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Avengers: Infinity War best and worst -- our global review

Big bad Thanos is waging war on movie screens, and the CNET staff has a lot to say about what happens to the Avengers in the Marvel team-up. Spoilers await!

Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

The Infinity War has ignited, and the Avengers will never be the same.

Avengers: Infinity War is exploding onto theater screens worldwide, and now that anyone can see exactly what mad titan Thanos has been fighting for, audiences are having big reactions to the loaded-up film.

Our official CNET review calls the movie a "wildly fun ride until it leaves you hanging," but that's just one editor's opinion. Here are reactions from way more members of our staff, and they run the Infinity gamut … er, Gauntlet.

Spoiler warning: This review absolutely contains raw reactions and references to what we saw in Avengers: Infinity War. Spoilers abound, if you haven't seen the film, get to it and come right back.

spoiler-warning

'My favorite MCU film'

When you have over a dozen superheroes on one side, most of whom have single-handedly saved the world in their own eponymously titled adventures, can any villain really be a convincing threat?

Thanos answers that question with a resounding yes. He's the MVP of Infinity War and distinguishes the movie not only from other MCU films, but also from the previous Avengers flicks.

Thanos is a major element in the balancing act that is Infinity War. He's ultrapowerful, but not in a way that makes him one-dimensional. He's a serious threat, but not in a way that precludes the terrific comedy for which the franchise has become known. And yeah, there are a whole lot of characters here, but action does most of the talking, so you don't really need to have an intimate knowledge of the 18 films that precede it.

I was cautiously optimistic about Infinity War, despite being underwhelmed by Age of Ultron. That movie was only superficially epic. Lots of heroes, but no real stakes. Thanos allows the Avengers assembling to mean something. And boy, they sure do assemble.

Other than maybe Guardians of the Galaxy, this is my favorite MCU film yet.

-- Daniel Van Boom, Sydney, Australia


'Thanos ... the best villain yet'

Avengers: Infinity War is basically Lord of the Rings in space, with epic battles and fight scenes that made my inner geek squeal with delight. I really liked how well-paced it was, and how much everyone in the movie had plenty of screen time.

We also got to see Iron Man's new supercool armor (which resembles the Bleeding Edge armor of the comics) and there's also another armor to look out for -- if you're a comics fan, you'll love seeing it come to life on screen. I also love that there's a lot more Bruce Banner this time around, as Mark Ruffalo is so underused in the MCU franchise. Last but not least, Thanos deserves to be called out as the best villain yet.

I had my doubts that he'd be convincingly menacing due to the use of CGI, but it works surprisingly well, even during close-ups of his face. The digital artists have done a great job making him feel real, and I daresay he's the reason why Infinity War is so good, because he's not your one-shot evil menace that's typical of most superhero flicks.

Avengers: Infinity War is the best Marvel superhero movie yet, and I can't wait to see how it all concludes.

-- Aloysius Low, Singapore


'Genuinely touching'

That. Was. Spectacular. I went in somewhat skeptical: Would each Avenger get just 3.257 minutes of screen time? Would I be able to remember who's who, who's where, where's here, what happened in the gazillion earlier Marvel movies, which I've seen only maybe half of, and some of them only in fragments? (All I really knew about Dr. Strange going in: He's Cumberbatch, he's skinny and he wears a cape.) And really, yet another Battle to Save the Whole Universe from Utter Devastation?

But it was thrilling, pretty much from the start and all the way through. It moved briskly and confidently, the way top-flight runners pace themselves to run a 2:39 Boston Marathon. The comic touches and the one-liners were fine things, often nicely underplayed. I remember only one quip falling flat, though please don't ask me right now which one. So. Many. Scenes. So. Many. Details. The contrasting personalities -- Tony Stark and Dr. Strange, Stark and Peter Quill, Quill and Thor, and so on and on and on -- played off each other quite nicely. Much of it was in shorthand, necessarily, but generally it was just enough.

It was long, to be sure. After the big battle on Titan, I looked at the time -- still another hour to go? It already felt epic. It had the holes in logic of any superhero movie -- once Thanos had the reality stone, which he used effectively in his confrontation with Quill, why didn't he use it the same way in subsequent donnybrooks? Oh, yeah, because that's what we paid for: heavyweight bout after heavyweight battle royale.

Most surprisingly, it's genuinely touching in spots, especially in Stark's concern for Peter Parker -- first when he realizes Parker has stowed away on the spaceship headed toward a rendezvous with Thanos, and later when he holds the fading Parker, a superhero dying young. The finale was a heavy heaping of melancholy. I'm looking forward to the follow-up (Avengers: Infinity Plus One, maybe?) to see if maybe those stones hold powers we don't yet understand, powers to turn the plot in startling directions and restore at least some of what we've lost.

It had to be done, Dr. Strange? Dr. Strange, what exactly have you done?

-- Jon Skillings, Boston

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) make magic together.

Marvel

'Talk about zero stakes' 

Oh boy, where do I start?

I guess I'll begin by saying I did not enjoy this movie. For the first time in an Avengers movie I felt completely hamstrung by the fact that I've only watched maybe 50 percent of all Marvel movies. At various points I had zero understanding of what was going on and no comprehension of the stakes outside of typical "THE UNIVERSE AS WE KNOW IT WILL BE DOOMED" superhero schtick.

Up until now, Marvel movies have done a good job of making themselves accessible to people (like me) who exist outside of that comic book bubble. Avengers: Infinity War is the first that felt very much not for me.

Some mediocre performances really stood out. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, for example, had zero chemistry. Olsen literally made her lower lip quiver to show sadness at one point, which was pretty distracting. Considering this pair's arc was the emotional heart of Infinity War they had to nail it -- and they didn't.

Josh Brolin brings purple tyrant Thanos to life.

Marvel

Some positives: Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland did have chemistry, as did Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pratt. Every time Infinity Wars stopped trying to take itself seriously it succeeded massively.

The exception to that rule was Thanos, who ruled. Josh Brolin was extremely good, and Thanos' arc felt significant, but it's hard to escape the sense that Infinity War just bit off way more than it could chew. Way more than any movie franchise could chew, really.

And the ending. Dear God, the ending.

Talk about zero stakes. The CGI fritter-murder of half the main cast just… flat-out sucked the stakes out of Infinity War, removing all the weight from the movie. Kill off a character, sure. But make me feel that it's real. There's no way Marvel and Disney are killing off Spider-Man, Star-Lord and Black Panther in one single scene -- and we know this. So why is the audience being asked to pretend that these "deaths" matter? We know they don't.

-- Mark Serrels, Sydney, Australia

The relationship between Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is the heart of Infinity War.

Marvel Studios


'Rises to expectations, and then some'

If you expected "Avengers: Infinity War" to be a mess, you're in for a big disappointment. The Russo brothers are able to manage two dozen superheroes, six infinity stones, multiple planets and several battles like symphonic orchestra conductors. Because we know almost everyone in the movie -- except for Peter Dinklage's fantastic new minor character -- there's no time spent on origin stories.

The most fun parts are the choreographed fights and the funny moments, particularly when big egos collide (especially when Chris Pratt's Star-Lord meets Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man). Let's just end by saying Avengers: Infinity War rises to expectations, and then some. I just hope they'll put the time stone to good use in Avengers 4 after an overwhelming, sadistic and blunt ending. If you want to practice your Spanish, read my review for CNET en Español.

-- Gabriel Sama, San Francisco


'Keen sense of humor'

Comic book fans, more than the general moviegoing audience, are familiar with the whole notion of an "event," just like they were more familiar with the preceding superhero team-up. As cape comics went on, it wasn't enough for single heroes to fight single villains, or hero teams to fight leagues of evil. All of the heroes and all of the villains had to be taken out of their toy boxes and thrown together. This leaves Infinity War, for better and for worse, as the first movie version of one of these events.

At its worst, Infinity War is like overwrought comics events such as Fear Itself or Flashpoint: rudderless and veering between fan service, power-ups and twists that go nowhere. But what elevates Infinity War above the worst of the genre's habits is its keen sense of humor and acceptance of its own ridiculousness. The levity that buoys the movie after its brutal beginning brings some legitimately funny moments. And this humor makes the coming onslaught of action and failure all the more impactful, much more so than if Infinity War wallowed in the tragedy it ends with.

That escalation comes along a degree of spectacle that winks at its audience. Wherever the Marvel films go from here, they can't impress by throwing moons. They can't make fans giddy just by smooshing teams together or bringing down the wrath of The One Ultimate Evil That Will Ultimately Destroy Everything. So during this final opportunity, the Russo Bros let loose with some truly ridiculous moments that are awesome now, but could lose their luster when compared with Part 2.

Comic fans also know the twists at the end of Infinity War can be undone as quickly as they occur, and will be undone in part due to a series of corporate and contractual interests. It's much harder to take character deaths seriously when their sequels are already announced, and when we know we're only at the end of half of the story. But who cares ... this is a big, dumb superhero movie where a god, a talking tree and a raccoon team up with a space dwarf to use a dead star to make a hammer, joking through the whole enterprise. Celebrate it for what it is.

-- Morgan Little, San Francisco


'One minor gripe'

This wasn't my favorite Marvel movie, but the seamless transitions between characters and their worlds, from Star-Lord's cool rock entrance to Spider-Man's yellow bus, and the spot-on humor for every character, is an insane achievement. There seemed to be real thought behind how to use minor characters, like when the empathic powers of "footsoldier" Mantis could have been pivotal and Scarlet Witch had powerful magical attacks but was weak in hand-to-hand combat.

It was admirable how hard the filmmakers tried with Thanos -- they even made the Infinity War hashtag #ThanosDemandsYourSilence -- but I don't think he matches Hela from the recent Thor: Ragnarok, who felt genuinely threatening and I understood her past. 

Going back to Gamora's recruitment felt tacked on as a way to give Thanos more character and a weakness to stop him from being totally invincible... Maybe instead they could have gone back and shown who he was as a kid. But his Middle-earth-looking henchmen were refreshing in that they could pull off tricks, like the goblin-alien (Corvus Glaive) pretending to be dead, then showing up and attacking Vision.

Infinity War met my expectations as a well-oiled Marvel movie, but I still had one minor gripe. While Gamora had a surprisingly large amount to do, Black Widow barely has a line. My standout scene was when Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Okoye fight Proxima Midnight, but it felt like a deliberate all-girl battle. Hopefully Marvel figures out how to make the "women problem" go away in part two (hint to watch till after the credits).

-- Jennifer Bisset, Sydney, Australia

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo on set with Scarlett Johansson.

Marvel


'I was wrong'

I was expecting not to like Avengers: Infinity War. Too many characters, too many stories to tie in, I thought. Plus, I didn't particularly enjoy Captain America: Civil War. I thought Infinity War was going to be one big pile of explosions, with lots of characters and not much else.

I was wrong. It surprised me how much plot the movie has and how well intertwined the different stories are. The Russo brothers have not only preserved some of the humor perfected in Thor: Ragnarok, they managed to make a movie in which I still don't know who the main character is. But that didn't pose a problem.

Would I have liked to see a little bit more of Chris Evans' new beard? Or Scarlett Johansson's new blond hairdo? Yes.

But the rest of the cast is really well served by Infinity War, including a hilarious ego showdown between the other two Chrises: Hemsworth and Pratt.

That being said, my problem with this movie is the same I've had with most of the Avengers titles. I would much rather enjoy a few episodes of Capi, Natasha and Sam roughing it up and being fugitives from justice than another big explosion-filled movie where the goal is to fight for the survival of the universe.

-- Patricia Puentes San Francisco

Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Captain America (Chris Evans) go to infinity and beyond.

Marvel Studios


'Many fun, silly and laugh-out-loud moments'

I liked it, but…

You know how at the end of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo gets dropped into carbonite? It's a dramatic moment, but then Leia says "I love you" and Han responds with "I know" -- and you laugh out loud. It eases your anxiety and at the same time it makes you really, really bummed you have to wait so long for the next installment because you're excited about what might be coming next.

So much avenging... 

Marvel

So yeah, that's not the feeling I had at the end of Infinity War.

I'm definitely going to see After Infinity or whatever they call it -- this is obviously just a chapter in the story and it's going to take awhile to unravel all the knots they tied. But that's just it: They tied a lot of knots because this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and there's a lot of money at stake in getting us to keep coming back and seeing what happens. I get that. But did they have to be so blatantly mercenary about it? It takes some of the fun and anticipation out of the sequel (or sequels). Because there's no way they're leaving the universe -- or the fate of key Avengers (aka moneymaking franchises) --  in the state they left it.

That said, they did a good job carving out plot lines and dialogue between so many characters. There were many fun, silly and laugh-out-loud moments (favorite: when Chris Pratt's Star-Lord meets Chris Hemsworth's Thor). And if you like more serious action hero stories, you'll enjoy how Josh Brolin presented a morally complex villain that shone through even all that CGI.

Would I recommend seeing it in the theater? Yes. This is a big spectacle and you'll want to see it on a big screen. Would I say it's my favorite? Nope. Still a fan of Captain America and the first Iron Man. But for Marvel fans looking for an enjoyable way to spend a few hours on a spring afternoon, it's not a bad way to pass the time.

-- Connie Guglielmo, San Francisco


'Boggles my mind'

I loved Avengers: Infinity War, and after the bust that was Age of Ultron, I had my doubts. Ultron stunk because it was so busy setting up the next phase. This one was closer to the original Avengers in making the battle that was happening on screen feel like the one that counted.

But … part of my opinion of the movie will rest on how much of it actually does count. The end was gloriously surprising and bleak. They obviously can't keep half of the main characters of the MCU dead, and I think they were setting up one last ride of the original Avengers, but if they use the time stone to make this movie a two and a half hour McGuffin I'll be pissed. What the MCU needed was death and consequences. The original Avengers was fantastic as the perfect end to an origin story, but the MCU has struggled with where to go since then because they wanted to keep all of the franchises churning along. 

This could be the Empire Strikes Back of this franchise, but some of it will need to count -- my biggest problem with the movie is that they left it so ugly that you don't know what will stand and what will be reversed. And you know for a fact that at least a large chunk will be reversed.

Other nitpicks: Why didn't Thor and his ax get there 10 seconds earlier and prevent Thanos from getting the last stone? If you're going to make him late, give me a glimpse of context to show me why. Also, they'll inevitably answer this in the next movie, but why did Strange give up the time stone?

Overall, though, I thought it was fantastic. I couldn't believe how rich they made Thanos as a character. I also couldn't believe that they managed to give so many characters proper moments to shine, quip and kick ass. It's an achievement that boggles my mind -- that they managed to pull something like this off at this scale over the course of 10 years. I only hope they let enough consequences stick so we finally have our Act 2 despair in the overarching story.

-- Andrew Gebhart, Louisville


'You need to see it in Imax'

Wow. That was ... a lot. The cinematic equivalent of a comic made up entirely of double-spread splash pages, Infinity War lives up to expectations -- as long as your expectation is to see every Marvel hero quipping, fighting, quipping some more and then possibly turning to dust.

Sure, it's pretty repetitive: Our heroes get in near-indistinguishable spaceships to travel to near-indistinguishable dead planets -- seriously, where was everyone? -- and stand around listing colored stones before being thrown about like rag dolls for a bit. And it's a shame the settings are so bland. Just look at how varied the backdrops are in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, for example. But that does at least keep the spotlight on the many, many characters. The Hulk even has a character arc without showing up!

But the true joy is in seeing all your faves together, and you need to see it in Imax not just for the screen-filling epic battles but also to wring every drop out of the mouthwatering hero poses. The big Wakanda battle may be a retread of the climax of Black Panther, but you can't argue with the spectacle and the various fan-pleasing combinations of heroes.

Then there's that ending. After two and a half hours -- and 10 years before that -- of banging and crashing, Infinity War ends with a sustained note of devastating hush. I don't love movie cliffhangers, but this sorrowful and unexpectedly final finale nailed me to my seat. Marvel better have one hell of a payoff in store for the sequel, but if Infinity War proves anything, it's that these guys know what they're doing.

--Richard Trenholm, London

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