'Avengers: Infinity War' Spoiler-Free Review: Thanos Rises Above the Rest

Burdened with serving as the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Infinity War arrives with the weight of an entire 10-year franchise on its shoulders. The biggest ensemble film in not only the franchise’s history, but all of cinema, it uses the strength of beloved heroes and a terrifying new villain to do the heavy lifting.

Being the 19th entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Infinity War relies heavily on the hours of story which came before it. The average moviegoer might be able to walk in having never seen one Marvel Studios movie -- which seems like an unlikely scenario, anyway -- and understand the narrative. However, those fans who have dedicated hours and hours to learning about Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Doctor Strange in previous films will certainly experience a more thorough payoff. In fact, Infinity War not only thrives on in-universe knowledge, but also on expectations those films have created. It completely shatters each of them.

From the moment the Marvel Studios logo takes the screen, not only does an anything-but-upbeat score deliver chills, but the opening sequence sets the tone for what becomes a relentless adventure. While the film contains several beats of the traditional Marvel fun and even one moment which calls for the Avengers score to rally, Avengers: Infinity War is the scariest and heaviest Marvel Cinematic Universe entry to date. Legitimate jump scares and a ruthless villain show that Marvel Studios allowed the Russo Brothers to take this movie further than ever before with their directing choices, backed only by bold choices from screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus.

Thanos is arguably the main character, which is both a blessing and a curse. Superhero films have only ever been as good as their villain, and Thanos is a tremendous villain.

This brilliantly computerized adversary is an unstoppable force. He never so much as blinks at any one character’s plot armor, providing a feeling of stakes which has become a rarity in comic book films. Josh Brolin is truly terrifying in the part, in more ways than one. He is a purple Titan masterfully delivered with chilling touches of humanity, but one that constantly maintains the capability of reaping chaos as easily as he can snap his fingers.

For some, Thanos' chase for the Infinity Stones might be a labor. It's not fun to see the heroes getting pummeled down, but when juxtaposed with the occasional rally, classic Marvel humor, and the always-perfect wit from the cast, a balance is reached which can sustain a purely shocking form of entertainment.

Still, some moments in Infinity War might be the closest Marvel Studios has come to the horror genre as jump scares and terror are lurking throughout.

However, as Thanos dominates the screen, the heroes might feel touches of neglect. The Russo Brothers managed to balance more than a dozen characters in Captain America: Civil War by giving each their own respective arcs and emotional journeys. This time around, it is more of a simple stop-Thanos-or-die story, with the universe serving as the stakes. Such stakes are crucial, however, but it takes away from opportunities for emphasis on certain reunions or relationships which could have otherwise offered emotional connections.

In this way, the on-screen emotions are somewhat forfeited to the enormity of the character roster and plot. The biggest exception, however, is Thor. He's not quite the wisecracking and hilarious God of Thunder which Taika Waititi turned in with Ragnarok, but he has a personal objective, and Chris Hemsworth pours an alarming amount into the performance, several times over.

Thor is able to shine on his own, as is Zoe Saldana's Gamora, while other characters stand out based on their encounters and new relationships. Banter between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Spider-man (Tom Holland) becomes as entertaining as some of James Gunn's character work in his Guardians films. Though other characters pair well, and even better, than the aforementioned trio, their names will be left out as a means to preserve any spoilers.

As dense as Infinity War might be, the characters are mostly scattered to different locations throughout. With multiple narratives being intertwined, the Russo Brothers put on a master class in balance. In a moment when one might think, "I haven't seen Doctor Strange in a bit," the next cut will bring Benedict Cumberbatch to the frame. Some sequences do not seamlessly flow from one moment to the next, but Infinity War's relentless pace make the two-and-a-half hour movie fly by all too quickly.

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Avengers: Infinity War upends the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as promised. It's a spectacle unlike any movie before it, offering a ferocious narrative which fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will love but the average or young moviegoer might have a bit of trouble with. It is dark, it is fun, and it is bigger than anyone could have imagined. It substitutes some of the focus seen in previous Marvel films with wider-ranging narrative to create a sprawling, jaw-dropping, utterly relentless epic.

Rating: 4 out of 5