Imagine taking only the best parts of each individual Marvel superhero movie, and then putting them all into one movie. That is Marvel's The Avengers, the first ever superhero cross-over movie.
In The Avengers, Thor's brother Loki comes to Earth, seeking a cosmic cube known as the Tesseract, which acts as a doorway between realms of reality. Loki steals the cube to unleash an alien army, bent on trying to take over the world, and the Earth's Mightiest Heroes: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk, must unite to stop him as The Avengers.
It's a simple plot, and writer/director Joss Whedon doesn't try to make it any more complex than it needs to be, because he would rather shift the focus to bringing the characters together and giving each character significant development. That is what is so spectacular about The Avengers, it is like the superhero equivalent of Seven Samurai or The Magnificent Seven. Evil bandits (aliens) are going to attack a town (Earth) and the town must recruit a series of defenders (The Avengers) to protect them when the attack comes. What separates The Avengers from other superhero movies though, is the fact that it is bringing together Robert Downey, Jr.'s Iron Man with Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, Chris Hemsworth's Thor, and Chris Evan's Captain America.
The movie gives each character an equal amount of the spotlight, allowing each individual character a moment to shine, and shows an arc for each character as the movie progresses. Whether it is Iron Man realizing that a true hero must be selfless and not self-obsessed, or Captain America realizing that his blind faith in the government is not always the right way. Joss Whedon deserves huge kudos for making this all work, with a sizzling script that is clever and witty, and a great directorial hand coming up with comic book panel-style shot designs, the movie excels from start to finish. And the action, if you want explosions, The Avengers has them, and plenty of them, but to be honest, I was most enthralled by the moments when the characters were in a room talking, arguing, and revealing backstories about one another.
The dialogue was so crisp, and the acting so marvelous, with a surprising turn by Scarlett Johanson as SHIELD spy, Black Widow, The Avengers is never boring, even when there is no physical explosions to be seen, but rather explosions between the character relationships. Most importantly though, the movie speaks the message of unity, of disparate people having to come together and set aside their differences to fight a common threat, and there is no greater message that can be delivered to today's children with this movie.
By the end of The Avengers, there is a realization that superhero movies have forever been changed. Never has a superhero movie been made on such a large scale and been successful. As great as Joss Whedon and all of the actors are -- in particular my favorite performance being Chris Evans as Captain America -- the real winners are Marvel Studios. No movie studio has ever rolled the dice this big on a series of movies. They made five individual movies that all come to a head with this one, gigantic epic, and the pay-off is more than worth it, not just making this the best Marvel Studios production since they started with Iron Man in 2008, but it's one of the best superhero movies in general. This is Marvel's finest hour. Avengers Assemble!!!
I give The Avengers an A+++!!!