Entertainment

New 'Avengers' installment stays on course despite myriad moving parts

Front row, left to right: Okoye (Danai Gurira), Black Panther-T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Captain America-Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Black Widow-Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Winter Soldier-Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in "Avengers: Infinity War."
Front row, left to right: Okoye (Danai Gurira), Black Panther-T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Captain America-Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Black Widow-Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Winter Soldier-Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in "Avengers: Infinity War." Marvel Studios-Walt Disney

In "Avengers: Infinity War" there is an infinitude of battles. On spaceships. On Earth. On a dizzying array of other planets.

These battles are fought by a seeming infinitude of superheroes.

The picture brings practically every significant super-duper character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the party: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Captain America (Chris Evans). Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt; it's the Chris Show!). Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Green-hued Gamora (Zoe Saldana).

And ever so many more.

And, wonder of wonders, the directing team of Joe and Anthony Russo (they're brothers) gives them virtually equal amounts of significant screen time.

That would seem like a recipe for bloat. It's not, though. For such a gargantuan enterprise "Infinity War" is surprisingly agile.The brothers Russo keep it moving from planet to planet, from conflict to conflict and character to character with impressive assurance. The movie runs 2-1/2 hours and change (the longest MCU movie to date), yet it never drags. Nor does it ever feel over-rushed. Its myriad narrative threads never become snarled. It’s an unfailingly entertaining blockbuster.

It could be the fact that the Russos previously directed 2016's "Captain America: Civil War" and before that 2014's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" gave them such a familiarity with the characters and the Marvel material that they handle it with bulletproof confidence. Add to that the further fact that they're working again with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who wrote those earlier pictures, and they’re a team that truly knows what it's doing.

Better yet, they deftly embroider a refreshing amount of humor into the proceedings (another Marvel trademark). Whether it's Downey's Iron Man sardonically dinging Holland’s eager-beaver Spidey for excitedly salting his conversation with pop-culture references or Peter Quill's Guardians of the Galaxy pals giving him good-natured grief for adopting Thor’s stentorian tone of voice in an effort to seem more manly, the laughs arise easily and naturally.

There is a lot of getting-to-know-you in the story as players from different parts of the Marvel-verse meet for the first time.

Thor to the Guardians: "Who the hell are you guys?"

Following up on the storyline in 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron," the heroes are obliged to join forces to take down the movie's ubervillain, Thanos, a bald behemoth baddie played with grim malevolence by Josh Brolin. He's a genocidal and impressively thoughtful force of evil whose quest for six so-called Infinity Stones will give him the power to rule and ruin the universe if he can get his armored high-tech gauntleted hand on them. With the power to bend time and warp reality with those objects, he’s an implacably formidable foe.

So formidable, that he kills several of the Avengers in the course of the picture. So involved and complex is the fight to thwart him that a further movie will be needed to finish the tale.

So "Infinity War" ends with a cliffhanger. The wrap-up is due out next year.

"Avengers: Infinity War"

1/2 stars

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Director:Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

Running time: 2:36

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.

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