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Blu-ray Review: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

Starting with Iron Man (2008), the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gone onto to become a multimedia behemoth. It’s been so successful that other movie studios have tried to create their own shared universes, but none have matched what Marvel has created. The 19th film in the franchise, Avengers: Infinity War, keeps that streak alive with over $2 billion at the worldwide box office. This was due in part to fans’ anticipation of seeing what was billed as the biggest crossover event ever, and it certainly was fun seeing so many characters interact, which helped distract from the plot issues.

With the Infinity Stones being introduced in the Thor post-credits scene, it is fitting that the film opens with Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his own Four Horsemen (Ebony Maw, Cull Obsidian, Proxima Midnight, and Corvus Glaive) defeating what’s left of Asgard after the events of Thor: Ragnarok and obtaining a second Infinity Stone. The filmmakers make clear right away that the stakes are high as well-known characters die in the opening sequence. That leaves two stones on Earth (one that has brought the Vision to life and the other protected by Doctor Strange), one kept by the Collector (Benicio del Toro), and one somewhere that Thanos’ adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) was supposed to find.

Thanos sends his lieutenants to Earth. Two head to New York where Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Wong (Benedict Wong), Spider-man (Tom Holland), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), as he has can’t call forth the Hulk, battle them. Strange is captured and Iron Man and Spider-man get onto the spaceship headed for Thanos’ home Titan.

Two others head to Scotland where the Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are hiding, and with the help of Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), the aliens are defeated. The group heads to Wakanda, the homeland of the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) to see if they can remove the stone and still keep the Vision alive.

The Guardians of the Galaxy answer a distress call and find Thor (Chris Hemsworth) floating in space. This meeting is the film’s best as Peter Quill/Starlord (Chris Pratt) is clearly intimidated by Thor but acts as if he’s not, though everyone sees through him. Thor, Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and teenage Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) head to Nidavellir for a Thanos-killing weapon while the rest of the Guardians head to Knowhere where the Collector resides. They fail to stop Thanos and he takes Gamora to learn about the final stone.

Down to three, the Guardians head to Titan where they first fight with the heroes already there, always a fun trope in the comics, but they eventually come together to fight Thanos. Dr. Strange looks into the future of a million different universes and sees success in only one. So it’s not a surprise that they fail to stop him, but the reason why is frustrating. Not wanting to see her sister Nebula (Karen Gillian) tortured, Gamora reveals where the Soul Stone is hidden. Once there, it seems out of reach as Thanos has to sacrifice something he loves, and Gamora says that’s impossible as he is incapable of love.

There is a massive battle in Wakanda with a ridiculous amount of alien creatures that look like Venom (a Marvel character getting his own movie with another studio) used as cannon fodder. The battle ebbs and flows with some entertaining, action-packed scenes. Finally, Thanos, with five Stones, shows up. And if he gets all six, what’s his plan? To use all the Infinity Stones to wipe out half of the life forms in the universe, so they won’t suffer from being without resources.

Now setting aside how nonsensical the Infinity Stones are, from their origins, to how anyone knows their origins since they were created at the time of the Big Bang, to how having them together Thanos could accomplish his goal with just a snap of his fingers, it’s not clear why he thinks wide-scale mass murder is the best option or what is motivating him to do this. He has some compassion because he’s concerned with the greater good so he’s not totally insane, but if he can just wipe out half the population of the universe, aren’t there other changes that could accomplish the same goal? The Reality Stone alone can change matter so why not make inedible things edible? Make more planets hospitable and use their resources?

But then a few characters in this story don’t think things through as we repeatedly see heroes choosing to save one person over half the universe, which is such a poor, selfish, unheroic choice. Thanos is the only one who chose half the universe over one person, which says something about these characters I am not sure the screenwriters intended. The only time it makes sense is when Doctor Strange chooses to save Iron Man’s life. Even though he earlier says he wouldn’t make that decision, Strange is the only one who knows how to defeat Thanos, so he can be trusted but the cost is quite dire, creating the most memorable sequence of the franchise that catches audiences off guard because it’s doesn’t fit the usual superhero-story template and alters the MCU in a major way (at least until Avengers 4 like all comic-book readers know).

Although there are a few story issues, Infinity War offers a great deal of fun derived from the character interaction and the fight scenes, both which deliver so many good quips that Disney should have it submit it as a comedy. (It’s certainly funnier than The Martian.) The filmmakers juggle all the plotlines well. It’s easy to follow what’s going on and there’s a lot going on what with over 20 heroes alone. It helps that the cinematography and visual effects work together in creating locations that look different.

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The digital effects blend well with the live-action material. The colors are vibrant across the spectrum, blacks are deeply inky, whites are bright and accurate. There’s strong contrast and depth in the frames. Fine texture detail, real and digital, are on display, making every object seem real.

The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and I was expecting a little better for a blockbuster. Dialogue was slightly inconsistent as I would have to raise the volume for some moments. The effects and score were better, as they filled the surrounds. The effects immersed the viewer, providing ambiance and allowing for objects to move throughout the system as they flew in a scene. On occasion, the bass would rattle to the point of distortion.

While they assembled many heroes, they didn’t take the same care with the extras. There’s an audio commentary by the Russo Brothers and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen Mcfeely where they talk about what went into the choices they made. There’s an introduction by the directors, The Russo Brothers (2 min). There are four featurettes: “Strange Alchemy” (5 min) talks about the mixing of characters; “The Mad Titan” (7 min) is a look at Thanos; Beyond the Battle: Titan (10 min) and Beyond the Battle: Wakanda (11 min) take the audience behind the scenes of these sequences. The latter celebrates the Russo Brothers.

There are only four deleted scenes (10 min) with unfinished visual effects: Happy Hogan’s appearance and it’s too bad we lost him; More fighting with Vision in Scotland; a funny Guardians scene as they get Nebula’s message; and Gamora working with Thanos. Finally, a short gag reel (2 min) and available with the digital movie is a Directors’ Roundtable with eight of the directors from the MCU.

For those who have been following along, and many around the world have, the events of the MCU have been building towards Avengers: Infinity War, and the filmmakers created a marvelous (pun intended) superhero movie filled with plenty of thrills and laughs that makes the investment for fans pay off. The story could have been better, but getting to see Iron Man and Doctor Strange and also Thor and Rocket team up is such a delight that it’s easy to get caught up in the moments. The Blu-ray presents impressive video, audio almost as good, and leaves one wanting for more extras. There are a few different home-video variations so do your research.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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