I greatly enjoy movies set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, I was doubly excited to learn that Avengers: Infinity War brings together most of the characters from the various branches of that universe—the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, and others—in a super-epic spectacular. (The Fantastic Four and Deadpool seem to have been on vacation for this adventure.) As with other recent MCU releases, Avengers: Infinity War is being presented in Dolby Vision high dynamic range and Atmos immersive sound in Dolby Cinemas, so of course, I bought a ticket.
Thanos (Josh Brolin) is an uber-baddie bent on acquiring all six Infinity Stones, some of which have appeared in other Marvel movies. Once he has them, he will wipe out half the life in the entire universe in a horribly misguided attempt to preserve its limited resources for those who survive. (This reminds me of Kodos the Executioner from Star Trek: The Original Series. He executed thousands of colonists so that others would survive after the food supply was destroyed. The moral dilemma is the same in both cases: kill half to save half or let all die?) Thanos and his minions are so evil and powerful—and numerous—it will take the combined strength of all the MCU superheroes to even attempt to thwart his apocalyptic plans.
One of the most fun aspects of Avengers: Infinity War is the return of so many beloved characters played by the actors who brought them to life in previous Marvel movies. I won’t list them here—such a list quickly becomes eye-glazing. Suffice to say that most of the major characters from recent MCU movies are present and accounted for. One new addition of note is Eitri (Peter Dinklage), a giant dwarf (!) who forges magical metal weapons using the power of a star. And of course, Avengers co-creator Stan Lee makes his customary cameo appearance.
It seems inevitable that each new superhero movie ratchets up the threat level compared to previous outings, and Avengers: Infinity War is no exception. In fact, the threat is so dire in this case, I can’t see how it could get much worse in future movies. I won’t offer any spoilers here, but I will say that the ending surprised me, and a sequel is inevitable.
Avengers: Infinity War celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began with Iron Man in 2008. Of course, that’s a big reason why all the characters were gathered together for this outing. I expected the movie to be fun and funny, and it is—adolescent Groot is hilarious!—with tons of Marvelous one-liners and spectacular visuals. Also, it depends on bits of backstory from various MCU movies, so it helps if you’ve already seen them or at least know their stories.
But it’s also a one-note samba—it starts at a high anxiety level and pretty much stays there for two and a half hours with seemingly endless battles. After a while, I found myself not really caring about the outcome—until the surprise ending.
The Dolby Vision HDR is wonderful. Black interstitials (moments of full-screen black between scenes) are true black, and the black of space is inky and deep. Also, highlights are very bright, shadow detail is excellent, and the colors are rich and vivid. After the screening I saw, I ducked into a conventional showing, and it looked drab and dull by comparison.
Likewise, the Dolby Atmos audio was superb. As you might expect, things fly all over the place, which is effectively rendered in a hemispherical soundfield. And Alan Silvestri’s superb score is artfully mixed throughout the room.
I thought the audio levels were pretty high, with lots of shooting and explosions. However, my measurements indicate that the average over the entire movie (plus trailers) was just under reference level. Leq (average RMS level over the entire length of the movie plus trailers) = 95.9 dBZ (flat), 84.1 dBA, 94.2 dBC; Lmax (maximum 1-second RMS level) = 120.5 dBZ; L10 (level exceeded 10% of the time) = 97.9 dBZ; L50 (level exceeded 50% of the time) = 82.9 dBZ. Reference level is an Leq of 85 dBA—which is too high IMO, but it is what it is.
Avengers: Infinity War is the first big blockbuster to be shot entirely with IMAX-format cameras—the Arri Alexa IMAX, to be exact. It’s a digital-cinema camera with 6.5K resolution and a native aspect ratio of 1.9:1. Of course, the image is cropped to 2.39:1 for most presentations—including Dolby Cinema—but it’s being shown in its full aspect ratio of 1.9:1 in IMAX theaters.
Next week, I’ll be seeing the movie again at the TCL Chinese IMAX in Hollywood, CA, to observe how the taller aspect ratio compares with 2.39:1. The TCL IMAX uses laser-illuminated projectors, and it is alternating 2D and 3D showings; I chose a 2D showing, since I really hate 3D from laser-illuminated projectors. I’ll update this report after I’ve seen the IMAX version.
Meanwhile, Avengers: Infinity War looks like it will be hugely successful. It raked in $39 million on Thursday night, and it’s expected to hit around $230 million in North America over the weekend. That would make it the second-largest domestic opening weekend ever, trailing only Star Wars: The Force Awakens at $248 million. If you plan to contribute to that haul, I definitely recommend seeing it in a Dolby Cinema if you’re near one; click here for a list of locations. (That recommendation might be amended after I see it in IMAX.) Any Marvel fan will certainly enjoy it; just be prepared for two and a half hours of non-stop adrenaline. And be sure to stay through the end credits for a cool coda.
Are you planning to see Avengers: Infinity War? After you do, let us know what you think about it in the comments. And if you see it in a Dolby Cinema or IMAX theater, I’d love to know your impressions of the experience.
Check out the two official trailers:
Here are a couple of behind-the-scenes videos about shooting Avengers: Infinity War with IMAX cameras:
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