem unfolds, both on Earth and in the far corners of the galaxy. The next two hours represent the gamble with fan expectation which is the strong suit of Avengers: Infinity War - our heroes essentially have the s**t kicked out of them for 2½ hours, ahead of a downbeat denouement.

It is a bold undertaking, to readjust what is expected of the MCU/Avengers formula, and there are moments when the sheer scale and momentum match the narrative ambition needed to pull off a 'Part 1'. Given the fate of the universe is at stake, however, those otherwise unexpected moments of murder most foul, self sacrifice and bitter betrayal amount to very little. A lot goes unanswered in Avengers: Infinity War and no amount of blockbuster grandeur can fill the void left.

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