The risk that the movie could have been a mess was always lurking, especially given the coexistence of so many superheroes in Marvel's multiverse, yet what the Russo Brothers have done in Avengers: Infinity War still manages to be surprising. Marvel's new movie serves as an excellent intersection between the different narratives, which together represent one of the most complex cine-comic worlds that have been built in recent years, where the (almost) total knowledge of its different parts becomes a necessary factor in understanding its essence. Infinity War catapults us into a plot without any preamble, without any summary of previous events - the role of the viewer here becomes an active part of the process, where you're required to connect the various dots from previous films and pick up on all the references, each one a wink to all that has happened before.
If this is, on the one hand, the solid and well-structured system on which the Russo's new film is based, what represents the most cohesive element of Infinity War, the real engine of the whole story (even more than the extensive team of superheroes), is Thanos himself, one of the most articulate and fascinating villains that the cinematic Marvel world has managed to give us during this intense decade. Bearer of death: it's a quality already inherent in his name with Thanos referring to Thànatos, the personification of Death in Greek mythology. Yet what confuses our feelings about the character - performed by the excellent Josh Brolin, who delivers a performance full of vitality to depict the Titan - is his paradoxical and unexpected sense of humanity. What drives Thanos to recover the different infinity stones and cause an apocalypse of sorts, is his search for balance in the Universe in order for a number of worlds throughout the galaxy to no longer suffer from hunger and epidemics. As a father, estranged from his most beloved daughter, what underlies his plans is a project that, according to his evil logic, aims to offer a better world, where "children will never ever suffer hunger". It doesn't matter that the price to pay is the lives of others.
Up against Thanos, who is probably the one and only real main character in Avengers: Infinity War, is a large roster of superheroes drawn from the different corners of Marvel's multiverse, each one a bearer of a different "vein" that infuses the film with something different, which then blends together for a truly intriguing mix of genres. Infinity War is a multi-layered film that constantly changes in terms of atmosphere and tone. It's a style that brings with it great versatility, adding plenty of pace to an already powerful and epic movie. The coexistence of the more colourful Guardians of the Galaxy alongside more dramatic heroes such as The Avengers (or even quirkier characters such as Doctor Strange and Spider-Man) ends up feeling harmonious and we thought it worked flawlessly. The alternation between different themes and genres, from dramatic moments to epic beats via a few moments of exhilarating humour (our favourite being the verbal jousting between Thor and Star-Lord), works consistently and fits the story perfectly, imbuing the movie with a some surprises, fun pop culture references, and even the odd Easter egg. The different characters and shifting styles all add up to ensure an explosive experience for fans.
A big part of the appeal in Avengers: Infinity War is its ability to keep you enthralled, avoiding moments of deadlock or lulls in the pacing, unlike the previous Captain America: Civil War. Despite its long running time and a seemingly infinite cast, which could easily have caused a tangle of threads in terms of the overall story, the Russo Brother's movie fascinates, entertains and, although it's a prelude to a highly anticipated final act, turns out to be compact and well orchestrated. Even the massive reliance on special effects never threatens to overshadow or excessively burden the overall experience. The icing on the cake is an unthinkable and courageous conclusion to the film, which is accompanied by an extraordinary cliffhanger that leaves plenty of room for fans' imaginations to run riot. It also further increases our desire to discover how whoever picks up the baton for the grand finale will succeed in wrapping up such an ambitious undertaking. Despite the deep well of material that they have available to draw from, and even in light of everything we've seen in Infinity War, the danger still lurks that they might make a misstep and send a decade's worth of work to the winds despite an impressive body of work made up of almost twenty films. We want to be confident, but there's still one more chapter to go in this story and everything is still to play for.