This image released by Marvel Studios shows, from left, Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Dave Bautista, Chris Pratt and Pom Klementieff in a scene from “Avengers: Infinity War.” (Marvel Studios via AP)

Reeling it in: ‘Infinity War’ is an epic film

“Avengers: Infinity War”

Marvel Studios

2 hours, 29 minutes

Every now and again a movie comes along, the story of whose mere existence is bigger than than any tale that movie may have to tell.

Think “Godfather III,” Coppola’s return to his classic twenty years later, a movie no one thought would ever be made. Or Spielberg’s “A.I.,” a movie the famous auteur made to honor Stanley Kubrick who had spent years developing it. Or even “Heaven’s Gate,” an epic western that cost so much and made so little that it literally bankrupted the studio.

These movies are both good and bad, but notoriously epic in their production. I think “Avengers: Infinity War” will be remembered that way. Some people hate it, more people love it, but no one can deny the amazing achievement from Marvel Studios and director brothers Anthony and Joe Russo.

I should say at the outset that the plot of this movie will make no sense to the first-time or even casual viewer. That achievement I mentioned earlier? The epic nature of this film? “Infinity War” manages to bring together myriad characters from 19 different films, giving each a chance to shine. It would be if John Maclane from “Die Hard” joined forces with Dirty Harry, Serpico, and Maverick from “Top Gun,” along with characters from four other franchises. Something like that would never happen, outside of “Cannonball Run,” and yet it just did.

The downside is that the barrier to entry is extremely high. If you don’t know the other movies and all their intricate minutia, I’m not sure how much of “Infinity War” is going to make any sense. I won’t bother to try to tie together all the various plot threads that lead up to this point — suffice it to say that a bunch of superheroes are banding together to fight a nearly indestructible villain with the fate of the universe at stake.

The film opens where “Thor: Ragnarok” left off — with Thor and the rest of the Asgardians encountering our big purple baddie, Thanos, and his team of henchmen. After that unfortunate encounter, Thor runs across the Guardians of the Galaxy. Simultaenously, the Hulk/Bruce Banner is sent hurtling to Earth to encounter Doctor Strange and Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.

It’s at this point we get a little exposition. Thanos is what you might call a extreme pragmatist. Overpopulation and rampant resource exploitation has led to a crisis in the universe. The only way to stop it, in Thanos’ mind, is to commit genocide on a cosmic scale. Half of the beings in the universe must die for the other half to live in peace and harmony.

And so, Thanos is on the hunt for the six Infinity Stones — leftovers from the big bang that each control a facet of existence. There’s the Space Stone, Mind Stone, Reality Stone, and on and on. With all six in his possession, Thanos reasons he could achieve his goals with a simple snap of his fingers.

Getting the stones, on the other hand, is going to be harder than it looks. Two of the stones are on Earth, under the protection of our planet’s mightiest heroes. The Time Stone is actually Doctor Strange’s amulet, and the Mind Stone forms the basis for Vision. You just know these guys aren’t going to let it go without a fight.

The battle, when it comes, is waged on two fronts. Thanos’ home planet of Titan is where the mad despot encounters Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and most of the Guardians. Earth, but more specifically Wakanda, forms the backdrop for the film’s other massive set-piece, where the bad guys go head to head with Black Widow, Black Panther, Bruce Banner, War Machine, and the Winter Soldier.

Oh, and Scarlett Witch and Vision. And I forgot Captain America. And also Thor and Rocket and Groot are on another mission. There’s a lot going on.

I always find myself being a little flippant when I describe these things, but it’s an amazing balance Marvel has managed to maintain — keeping things light, while also taking them seriously. There’s a line wherein Bruce Banner, having returned to Earth after having been gone for a few years, is finding out about all the new superheroes that have arisen since he left. “Wait. We have a ‘spider’ man and an ‘ant’ man now?!” That felt like it was written directly for those people who look at an overstuffed movie like this and think, “I just can’t.”

You might have guessed, but that’s not me. I will say, however, that, as much as I enjoyed this film, I’m glad they aren’t all like this. At two hours and forty minutes, it still feels like it’s rushing to get through everybody.

Much of Thanos’ story, though interesting and presented well by Josh Brolin, doesn’t hold up to serious scrutiny. Anytime you have a villain, or hero, for that matter, with so much power that they could decimate the universe, any punching battle feels a little pointless.

But honestly, that’s not why you go to this movie. Those would be valid criticisms of any other Marvel movie, but this film is made specifically to culminate a series of character and emotional arcs that have spanned a decade and over a dozen films. It reminds me of the “Seinfeld” finale in a way. How much you enjoyed that depends on how interested you were in seeing J. Peterman, The Soup Nazi, and Babu Batt all in the same room. How they got there wasn’t as important.

I don’t need to cajole you — you’ll see this movie, along with almost everybody else. It’s already had the largest opening of any movie in history. It’s generated more memes and internet discussions (I can’t believe ——- died like that!!) than you can shake a stick at. It’s part 2 is coming next May and I think then we’ll be better able to judge the lasting quality of this massive undertaking.

Until then, I’m sticking with my team. I loved it, warts and all, and will likely see it again.

Grade: A

“Avengers: Infinity War” is rated PG-13 for comic book violence.

Chris Jenness is an art teacher, freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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