The most Marvel-ous comic book team-up of all time sees Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) unite for a superheroic battle to save the world. Under the direction of fanboy supreme Joss Whedon and with the aid of S. H. I. E. L. D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the crew must stop Thor's evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from causing mischief of earth-shattering proportions. The summer blockbuster is back with avenge-ance.
Robert Downey Jr
Samuel L Jackson
You may not realise it to look at it, but Marvel's Avengers Assemble is cinematic history in the making.
While superhero punch-ups and ear-splitting explosions may not seem like anything new, it's also the first ever movie to bring together the characters from multiple other standalone blockbusters (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America), and then attempt to repurpose them into a whole new movie franchise of its own.
In a feat of fittingly superhuman brilliance, director and writer Joss Whedon has crafted the most fun and entertaining superhero movie yet, and the greatest popcorn action blockbuster in recent memory.
After five movies spent teasing it, eye-patched super-spy Nick Fury is finally confronted with a global threat big and dangerous enough to warrant kickstarting the Avengers Initiative - a team of extraordinary individuals whose combined power and skillsets alone could stand a chance in saving the world.
The threat in question is the Norse God of Mischief (and thanks to Tom Hiddleston, sneering) Loki, who's intent on ruling the world with the help of an invading alien armada and the limitless energy of the glowing super-weapon, the Tesseract.
And while Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, the Hulk and 'World's Greatest Marksman' Hawkeye all have their own reasons for saving the planet, they're not exactly predisposed to working together. Cue all manner of super-powered squabbles.
With a collective global box office haul of over $2bn (and counting) between the three aforementioned franchises, it's easy to forget the sheer array of potential pitfalls facing Whedon from the outset.
Potentially planet-sized actor egos, multiple narratives (including three previously established character arcs), seven main characters, and fanboy expectation the size of Galactus meant this was far from an easy win.
Despite an opening twenty minutes that veers on maguffin-crammed campery (establishing a reality-altering super-weapon, a grumpy God, alien races and plot-dependant mumbo-jumbo isn't the easiest-going of introductions), Avengers Assembles swiftly finds its fanboy feet with a plot that's remarkably, relievingly balanced.
Its two hour plus running time breezes past thanks to a script that expertly juggles breathtaking action scenes, heart-wrenching drama (franchise fanboys should pack some tissues), a tangibly realised threat, and ample, genuinely laugh-out-loud humour (it may have taken us two misjudged solo movies, but Mark Ruffalo finally delivers a Hulk that's fun to watch - and one who's smash-happy enthusiasm even manages to steal the show).
Despite the team's seemingly imbalanced power levels (you weren't the only one wondering how a guy with a bow and arrow kit was going to compete with a giant green monster whose farts alone can level city blocks), every character has their day in the sun - not only with infectiously exciting action scenes, but with deftly layered, narrative-driven character moments.
But that's the whole point of The Avengers - while they're brought together to fight a global threat, the real challenge - and reward - are the lessons they learn from each other. And I'm not just talking about how the Hulk and Thor learn to play Whack-a-Mole/Alien.
While it was never aiming to contend with the gritty, validating seriousness of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, Avengers Assemble flies a whole other flag for the superhero 'capes and cowls' genre. Funnier, warmer, and more action-packed and character-driven than every Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean put together, it's the new reigning summer popcorn blockbuster.