Blu-ray Review: Avengers: Infinity War

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Epic. Engrossing. Thrilling. Funny. Tragic. What else do you want from a blockbuster spectacle? Avengers: Infinity War is all these things, ably proving that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is far from exhausted. In fact, however improbable it might be, it just seems to keep getting better. The 19th film in the now-20-strong franchise, Infinity War juggles a LOT of characters—almost every major player in the decade-old series is present and accounted for—yet co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo manage to keep everything balanced.

The whole film is as perfectly balanced as the knife presented to young Gamora (Ariana Greenblatt) by super-villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) in a disturbing flashback. Balance is all-important to Thanos, as it turns out, the Avengers' adversary who has only been hinted at since the first Avengers team-up in 2012. Balance, that is, by his own personal definition. Finally revealing himself to be a megalomaniac oozing faux-compassion, Thanos desires to eliminate fully half of all life across the universe so that the other half might continue to thrive and flourish. And Thanos doesn't discriminate—half of all life, selected totally at random, will cease to exist if he can acquire and activate all the Infinity stones. 
Avengers Infinity War Doctor Strange.jpg In order to thwart Thanos' master plan, the Avengers have done their best to hide the stones not yet added to the villain's Infinity Gauntlet. Thanos' incessant quest to acquire the remaining stones forms the thrust of Infinity War's narrative. For two-and-a-half hours, the Russo brothers balance the sprawling cast far better than Joss Whedon could manage in his half-baked Avengers: Age of Ultron. Somehow Whedon, visionary though he may be, managed to lose touch with everything that made his 2012 Avengers such a delight. Ultron turned out to be so inconsequential, it can essentially be skipped entirely when viewing the entire film cycle in order.

Infinity War restores everything awesome about the Russo brothers' Captain America: Civil War, the third film in that sub-series but a de facto Avengers film if there ever was one. Having proven themselves capable of handling a large cast in that earlier film (which first introduced us to Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-Man), the Russos take things to the next level. In fact, it's here that we first experience the joys of the Guardians of the Galaxy crew interacting with the rest of the MCU. If you haven't seen Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) in a battle of egos, prepare to be tickled pink. Similarly, the meeting of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) provides occasion to see two alpha-males butting heads. 
Avengers Infinity War Black Widow.jpg Some may feel that the inconclusive ending leaves Infinity War nothing more than an extended teaser for the forthcoming Avengers feature. That undercuts the brilliance of the Russo brother's and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely's work. There's plenty of vital character moments throughout Infinity and many plot points that further our understanding of how this team works together. Yes, it's episodic but that's exactly how it needs to be—jumping from world to world in order to establish its grand scope. We've seen the whole 'ending that really isn't an ending' many times now—perhaps most notably in The Empire Strikes Back and the first two Lord of the Rings films. No one particularly cared in those cases and it's just as unnecessary to hold it against Infinity War

Avengers Infinity War Iron Man.jpg As for Disney's Blu-ray edition, which is superb (as expected) in terms of A/V presentation, don't expect too many bells and whistles in the extras department. Joe and Anthony Russo, joined by screenwriters Markus and McFeely, do contribute an audio commentary. That's actually probably the biggest plus (haven't listened to all of it yet, but what I have heard is pretty great). There are a few deleted scenes, a gag reel, a special introduction, and four featurettes. None of the featurettes is particularly vital, with the most substantial one—"Beyond the Battle: Wakanda"—topping out at ten minutes. The other three total just 20 minutes or so. In the end, the movie speaks for itself and the repeat viewing value is off the chart. Available August 14 on Blu-ray and 4K UltraHD.

Avengers Infinity War Blu-ray Box Art.jpg

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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