The progress of Thanos (Josh Brolin) continues apace in his attempt to recover each of the six infinity stones to use to destroy half the universe's life, which has led him to an Asgardian spacecraft, containing the living gods Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston). The latter brother has in his possession the Tesseract, which held one of the powerful gems, and Thanos demands he hand it over, but Loki is still trying to gain the upper hand, setting the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) on him, yet even he is bested by this Titan. As he breathes his last, Heimdall (Idris Elba) sends the defeated Hulk across the galaxy to Earth, leaving the Asgardians to their respective fates. It seems nothing can stop this genocidal maniac...
It's fitting that the Marvel franchise should have taken the form of serials, since superheroes on the big screen started out in the serials back in the nineteen-thirties and forties, and after George Lucas adopted those as a template for Star Wars back in 1977, that was so influential that many a blockbuster followed in his footsteps, nowhere more to be seen than in this hit instalment. The Empire Strikes Back in particular, from 1980, provided both the emotional heft and the excitement of a cliffhanger to create one of the biggest buzzes around a franchise of all time, and studios with money to burn have sought to tap into that audience anticipation - and those profits - ever since.
Everyone was very careful to avoid spoilers when discussing Infinity War, but when you did reach the big reveals they were not as surprising as perhaps the filmmakers believed they were, as once you accepted Thanos has a plan, and if he doesn't succeed there won't be a need for a sequel, then you could more or less predict which way this was going. Certainly you wouldn't be able to anticipate who fell in battle (or otherwise), so there was a degree of suspense there, and a poignancy in watching characters who believed themselves to be invincible only to find that was not the case was present. Mind you, if you had no experience of comics you might even be convinced they were gone for good.
But comics had a habit of never letting their characters alone, and aside from Hugo Strange or Jason Todd in the Batman pages, it was difficult to think of a hero or villain in a long-running series who did not make a comeback in some form or another. Therefore, caveats had to be employed in how emotionally invested you were in the Marvel efforts for they hewed so closely to the model, creative and financial, of their comic books; of course, if you were ten years old when you saw them, they would be more effective than if you were a cynical, middle-aged chap who had seen it all before and were resigned to seeing it all again. Nevertheless, these films were very well cast, with performers who more often than not generated substantial chemistry, and it was cheering to see the examples of the various sub-franchises do the same upon their first meeting with the others.
For instance, Spider-Man (Tom Holland) continued his trait of saving as many people as possible from Spider-Man: Homecoming, doing the same for various Guardians of the Galaxy, so by no means were the personalities so well-delivered in these works swamped by the barrage of special effects. The balance between the character business and the spectacle had been honed to something like an ideal by now (Thanos would appreciate the balance, anyway), so well-orchestrated by committee were the Marvel Universe episodes, though even so, that did give away a sense of spontaneity that could have made them fresher; that's the cost of planning everything years in advance. But what you came away with was how geared to troubled times they were, the threat of chaos on an apparent stability in life their chief theme, as everything in the news and social media threatening us with disaster, whether legitimate or not, was going to have its effect, and watching calamity play out in our most popular entertainments could prove cathartic. At least in the prospective future, when you caught the sequel. Music by Alan Silvestri.