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After 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s all been building to this. Every character, every movie, every world carefully constructed, all culminating in Avengers: Infinity War.

Marvel has a history of (mostly) meeting and exceeding expectations, with misses such as “Age of Ultron” being the exception rather than the rule. So where exactly does “Infinity War” fall? The short answer: mostly on the side of success.

That is, if you have the stomach for it. While the movie has all of the humor and wit that have become Marvel’s trademark, this is also the darkest and most devastating onscreen offering they’ve ever given us. Other films were fun and enjoyable, with all the suspense that could be possible considering we knew our main heroes would come out OK.

“Avengers: Infinity War” has been marketed as the film that would shake up the MCU for good, and they quickly prove that no character, no matter how popular, is safe. Death hangs over them all, and each fight, each face-off, comes with the full knowledge that anyone could bite the dust. So yeah, prepare for your normally lighthearted comic book fare to resemble an early season of “Game of Thrones.”

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“Infinity War” picks up where “Thor: Ragnarok” left off, with Thor deprived of his celestial home and most of his family. Within the first few minutes of “Infinity War,” he loses even more. Some of the heroes on Earth aren’t doing much better, with those who opposed Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) on the Accords in “Civil War” still on the run while Stark is sitting comfy. Things quickly ramp up when Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) returns to Earth to warn the team of the impending arrival of Thanos (Josh Brolin) right before he and his minions arrive and proceed to thrash the heroes without breaking a sweat.

Thanos has mostly appeared as a cartoonish Big Bad in various post-credits scenes over the years, but here he is a surprising exception to the usual Marvel antagonist. Sure, he may want the same things as practically every other villain they’ve given us, which is to wreak death and destruction. The difference is he sees killing off most of the people who populate the universe as a necessity in order to ensure the continued survival of the remainder. He wants all the Infinity Stones so he can do this in a more merciful way.

Nor is Thanos a one-dimensional killing machine, with “Infinity War” managing to explore the complexities of unresolved daddy issues in a few scenes that “Age of Ultron” was able to do in an entire movie. Flashbacks with his adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and their entire dynamic show just how close they used to be, and how much they still care for each other despite everything. It’s an unsettling reminder of just how those with power can see those without it as disposable, and just how many of our current leaders are willing to embrace that belief.

Naturally, we get some beloved characters meeting up for the first time, with a multitude of heroes thrillingly uniting to fight against a greater threat than any of them has ever faced. But there’s a negative side to the aforementioned “Game of Thrones” resemblance. All the clashes and buildup, even the jaw-dropping, devastating ending, leads to “Infinity War” feeling incomplete, a stepping stone to the true climax, which we’ll have to wait about a year for.

The end credits tease the heroine who will clearly play a major part in it, but the best Marvel movies have always been capable of standing on their own, even while serving as pieces of a larger picture. “Avengers” Infinity War” has changed that picture forever, so it’s a shame that the snapshot isn’t more worthwhile.

Grade: B+

Photos courtesy of Marvel Studios

Andrea Thompson is a writer, editor, and film critic who is also the founder and director of the Film Girl Film Festival. She is a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, the Women Film...