The Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of 10 years of intersecting storylines across multiple movies and series in the Marvel Universe, the stakes are the highest they’ve ever been.

Commercially, Infinity War enters a league in which box-office earnings shoot past the $1 billion mark. There was a slight dip in earnings between the first Avengers film and Age Of Ultron, and Infinity War may serve as a litmus test for how superhero-fatigued the movie-going public is.

Creatively, this is a watershed moment for Marvel’s tentpole movie franchise. Not only does it have to tie together the events contained in roughly the last six years of Marvel films, it’s packed to bursting with characters and tasked with making sure none of them feel peripheral. It fails in this endeavour, as should be expected, but it does an amazing job of coming out at the end feeling like a cohesive whole rather than a superhero patchwork quilt.

Most importantly, it takes some pretty brave chances. As has been hinted at in a lot of the news stories and interviews in the run up to Infinity War’s release, fans will watch characters die in this film. A lot of them. Without heading into spoiler territory, this turn of events will likely be expected by viewers the moment the film’s main villain, Thanos, appears onscreen.

Unlike the antagonists from the first two movies, Thanos feels like an insurmountable foe. A hulking brute that seems both invulnerable and highly intelligent from the moment he steps into view, Thanos isn’t out to destroy or subjugate earth. He’s after six Infinity Stones that, once placed in his gauntlet, will give him the power to extinguish half of all life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. He has his reasons for doing this – the universe’s resources are finite and to ensure life’s survival a massive cull, in his opinion, is necessary – but they don’t stop him from coming across as a megalomaniacal douche.

He’s aided in his quest by the Black Order, a quartet of super-powered beings as formidable as they are ruthless. In the opening scenes of the movie only two of them at a time are required to give the Avengers more than a run for their money.

So essentially the fate of half the universe is at stake, and while The Avengers aren’t outmanned, they’re certainly outgunned. As was mentioned: the stakes in an Avengers movie have never been higher.

In their efforts to stop Thanos, the Avengers are split up and hurled to different parts of the galaxy.

On earth, Vision and Scarlet Witch find themselves on the back foot against the Black Order until Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon step in, leading them to reunite with War Machine who is risking a court martial for not turning them all in.

In space, Thor finds himself cut adrift and then paired up with the Guardians Of The Galaxy, who in turn split up, with Starlord, Drax, Gamora and Mantis moving to stop Thanos, while the god of thunder, Groot and Rocket head off to find a weapon capable of killing the bugger.

Back on earth Iron Man, Spiderman, Doctor Strange and Bruce Banner also encounter the Black Order, which results in all but the latter being spirited away across the galaxy. This all happens, incidentally, before Black Panther, The Winter Soldier and the forces of Wakanda get involved.

If all of that seems a lot to take in then… well, it is, and it’s to Infinity War’s credit that the film both is highly entertaining and not a discombobulating mess on a scale of say, Justice League.

Inevitably some characters are shortchanged and some regulars don’t even make an appearance, but the intertwining story arches are well presented and paced well enough not to give the audience whiplash. To clarify, this isn’t damning with faint praise; it’s something of a marvel for a film with this many moving pieces to make it to the end credits more than the sum of its parts.

Beyond the plot, which shall not be addressed further, fans know what to expect. The Marvel Universe regulars turn in performances seen a dozen or so times, the dialogue is peppered with as many snappy exchanges as it is moments of emotional heft and the film packs enough mind-blowing action to send Michael Bay into orbit. Perhaps the most intriguing moments in the film for both the universe Marvel has built over the last ten years and what they mean going forward occur in its final moments… but here one must stop.

The Avengers: Infinity War – Verdict

No one likes spoilers and none shall be posted here. Suffice to say that for a film of this size and scale, one wouldn’t expect Infinity War to take as many risks and see them pay off so superbly. By now, every reader knows whether they’re going to see this film or not, and if you’re in the former camp, you won’t be disappointed. Infinity War continues the Marvel Universe’s journey with aplomb and offers fans a tantalising prospect going forward. What more do you want?