This is it. This is the film that comic book fans have been waiting to see for decades. Is it perfect? No. Is the franchise done justice? Yes. Will the fans go rabid? Hell yes - and rightly so. This is their moment. But it's accessible enough that we can share it with them.
The continued success of comic book adaptations post X-Men in 1999 led Marvel to plan a roadmap to slowly introduce their core characters through standalone films, leading up to the all star The Avengers fighting together (and sometimes against each other).
The plan started in 2008 with the surprise success of Iron Man, whose post credits coda gave fans the first tantalizing mention of 'The Avengers Initiative'. Flush with confidence (and importantly, cash) Marvel continued its plan with The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, last year's Thor and Captain America - each time ramping up a promise of The Avengers.
Following directly from the events of Thor, the villainous Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has found his way to Earth in order to capture the Tessaract - a small cube containing immense energy. In collusion with the alien race the Chitauri, Loki plans on enslaving the human race and ruling Earth. SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) assembles the world's pre-eminent superheroes to fight back - with some help from Loki's brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth). But a clash of egos and a distrust of SHIELDs motives threaten to derail the entire operation, just as the world needs them the most.
Despite the danger apparent with having so many main characters and villains, it is a true surprise that each of the main characters are given ample time to shine. Whilst some have criticized a lack of screen time given to the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and emphasis on Captain America (Chris Evans), I feel that the balance is just about as perfect as it can be.
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Under the safe hands of the revered writer/director Joss Whedon, the action is kept flowing, but whilst retaining the interest of the audience in a manner that recent blockbusters such as Battleship just could not sustain. The film features numerous action set pieces, culminating in a prolonged and spectacular final battle which truly delivers. It goes without saying that the visual effects sequences are truly awesome.
The leads are all allowed time to explore their characters a little deeper and the interaction between the heroes is fascinating and at times hilarious. Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man character is given particular free reign and the film is stronger because of it.
It would be remiss if I didn't mention the 3D version, which I believe to be the ultimate way to experience The Avengers. The effect is almost always spectacular and truly helps envelop the viewer into the film. Unlike so many other 3D films where I removed the glasses temporarily to see how much stereo convergence there actually is, almost every frame has some great effects. Now, this is where it gets awkward. I've long bemoaned 3D post conversions, but The Avengers got it right. I almost can't believe it, but not one shot in the film was filmed in native 3D - I sure as hell had no idea.
The Avengers isn't perfect, and what it lacks in subtlety it makes up for in spectacle, but I have no shame in highly recommending the film as the most fun I've had in a cinema in a long while. Marvel has taken a huge gamble betting almost their entire stable of popular characters in a once in a generation cinema event, but it has paid off spectacularly. I dare say that the money rolling in would tend to agree.