APRIL 26, 2018 -- In May 2008, Marvel Comics released "Iron Man" as the first installment of a saga that would develop most of the Marvel superheroes as well as their flagship group...The Avengers. One by one we were introduced to Hulk, Thor, Spiderman, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Ant Man, and Black Panther. Other less viable characters tagged along including Hawkeye, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Falson, Vision, War Machine, and a few others.


All of these stories were created to lead up to this one epic battle. The Infinity War against a powerful foe bent on destroying half of the universe...Thanos. We first got wind of Thanos (Josh Brolin) during the first installment of "Guardians of the Galaxy"; he's Gamora's (Zoe Saldana) adoptive daddy and the one who tinkered together her sister, the mostly cyborg Nebula (Karen Gillan). You'll remember him, appearing before Ronan in a big throne-like chair. He was up to something... gathering stones.


Well, those stones were the essence of the universe, from the very beginning and are called the Infinity Stones. After the big bang, they six stones were scattered. Legend had it that if the six stones were collected, the entity possessing them would have infinite power over the universe. Thanos has set out to collect them all.

Interestingly enough, two of the stones wound up on Earth. One embedded in the head of Vision (Paul Bettany) and the other guarded by Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Another is guarded by Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) people of Asgard, another possessed by that Collector guy (Benicio Del Toro) from "Guardians of the Galaxy 1". Another hidden in a place that only Gamora knows. He already has one.


Directors Anthony and Joe Russo ("Captain America: Civil War" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier") assembled one of the largest A-list casts to tell the story of how the Avengers plus Guardians of the Galaxy plus Dr Strange plus Black Panther's Kingdom of Wakunda plus a few of their former enemies will attempt to defeat Thanos and stop him from gathering all the stones. And Thanos is extremely powerful already.


He controls a huge army of sorcerers, thug creatures, monsters, etc most of which have various powers or super abilities equal to some of the Earths superheroes. What this army creates is a bunch of non-recurring roles for the good guys...and not-so-good guys.


Without divulging spoilers it can be stated that Thanos can be defeated and a couple of the superheroes come up with viable plans to do it. But with a cast this big, there have to be some casualties and usually those casualties come with actors with very, very brief appearances. Kinda like Sal Mineo's role in "The Longest Day"!


What can be said is that writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely scripted a very detailed, very plausible (in terms of the Marvel Universe) story that brings all the characters together with purpose. And that's the key part, everyone has a purpose; no one is standing around for a cheesecake moment... no matter how brief. We know how who got where and why.


More importantly, the creative team kept relationships in place. Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) are still an item. Gamora and Starlord (Chris Pratt) have become coo-some. Drax (Dave Bautista) still has a thing for Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) desires Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).


But there are a couple of questionable bits that might give you pause. Remember Star-Lord when he defeated his father Ego in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2", by the end of the film he had godlike power. Isn't vibranium, the stuff abundant in Wakanda supposed to be the most indestructible element in the universe? When did Captain America change out his suit? Why didn't Marvel introduce Peter Dinklage's Eitri character in an earlier Thor...he is a giant sized hoot!


But a story this big cannot be told in one film; this is part one. The yet untitled part two is in post production now, so start saving your money for it, because you will want to see it.


"Avengers: Infinity War" once again demostrates why Marvel Studios is at the top of their game in storytelling and developing characters. It is the intricately woven superhero/super villain action flick that comic fans crave and movie buffs appreciate.   -- GRADE B+ --   GEOFF BURTON