Marvel Studios celebrates its tenth anniversary with a hurricane of carnage. Avengers: Infinity War hits like a machine gun with an extended clip. It is an unrelenting onslaught of destruction; sprinkled with just enough humor to keep the melancholy at bay. Characters we've grown to love face their destiny from a merciless foe. Infinity War is so gargantuan in scope, it almost becomes too much to digest. The smaller moments that have made the Marvel Cinematic Universe so enjoyable, are lost in the spectacle. This review is spoiler free.

After years of watching bit players fail him repeatedly, Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his ferocious Black Order get off the bench and into the game. Infinity War opens with the death obsessed Titan on a rampage. His quest to collect the six Infinity Stones has become paramount. Anyone standing in his way is run over. Scattered survivors ring the alarm on Earth. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) are alerted. The Avengers, disbanded after the events of Civil War, must forget their differences and unite again. This time the mission is not only saving mankind, but trillions of lives in the universe. Our heroes seem hopelessly outmatched, but have formidable allies. A King in Wakanda and band of misfit Guardians prove to be essential to the fight.

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Infinity War is an all hands on deck feature. Almost every character we've seen in the MCU shows up here. Some have a lot more to say and do than others. The big baddie gobbles up most of the screen time. Thanos is the villain and primary character. Every scene involves him in some way. Josh Brolin is a CGI beast. Thanos has uncompromising power that is displayed early and often. The character is consumed by righteous conviction. The script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely places emphasis on his motivation. Thanos believes that taking life is the only way to guarantee life's existence. It's a mad logic that cannot be reasoned with.

Infinity War has deeply emotional moments that come and go too quickly. The pace of the story allows no time to absorb sizable impacts. Sledgehammer reveals become fleeting because the plot has moved on to another equally seismic event. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo aren't quibbling with tragedy. Every tear shed is seemingly followed by a fist. The epic action scenes overwhelm the drama. Infinity War runs like a cheetah at one hundred and forty-nine minutes. The Russo Brothers, who also directed Civil War and The Winter Soldier, never stop to breathe. In a way, the film is like a video game in its depiction of violence. It becomes ubiquitous and inescapable.

Chris Pratt's Star-Lord and Dave Bautista's Drax are the comic foils of Infinity War. They are hysterical. Drax is especially a scene stealer with his droll delivery and literal barbs. The Guardians of the Galaxy inject much needed humor. The film is so dark and unforgiving; the spot moments of levity lift tremendous weight. Infinity War is incredibly somber, even with the mind-blowing action. A few laughs go a long way.

It's important to view Infinity War as the first half of the story. Fans of the Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War comic series will likely be chomping at the bit when they walk out of this film. The plot is different, but I think the general resolve is going to be similar. This expectation may soften the crushing blows of the film. The events of Infinity War mark a titanic shift in the direction of the MCU. The stories to come will build on this tale with different perspectives. Hence my initial reaction to Infinity War is sort of muted. I want to see the sequel next year and judge the experience as a whole.

Marvel Studios flexes serious cinematic muscle with Infinity War. It's the logical destination to a decade's worth of build-up. The film is undeniably huge in every regard, maybe too big. Despite the anticipation, it just didn't grab me like Civil War or Black Panther. Infinity War has one post credits scene.

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