This is one of the most ambitious filmmaking projects of the century – partly because of how brazenly Marvel hyped it up themselves – and it’s handled with all the vision, intelligence, and finesse of masters of their craft. With a film possessing 70+ characters, it had every reason to seem over-stuffed and over-complicated, but somehow – seriously, through some stroke of genius – this unfathomable mess of an ensemble is woven together seamlessly. This is a film for the fans – it’s a monstrous series finale for those who have been invested in the episodes that preceded it.

Those who’ve seen the film will agree that it’s almost impossible to discuss the film with any substance without some hint of where the film goes – I am actively avoiding spoilers, but if you haven’t seen it, seriously stop reading.

It’s a tired cliché, but I didn’t check my watch once. And this film is many, many minutes long: 160 to be exact. The opening scene thrusts us straight into a film that feels darker and bigger than anything they’ve done before; Marvel turn their back on their classic exposition-heavy first acts. The film never loses this momentum. Sure, with so many characters and so much plot to establish I think we can forgive an eventual steadying of the pace, but it never loses its sense of urgency. What’s so admirable is that the pace feels organic and character-driven: it feels like the heroes are frantically scrambling in the face of a seriously troubling threat. And their fear is completely earned, because Thanos is superb.

it’s a relief that Josh Brolin’s Thanos is everything the MCU needed

Even its greatest fans know that the MCU has had a serious villain problem, and it’s pretty understandable. Sure, Killmonger and Loki have been interesting and complex, but villains in all stand-alone Marvel films are never going to be seriously convincing when we know there are big, ensemble films on the horizon. And the more we see each villain brushed aside, the less convinced we are. So, it’s a relief that Josh Brolin’s Thanos is everything the MCU needed. Compelling, unpredictable, and genuinely threatening, Thanos is paramount to the film’s success. He somehow never becomes a cartoon, and remains intellectually and emotionally real enough to remain peculiarly understandable. He’s formidable enough to command every scene, but always carries this strange air of loneliness: he feels relentlessly determined, but also vulnerable and desperate. It is – if it had to go to any character in particular – his film.

Josh Brolin plays Thanos

But the old favourites still deliver. The Tony Stark/Spider-Man dynamic keeps on giving, the Guardians are as funny as ever, Chris Evans’ beard is immaculate. But, the surprising standout was the character who, up until very recently, used to be the most forgettable: Thor 2.0. I feel it’s important to make a distinction between the Thor we’ve seen since Thor: Ragnarok and the one we saw in the first two solo outings: Hemsworth has always been good, but he’s clearly allowed more freedom with the character now, and the change is remarkable. In Ragnarok he was hilarious, but here he holds so much of the film’s pathos with sensitivity and subtlety. Thor’s arc in Infinity War represents what’s so good about the whole film: never have they worked in so much humanity amongst all the spectacle.

as with all Marvel films, you have to buy into the spectacle, or you can pick holes in every shot

It is not without fault – and, quite honestly, I’m not sure a Marvel film ever will be. There are a few textbook marvel moments: a few bits of misplaced comedy and a couple of dramatic moments that hinge on unnecessarily fine margins. Yet, generally the film felt so well balanced between comedy, drama, and action, and was convincingly driven by its characters. The flaw that’s spearheading the criticism among many critics is the issue of consequence: or, as is the general issue with the comic world, the lack thereof. On some level, it’s a fair complaint: Marvel harnesses despair and anguish on levels it hasn’t before, but the consequences may feel undermined by the huge metal glove that can manipulate time and reality to its desire. My issue with this, however, is it’s an unavoidable issue, one written into the DNA of the source material – as with all Marvel films, you have to buy into the spectacle, or you can pick holes in every shot. Secondly, it’s a criticism that ignores how well the Russo brothers convey the anguish and I left the cinema feeling hollow – and, for a film in the MCU, that was incredibly refreshing.

For me, it was a film of MCU firsts. The first time it’s made me genuinely laugh out loud. The first time I’ve genuinely feared the villain. The first time they’ve created moments that are actually heart-wrenching. The first time I felt genuinely shocked. Sure, it’s one for the fans – and, for this reason, I find many of the criticisms understandable. But, if you know what you signed up for, it’s everything you’ve been waiting for, and everything you didn’t expect.

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