Avengers: Infinity War
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chadwick Boseman
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.
2 hr. 29 min.

It’s been about two decades since the first superhero from the Merry Marvel Marching Society hit the big screen. Over the last 10 years and 18 films, these complicated, super-powered creations have sprung from their pulpy, primary-colored comic book pages to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s what they call the division of Disney that produced Avengers: Infinity War, a film that’s drawing moviegoers of all ages by the droves. It’s so great that Stan Lee is around, at age 95, to see the fruits of his work (and those of Jack Kirby, and all the writers and illustrators of the original comic kingdom) dominating the box office consistently.

Bear in mind, not every person breathlessly awaits each Marvel film with eyes wide and mouth agape. This presents a conundrum. To assume that everyone already knows the quirks, qualities, powers and alter egos of each superhero would be presumptuous. On the other hand, to reveal too much here would incur the wrath of fans who have yet to enjoy the movie. I’ll carefully give this a shot.

Infinity War begins at the end of the previous war between the Avengers and Thanos (Josh Brolin), a really big galoot with a chin that resembles tuck and roll upholstery on the backseat of a ’57 Chevy. He wants to control the universe. Thanos and the “children” he’s “raised,” while massacring and dominating various beings around the cosmos, are in the midst of defeating Thor, God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth). One dying character pipes up a line that could be an early-morning presidential tweet: “We got Hulk!” Suddenly these two similarly sized objects of fury, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Thanos, do battle. The adventure is on.

Over the next two and a half hours, the Marvel All-Stars try to save the heavens as the brutal Thanos and his equally hideous minions seek the last of the powerful Infinity stones. All the stars, that is, except the Sub-Mariner. For some reason, Namor, Prince of Atlantis, King of the Sea, has never made it to film. Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) form an uneasy trio; the Guardians of the Galaxy (among them Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana) meet those three and, later, Thor. Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), Vision (Paul Bettany), the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) travel to Wakanda to join forces with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). A frustrated Bruce Banner has trouble summoning his inner Hulk, but has the presence of mind to ask, “There’s an Ant Man and a Spider-Man?”

The key to this film’s success (and its long lines at the theater) is storytelling — and how writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have adapted, applied and maintained the spirit and wit found in the Marvel comic books. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have smoothly interwoven the action for their massive cast of characters. They all contribute.

During Avengers: Infinity War, fans cheered when any superhero popped up on the screen, and stayed past the credits, soaking in the names of  the men and women who created the CGI and effects that make this such a thunderous, action-filled, eye-popping delight. You’ll want to do that, too: After the credits roll, there’s a preview of the next masterpiece from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still merry, still Marvel, still marching . . . straight to the bank. And putting the block in blockbuster.