The Avengers was the culmination of four years of effort on the part of Marvel Studios. They worked to establish their interconnected Universe building up to this. People were excited and the Marvel Machine had primarily seen success with their films leading up to this. The first hiccup was losing Edward Norton. Ed and Marvel could not come to an agreement for the Avengers. So Marvel brought in the likable Mark Ruffalo. The other big announcement was that Joss Whedon would direct. He did not have that many movies under his belt, but he did have a few beloved television series, so as an overseer for the Cinematic Universe, he seemed well suited.
Loki is the central villain of the film, working with an alien race called the Chitari. The film moves quickly to introduce the core members to each other, with a brief but exciting “Heroes meet, misunderstand the situation and fight” sequence. This is an old comic book trope, and Whedon makes it work, and does not drag it out.
Once the heroes are brought together, they capture Loki who has a devious plan. His escape leaves the team in shambles and a supporting character dead (but don’t worry, he got better for the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series). This, of course, encourages the heroes to band together and defeat Loki and stop the alien invasion.
Whedon proves himself to be quite skilled with both small moments and spectacle. The final battle is exciting and full of grand heroics as Captain America takes charge. We see him as a wise strategist. When a police officer questions why they should listen to his instruction, he takes out an alien assault, no questions as the officer starts telling his men to implement Cap’s plan.
The introduction of Black Widow is pretty classic. It is one of those “damsel in Distress” sequences where you realize the bad guys never had a chance. The cast has an amazing amount of chemistry. Even their bickering is engaging. The film has the rapid quippy dialog Whedon is known for in shows like Buffy and Firefly. Ruffalo fits in to the crew seamlessly. As much as I like Norton and his Bruce Banner, Ruffalo manages to make the character all his own. It is all quite engaging.
I feel the biggest lapse in judgement is having Hawkeye spend the first half of the film as a possessed lackey of Loki. It just feels like the character deserves better than that.
While there is weight of imminent destruction, the film never gets too dark. You have lighter moments to even it all out. The Avengers was overall a great success that is a lot of fun to watch.