It’s finally here. This is what everything’s been leading to. Ten years, 18 movies and over $14 billion later, the Marvel Cinematic Universe reached its first major climax with “Avengers: Infinity War.”

And on almost every level — action, effects, characters, acting and more — it surpasses the expectations set by the previous films.

In particular, the way this movie juggles so many characters that we’ve known for years is impressive. Rather than trying hard to give every character a “moment,” the heroes are separated into small groups, which are cleverly grouped to let the best qualities of each character shine through and bounce off the others.  Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy, more specifically Rocket and Groot, were easily the best combo, lending to hilarious moments.

The plot in “Infinity War” centers around the Mad Titan Thanos and his quest for the six Infinity Stones, which have been MCU macguffins since the first “Captain America” movie. Thanos believes that the universe is overpopulated, and he wants to use the combined power of the Stones to cut the population in half to better preserve resources. His motivation stems from his experience on his home planet, Titan: a utopia-turned-wasteland because of an imbalance between people and resources.

As a kid who grew up with these characters in comic books and cartoons, this movie was everything I hoped it would be and more. It’s funny, powerful, dark and puts the heroes in places we’ve never seen them. The end of this movie had me crushed into my seat cushion, shocked and awed in expectation of what’s coming next.

The quality comes with a few caveats, though. These aren’t necessarily “bad” things about the movies, but rather things to be aware of and to keep an eye on moving forward.

The movie relies on the audience having seen most of the prior MCU films. There’s not a great degree of new character development for the heroes. Iron Man, Captain America, the Guardians and everyone else are all the same characters given to us in prior “Avengers” movies and standalones. This wasn’t a problem for an MCU veteran like me, but I can easily see where other audience members might be confused.

The new character development that does occur is relegated to Thanos. The Mad Titan’s arc is surprisingly robust since we’ve only seen brief glimpses of him until now. Like many of comic book cinema’s finest villains like Killmonger in “Black Panther,” Thanos believes he’s doing the right thing. This lets the audience empathize with him on a level seen with few villains before “Infinity War.”

The stakes are another aspect to keep an eye on. Without delving into spoilers, the MCU finally has stakes now. Characters’ actions have consequences in a big way for the first time. Many, including myself, have criticized the MCU in the past for lacking consequence. But now that the drama’s finally here, the question is how long it’ll stick around. Given the end of the movie, I’m not so sure how far the consequences will reach. Knowing Marvel, I’d predict it won’t last much longer.

Despite that, the emotion put on display in this movie is real, and it hits hard. One small slice of this involves Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. I won’t say anything more, but just know that the moment is among the most emotional in the entire MCU.

4.8/5 stars

deeterbj@miamioh.edu

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