The Avengers ★★★★

Finally the Avengers have assembled. Under the auspices of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) join forces to save the world from Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and an army of aliens known as the Chitauri.

At first, Loki may not seem to be a particularly interesting villain, but his personal connection with Thor and his megalomaniacal bent make him a very good first antagonist for the Avengers. Loki raises a thought-provoking point when he says that being free is not humankind’s natural state, that the lure of freedom diminishes our life’s joy, and that we were made to be ruled, but unfortunately the film doesn’t actually do anything with it.

"The Avengers" is a traditional superhero movie, more concerned with spectacle than with plumbing the psychological depths of its heroes. Being relatively lightweight and with a merely serviceable plot, it should not be compared to Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, which are dark and thematically complex. And you know what? That is perfectly okay and should not be a source of disappointment.

Writer/director Joss Whedon delivers a winning and consistently entertaining motion picture, nicely balancing exposition, action, character-development scenes, and humor. It is evident throughout the proceedings that he is really passionate about this project.

The action sequences excite, thrill, and tickle the geek bone. It is also worth mentioning that the fight scenes are coherent and easy to follow. Not surprisingly, the climactic battle for New York City and, by extension, the planet is a marvel (pun intended) to watch. In terms of technical execution, those scenes are just about perfect. But what really sets "The Avengers" apart from, for example, Michael Bay’s Transformers movies is the fact that the viewer feels invested in these superheroes and genuinely roots for them.

Each member of the ensemble cast turns in a performance that is well in sync with those of the other actors. Judging by the way they interact on the screen, the actors must have had a blast shooting this film. Downey Jr. is, of course, excellent and a joy to watch in the role he was born to play. Ruffalo brings appropriate humanity and humility to his portrayal of Banner, and the Hulk turns out to be quite a scene stealer. Johansson’s solid performance intrigues me and makes me want to know more about Black Widow’s background. Simultaneously evil and strangely charming, Hiddleston shines and seems to have a lot of fun in the role of the villain. Playing Agent Coulson, Clark Gregg gets his deserved time in the limelight with a few funny moments and a couple of touching ones as well.