The beginning of the end of the Infinity Saga, Avengers: Infinity War, is an odd film, objectively speaking. Phase 3’s team-up movie features the biggest roster of heroes yet, and begins to tell the epic story of the Avengers’ greatest loss (followed by the cosmic do-over of the century).

The sheer scale of Infinity War is a little daunting. The number of characters involved in the narrative, as well as the wealth of comic book lore beneath it, is something that sets this film apart from anything that came before it. With a massive ensemble cast and a story with universe-spanning stakes, it’s easy to get swept up in the pageantry of Infinity War.

However, almost from its opening scene, it quickly falls into a pattern of leaping between its protagonists, spinning its yarn in several places at once as it connects the many narrative dots of the Infinity Saga in order to create a cohesive jumping off point for the events of the two-part story.

At times, it feels a little rushed, but it builds a specific sort of hopeless anticipation as the odds stack relentlessly against the Avengers, and that’s Infinity War‘s greatest triumph. As it was always intended to be the first half of a two-part narrative, it seemed doomed to exist in Endgame‘s shadow – but actually, Infinity War makes fine work of its place in the franchise.

Infinity War does an impressive job of balancing its cast, and while certain characters are given a little more narrative weight than others (*ahem* Thor, anyone?), practically every established hero is given a part to play.

However, this is mostly done through a near-endless slew of action scenes. They’re well choreographed, and they all come together brilliantly, but the fighting is practically ceaseless. Story is peppered throughout, but in all honesty, Infinity War thoroughly lives up to its name. Quite literally, it’s endless fighting.

Something should be said for Infinity War‘s impact, though. To have Marvel’s greatest heroes fight tooth and nail for over two hours, only to have victory wrenched away from them, is one of the finest cinematic depictions of large scale loss to exist. It subverts the common superhero movie trope of having the good guys score their points or learn a powerful lesson – instead, it simply has the villain win, and half of all the good guys die for their trouble.

Despite the action, Infinity War boasts a number of exceptional performances. Perhaps the most impressive was Chris Pratt’s surprisingly deep (yet still, at times, comedic) grasp of his character’s grief, and Chris Hemsworth’s depiction of Thor’s boundless rage focused upon avenging his people (and his brother) after they’re murdered by Thanos. That’s not to say that the rest of the film’s cast don’t also have their moments, but some of the MCU’s greatest actors (Chadwick Boseman in particular) are hardly given anything at all to do, and while that’s understandable given the sheer size of the cast, it’s still a little disappointing.

It’s hard to fault Infinity War for its shortcomings, as they’re all perfectly understandable given the nature of the film. However, at times, it’s something of a slog to get through, as the story is somehow both rushed and labored all at once. It’s kept alive by its characters and its actors, though, and the action, while a little tedious in places, is a constant rush of cheap dopamine.

Infinity War does an excellent job of setting up Endgame, and it does it by telling a very different kind of superhero story. It’s a unique film, but its scale alone makes it something to behold, and there’s plenty to love about the overall execution.

Rating: 75%

Summary: At times, it feels like several long, drawn-out battle scenes overlaying one another, but there’s depth to Infinity War in the most surprising of places.

Highlights: Seeing all of Earth’s heroes teaming up to combat Thanos is an experience that any comic fan will find exhilarating.