Yesterday I did what seems like my civic duty (after all everyone’s doing it) and went to see The Avengers.

This film had a lot going for it before I even got into the theater, so to say that I really wanted to like this movie is an understatement.  First, and foremost, it had the potential to be a serious blockbuster, and that is something that I feel Joss Whedon has deserved for far too long.  I was always disappointed that he didn’t get it for Serenity and was worried that Hollywood wouldn’t trust him to make movie magic on a big scale again.  I was glad I was proven wrong on that front.

Next, I really liked the movies that led up to The Avengers.  I even liked Thor, even though the subject material was not my cup of tea.  I liked all the actors in the various films and their portrayals of the characters.  So what this means, in total, is that The Avengers had all the ingredients going into it that would make me a very happy moviegoer.

So, coming out of the theater two hours and forty minutes later, what’s the verdict?

Image courtesy of Marvel.com

I was most pleased.  The film does what Whedon is famous for, which is deftly handle a large cast of characters, giving each of them ample moments to shine.  No one, and I mean no one, is given the short end of the stick in this film.

But beyond the balancing act, the writing is pretty tight, even for a film that’s over two-and-a-half hours long.  There are some insanely cool moments, some very funny moments and some tear-jerkers too.  This film takes you on the rollercoaster ride and leaves you wanting more.

What the film also does is demonstrate what a film can accomplish in a shared universe.  Since all the characters that appeared in this film came from Marvel Studios films, there was no problem with using clips from those films inside the framework of this film.  And they were used subtly.  Captain America had his in the form of flashbacks.  The rest had theirs on computer screens in the background.  It was subtle, but it worked wonders.

Iron Man and Thor both had guest appearances from some of their supporting characters which also made the universe feel tight.  That, and of course, the presence of Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg as Nick Fury and Agent Coulson.

Image courtesy of Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures

Each of the original films (Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man 1 & 2, The Incredible Hulk) worked really well on their own, but this film made them pay off in a way that goes above and beyond.

The film itself takes equal inspiration from both the established Avengers lore and The Ultimates storyline (the alternate Avengers that appear in the “Ultimate” universe).  But do you need to know any of this before you see The Avengers?  Do you even need to have seen the other films first?  The answer to both is, “no, but it doesn’t hurt either.”  The Avengers is the very best of the balancing act between fandom and non-fans.  It frames the story in such a way that even a novice can come in and enjoy, but there are enough nuggets strewn throughout the film that if you’re a fan, you won’t be disappointed.

Image courtesy of Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures

If I did have one problem with the film, it was the special effects.  A lof of the sequences in the climactic battle had what I call a very Michael Bay feel to them.  There was a lot of technological texture on the alien weaponry and, well, the enemy could have come right out of The Transformers (it seemed to have the same design aesthetic, which I am not a fan of).  Even the SHIELD helicarrier seemed overly texturized.  It just felt a bit awkward to me.  The Hulk was surprisingly well-realized, but for some reason I didn’t feel like he had the gravity that he had exhibited in his own film (a problem with CG effects can be that CG characters, if not done right, don’t seem to be affected by gravity in the same way as their real-life counterparts—it can be a dead giveaway).  It may be due to the fact that in his own film, the animators only had to contend with the realism of his character and the Abomination, while in this film they had to deal with him and the majority of the villains (which was an army’s worth of CG).

But honestly, that’s picking nits.  None of it really takes away from the overall enjoyment of the film which sports two post-film sequences (one during the credits and one afterwards).  Stay for both, you won’t be disappointed.

Image courtesy of Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures

Kudos to Joss Whedon for finally being able to show the world what we knew all along… The man is an incredible writer and director and, when left to do what he knows, can make some incredibly compelling entertainment.  Equal kudos to the entire cast, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston for pulling off such an incredible ensemble piece.  The actors acted their hearts out (under what I’m sure were very trying circumstances at times, both sharing the screen with so many others and having to work with CG).

Image courtesy of Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures

It looks like everyone worked very hard on this film.  A sequel is beyond a certainty at this moment, though it’s a number of years out.  Producer Kevin Feige has promised Thor, Iron Man and Captain America sequels before we get to see the Avengers again.  The only problem I see facing that far-off film?

How are they gonna top this one?

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