Review: Whedon’s ‘Avengers’ packs a perfect punch

Chris Hemsworth as Thor, left, and Chris Evans as Captain America in "The Avengers."
Chris Hemsworth as Thor, left, and Chris Evans as Captain America in "The Avengers." Disney/AP Photo

The hype has been building for years and it couldn't possibly be more deafening at this point. After a series of summer blockbusters that individually introduced Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America, all these characters come together alongside several other friends and foes. And with director and co-writer Joss Whedon, they couldn't be in better hands.

Whedon has pulled off the tricky feat of juggling a large ensemble cast and giving everyone a chance to shine, of balancing splashy set pieces with substantive ideology. Stuff gets blowed up real good in beautifully detailed 3-D, but the film as a whole is never a mess from a narrative perspective. Whedon keeps a tight rein on some potentially unwieldy material, and the result is a film that simultaneously should please purists (one of which he is) as well as those who aren't necessarily comic-book aficionados. He also stays true to the characters while establishing a tone that's very much his own.

As he did with the recent horror hit "The Cabin in the Woods," which he co-wrote and produced, Whedon has come up with a script that's cheeky and breezy, full of witty banter and sly pop-culture shout-outs as well as self-referential humor, one that moves with an infectious energy that (almost) makes you lose track of its two-and-a-half-hour running time. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., assembles a dream team of superheroes to retrieve the Tesseract, the cosmic blue cube that gives its bearer unlimited power, when the evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston) descends from Asgard and steals it. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) are among those on the case - once they stop fighting each other, that is.

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