My relationship with comic book superhero properties is midway between geek and casual participant. I never got into comic books, but I did obsessively play X-Men video games and watched the Saturday morning cartoon, to the point that I had more than a passing familiarity with the characters. Then the disparate Marvel universes started to blend with recent games like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, so I learned more about characters like Iron Man and Captain America, but beyond that, I'm still in the mainstream. I've never been to a convention or anything like that. I'm similarly walking the middle of the line with the deluge of superhero movies lately. I saw Iron Man, but Captain America and Thor are languishing in my Netflix queue.

So while I was excited to see The Avengers, I was nowhere near as jazzed as your average comic book enthusiast. I was more excited because I wanted to see what Joss Whedon could do when given control of something with an actual budget. Turns out, he doesn't disappoint. He was tasked with taking four superheroes, each with their own backstories and movie franchises (of varying quality) and two governmental agents with no extraordinary abilities, and throwing them together into one story in which everyone gets camera time. It's like grafting wheels onto a gorilla, and yet he pulled it off with aplomb.

It's amazing how many pitfalls this movie could have fallen into, and didn't. The sultry Black Widow could have been a generic eye-candy character, and instead, pretty much becomes the glue that holds the entire plot together. Any of the heroes could have been lost in the background, but everyone gets a chance to shine. The Hulk, so sullen and plodding in other movies, becomes simultaneously more threatening and more empathetic in Whedon's hands. I could go on and on. And a lot of people already have. Critics love this movie. Comic book geeks love this movie. General audiences love this movie. It's even rare to find harsh words about it in internet comment threads. The onslaught of superhero movies is far from over, but the ones that come after this one are going to have a high bar to clear.

The Avengers: A-


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