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The dreams of comic book and superhero fanboys around the world finally come true with the arrival of Marvel team up The Avengers as its been released in some countries. Having gone through several years of development hell, anticipation peaked when it was announced that geek favourite Joss Whedon would be directing, pulling together the heavy hitting all star returning cast of Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, with Mark Ruffalo stepping in as the latest screen incarnation of the Hulk.
The plot sees Tom Hiddleston again as the villainous Asgardian Loki, who during his exile after being beaten by Thor has joined with the would-be galaxy devouring alien race the Chitauri, being promised an army to conquer the earth in return for recovering all-powerful energy source the Tesseract. Loki appears in the SHIELD facility where the cube is being held, snatches it and enslaves scientist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Hawkeye with his sinister glow-stick staff before vanishing. Knowing that war is surely coming, Nick Fury assembles The Avengers, a disparate band of superheroes, hoping that they will be able to overcome their various differences and personality defects and combine their talents to save the world.First and foremost, The Avengers is fun a great deal of fun. Far removed from the kind of tiresome dark, gritty attempts at realism that some genre outings have aimed for, the film for the most part has a colourful and playful feel, with a focus on banter and camaraderie. Whedon genuinely seems to be having a great time with his characters, and whatever mutations the script has gone through on its long route to the screen, the results are sharp and filled with humour and daft humanity. The film works very well as an ensemble piece, Whedon doing a great job of balancing the various (super) egos and allowing all of them enough time and importance, and as a result each does come across quite distinctly while remaining true to their own origins and franchises.
The film is definitely at its best when exploring the many different dynamics between the Avengers, with some great and frequently hilarious scenes of bickering, fist fights and petty squabbling. Whedon spends a great deal of the long (though not overlong) running time on character, and though there are no real surprises, everything comes together neatly, and when the final battle lands theres a real sense of fellowship. It helps that the megastar cast all seem to be having a great time, and the film is immensely likeable, even for viewers who are unfamiliar with the original comics. This really makes it obvious that unlike other, director for hire helmed superhero films, The Avengers was made by someone who cared, showing a level of craftsmanship and effort which is very pleasing indeed.