Avengers: Infinity War is the best Marvel film to date. Not only does it balance the ever-expanding roster of comic book heroes nicely, but the film makes good use of their abilities in new exciting ways. More importantly, the villain is relatively developed, and it’s always refreshing when audiences are given a chance to understand the bad guy’s point of view. But most importantly, this film actually has life and death stakes in ways that the previous films did not. As a movie that was 10-years in the making, Avengers: Infinity War is an amazing and thoroughly satisfying spectacle.

Thanos, the character hinted at in a handful of after-credit scenes in previous films, has finally arrived, revealing his quest to collect the Infinity Stones which are scattered across the universe. With all the stones under his control, he will have enough power to reshape reality with “a snap of his fingers.” Fortunately, Earth’s mightiest heroes (and some from outer space) join forces to stop Thanos, but will their efforts be enough?

The cast is gigantic – so much so that the press day was referred to as “celebrity bingo” – so I won’t bother to list off every character featured here. Just know that Ant Man and Hawkeye are conspicuously missing, but they do get mentioned in passing. Yet, despite the large amount of characters, the film never feels crowded, even with the introduction of new villains who get to demonstrate their incredible powers in extended fight scenes. It’s to Marvel’s credit that audiences can see a character for only a few minutes on screen but feel like that character is making a continued impact throughout the film. The studio has done a fantastic job ingraining these heroes into our lives over the last 10 years, and that tremendous effort has gone a long way to making a group film like this as satisfying as it is.

That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have some flaws. There are a few slow parts that seem like screen time allotted for characters to do something rather than something meaningful to the story or plot. There are also some plot holes regarding Thanos’ powers. In one scene, he easily dispatches some opposition using a specific power, but he never uses that same power again despite its effectiveness.

Other issues are more long-standing. For example, Black Widow still seems out of place among superhuman beings. So, when she’s fighting otherworldly creatures off with a couple of sticks, it just looks out of place. Additionally, Mark Ruffalo seemed serviceable in previous Marvel films as Bruce Banner, but that’s probably because audiences glossed over his appearances to get to the Hulk. In Infinity Wars, Ruffalo gets much more screen time, and it doesn’t feel like he’s spent a lot of time developing Banner. Here he comes off as whiney, confused, and amateurish. Finally, I’ve always enjoyed the humor in the Marvel films, but it does tend to make all of the characters sound alike, especially when they’re making quips during serious moments.

A couple of standouts in a cast of standouts are Robert Downey, Jr. and Tom Holland. Downey, Jr. continues to ooze charisma and is always a delight to watch, and Holland actually looks like he’s still making an effort to act. The biggest kudos, however, goes to the CGI. The visual effects team did a fantastic job bringing all of the action set pieces, various planets, and all of the unique characters to vibrant life. This is especially true with Thanos, who gets a lot of screen time. He rarely feels like a CGI character despite his enormous size and scale relative to the live actors.

This is probably not a film that can be enjoyed by itself, but those viewers aren’t the target demo. No one can truly appreciate being at the pinnacle of a mountain unless they climbed up to reach it. And the apex of the Marvel cinematic universe is exactly where we are now. If you’ve been a fan of these films over the last decade, then you owe it to yourself to see Avengers: Infinity War. However, this does beg the question: After this storyline concludes next year, and with the actors getting older and wanting to do other projects, where can the MCU go now that it’s already at the top?