Ten years in the making, Avengers: Infinity War arrives with all the weight, action, laughs, tears, and poignancy we could hope for as celestial mega-villain, Thanos, hunts down the infinity stones to "bring balance to the universe" no matter the cost. The monumental but somewhat bloated production is a wildly entertaining feat sure to leave audiences in tearful, anxious anticipation for next year's conclusion. On 4K Digital (Vudu UHD), Infinity War boasts a colorful, detailed, and contrasty Dolby Vision HDR video presentation, a serviceable Dolby Atmos soundtrack, and a light collection of bonus materials that include an excellent audio commentary and digital-exclusive directors' roundtable. Recommended for 4K enthusiasts who prefer streaming to physical media.
Avengers: Infinity War has to be the biggest motion picture event of recent memory, a massively ambitious production ten years in the making. It will go down as a formidable and somewhat exhaustive endeavor that tests casual fans' knowledge of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe while pleasing the deeply loyal base with giddy enthusiasm. Eighteen entries to the franchise have basically been building up to this moment, and it absolutely feels that cumbersome and substantial, requiring some viewers to perhaps revisit the previous films prior to this bloated but entertaining behemoth. Miraculously, directors Anthony and Joe Russo, coming off the last two Captain America movies, do a phenomenal balancing act juggling between a laundry list of characters without losing focus on the main objective: stopping a nihilist-obsessed Thanos (Josh Brolin) from realizing his catastrophic plan for the universe. Even more astounding is a poignantly weighty plot guaranteed to engage audiences on an emotional level.
Picking up from a mid-credits sequence in Thor: Ragnarok, the film wastes no time shocking fans, as Brolin's Thanos begins inflicting his twisted form of justice. Within minutes, the alien Titan easily overpowers the powerful Thor (Chris Hemsworth), out-smarts the ingeniously clever Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and pummels the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to the point of bruising the Green Goliath's ego for the remainder of the runtime. The scene quickly establishes a morose and pessimistic tone that pervades the thrillingly grandiose action. Even the several comedic curveballs attempting to lighten the mood do so with a tense cynicism. Hemsworth carries over his jovial demeanor from his previous movie in a conversation with Rocket (Bradley Cooper) where the two continue suppressing their softer underbellies. It's a touching moment with lighthearted jabs exemplifying the filmmakers' goal throughout the series but feels even more significant here — the darkest, bleakest story of the franchise.
From a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the film's best aspect is the strange-bedfellows banter of the characters. Following in the story arcs created by the various sequels, Gamora's (Zoe Saldana) gravely dramatic pleas to Quill (Chris Pratt) are suddenly uninterrupted by weirder-than-usual Drax (Dave Bautista) believing himself a stealthy killer hiding in plain sight. In other parts of the universe, Banner's (Ruffalo) seven PhDs prove useless when operating the Hulkbuster armor suit, and a gawky, bumbling Spider-Man (Tom Holland) remains neurotically twitchy about his involvement as he's also unceremoniously welcomed into the Avengers. Meanwhile, egos are continuously clashing as everyone scrambles to fight the same problem from different perspectives and motives. Stark's (Robert Downey Jr.) tough-as-iron exterior, in particular, hilariously locks horns with Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), but Pratt's over-confident and very much fragile Quill butting heads with Thor arguably provides the funniest moments.
Full of edge-of-your-seat spectacle, oozing with endless eye candy and wisecracking humor, Avengers: Infinity War is driven more by the emotional investment of each character, approaching Thanos's potentially cataclysmic threat differently because he's been at the center of numerous tragedies fueling the MCU. And like we've seen in the last two entries, including Sony's Spider-Man: Homecoming, the villain's motives are surprisingly more complex than a simple power-grab. Uninterested by greed, a lust to rule the galaxy or a desire to conquer all, the Titan is filled with regret and tragedy with a longing for balance, not only in the universe but in his personal life as well, one that takes shape in a callously "logical" plan. This leads to what is probably the most heartbreaking encounter of the entire film, one of many heart-rending moments in a monumental production unlike anything we've seen before, delivering the goods while leaving audiences in tears, eagerly anxious for next year's better-be-as-good conclusion.
Vital Stats: 4K Digital
Avengers: Infinity War is available now on a variety of digital streaming platforms. We purchased our copy from Vudu, which includes HDR (Dolby Vision or HDR10), Dolby Atmos (DD+), and 9 Bonus Features. Here's a list of where you can buy the film digitally:
Avengers: Infinity War looks terrific on Vudu UHD streaming in Dolby Vision or HDR10. Sharper, improved contrast, and more colorful, the UHD presentation is a massive step up over HD streaming.
Like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and Thor: Ragnarok before it, Infinity War joins the ranks of handsome Marvel 4K transfers, albeit with a darker tone and color scheme than those predecessors. Still, Marvel movies are awash in tantalizing visuals, rendering other worlds and creatures and superheroes in eye-popping colors unavailable in high definition's narrower Rec.709 color space.
Shot on the Arri Alexa 65, capable of 6.5K resolution, and later mastered to a 4K Digital Intermediate, Infinity War was graded with Dolby Vision HDR (and HDR10 for those without DV) for this digital version. The results speak for themselves, displaying a wealth of fine details in actors' faces, CGI creations, and real-world locations. The HDR pass noticeably improves contrast (compared to the HD stream), giving the overall image more depth, definition, and deeper black levels. As we've seen with previous Marvel movies, the HDR also reveals a lot of specular highlights in bright skies (Earthly and otherworldly), explosions, and other sources of fire or lava. This too adds to the overall perception of resolution.
In terms of nitpicks or flaws, you will note some softer shots and visual effects here and there, and the darker tone prevents the colors from hitting full DCI-P3 potential (compared to Ragnarok and Vol.2). But, overall, this an excellent digital transfer that, in my viewing, didn't suffer from any macroblocking or compression issues. For what it's worth, the 4K Ultra HD looks even better (more depth, more refinement), but for those who want the best streaming experience, the encode available via Vudu is an excellent way to watch Infinity War. (Video Rating: 84/100)
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This portion of the review was updated. IMDB.com, link above, originally listed this movie as having a 2K DI. As of 8/3/2018, it now says 4K. Assuming this is correct, we're updating the review. Either way, if anyone has any links to first-person sources commenting on how the film was completed (from the filmmakers, etc.), please do let us know in the comments below and we'll make any further adjustments as needed. Thanks!]
Avengers: Infinity War battles across time and space in a Dolby Digital Plus-based Dolby Atmos sound mix that won't surprise anyone who's bought a Marvel movie on home video or streaming. Some will hear this and call it a disaster while others, including myself, will find it underwhelming compared to the movie's visuals (and other Dolby Atmos mixes), but serviceable overall.
Ahead of this review, I sampled scenes from my favorite DD+ Dolby Atmos tracks, including Blade Runner 2049, Pacific Rim, Mad Max Fury Road, and The Matrix. Each one delivers near-constant overhead immersion as well as aggressive 360-degree effects panning and thundering LFE.
Infinity War is not in the same league as these soundtracks.
Yes, Infinity War utilizes the overhead speakers for flying ships and music, but the overall design is much less present than the helicopter rotors in The Matrix or Hans Zimmer's score in 2049.
Yes, Infinity War produces ear-level surround immersion, but nothing that comes close to the whizzing vehicle carnage of Fury Road; in fact, by comparison, I sometimes wondered if my rear speakers were off at times.
And, yes, Infinity War offers a few rumbling LFE thumps, but nothing compared to the Jaeger-stomping madness of Pacific Rim.
Heck, even compared to Guardians Vol. 2 (a Disney release) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (a Sony release), Infinity War falls short as Vol.2 used Atmos in far cleverer ways (the scene where Star-Lord looks for tape) while Homecoming unleashes more demonstrable bass (check out the ferry boat splitting apart).
Sorry for the long tangent, but Disney soundtracks are a bit controversial these days and I wanted discerning audiophiles to know that we understand why they're disappointed demoing recent-era Disney soundtracks -- they simply don't compete with similarly budgeted blockbusters. Especially since most of them seem to be literally 10-15dB quieter than other studios' releases (and the audio commentary included with the digital bonus features), while lacking aggression and dynamics even when one compensates for volume variances.
That said, trying to put on my most objective hat possible, this track is far from an unmitigated disaster. It sounds pretty good, to be honest. The surround sound builds a strong sense of the world and the action. Overhead sound placement elevates Alan Silvestri's rousing score as well as a series of flying ships and falling creatures (the score also fills out a wide front soundstage). You can always hear the dialogue, in chaos or in quiet. And the sound effects themselves are intricate while offering a lot of depth and fidelity.
In short, the Infinity Wars Dolby Atmos mix sounds quite good, but just doesn't measure up to the movie's grand visuals or demonstration-worthy Atmos tracks, which is frustrating because we know better is possible. (Audio Rating: 77/100)
Avengers: Infinity War debuts on digital with the same set of bonus features you'll find on the 4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray releases plus an exclusive Director's Roundtable featurette which, along with the audio commentary, might be the best supplement in the collection. Without it, the bonus materials would feel a bit light. Perhaps we'll get a more complete look behind-the-scenes following the release of Avengers 4.
Arguably the biggest motion picture event of recent memory, Avengers: Infinity War is filled with as much heart-rending tragedies as it is layered with lighthearted comedy for making the film's more poignant aspects bearable. Kudos to the creatives involved for making a popcorn blockbuster so entertaining and epic, yet character-based.
As a 4K digital release, Infinity War boasts a lush, colorful Dolby Vision HDR transfer that absolutely bests its HD/SDR counterpart, a serviceable Dolby Atmos sound mix, and a somewhat-light collection of bonus features.
If you're done collecting physical media (or simply can't wait two more weeks), this Vudu UHD edition comes Recommended, but please know the physical 4K release, with its added bandwidth, is superior.