Just before the all-action climax to the 19th adventure from the blockbuster factory that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther says “Get this man a shield!” – that man being Captain America. Maybe he should have added “and some smelling salts for the audience.”
The culmination of ten years of planning (since Iron Man in 2008), Infinity War sees Marvel’s roster of heroes finally tackle Thanos (Josh Brolin), the lethal, lantern-jawed tyrant who’s been lurking behind the scenes since Avengers Assemble in 2012, and a baddie so lethal and powerful, it will take the combined might of the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, Dr Strange, Black Panther et al to stop him from possessing the six Infinity Stones that control Space, Time, Power, Reality, Mind and the Soul.
This unique, unprecedented crossover wastes no time in cutting to the chase, as Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his fellow Asgardians (on a cosmic trek since last year’s Thor: Ragnarok) are the first to clash with Thanos and his cadre of sadistic sidekicks. Then it’s Earth’s turn and the multiple team-ups and dust-ups between disparate heroes come thick and fast: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) bristle, bicker and flash their goatees before an awestruck Spider-Man (Tom Holland); Thor buddies up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to hilarious effect; and Chris Evans’s outlawed Captain America returns in timely fashion to rally the troops. Meanwhile, Brolin brings threat, menace and a modicum of melancholy to his indomitable villain.
The co-directing Russo brothers yet again do a stand-up job of marshalling an incredible cast of characters as they battle for survival on Earth and in the far reaches of space. Indeed, the climax in Wakanda and on Thanos’s home planet of Titan has the epic feel of a Lord of the Rings film (especially the battle of Helms Deep in The Two Towers). Gasp-inducing reveals, laugh-out loud quips, a couple of rousing entrances from Cap and Thor, and some genuinely shocking twists and turns guarantee that Infinity War is an all-star Marvel extravaganza to savour.
It’s also a long haul at 149 minutes (so you might need a comfy cushion) and suffice to say, there is unfinished business to be played out in the fourth Avengers film next year.
But as tenth-anniversary shindigs go, this is a blast.