Ever since Samuel L. Jackson first popped up as Nick Fury in the end credits of Iron Man back in 2008, fans the world over have been eagerly awaiting the time when the one-eyed Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. would bring together these superheroes for the holy grail of comic book movies.
Well Marvel fans, the time has come. Avengers Assemble has arrived, and it's Epic.
Yes, that's a capital "E" and no, it's not a grammatical error. This is it. The Epic of Epic Epicness. Why? Because finally, we've got a Marvel movie that as successfully transported the artistry, character and narrative of the comic book to the big screen.
But first, for those unfortunate few who think this is a sequel to that awful 1998 spy movie of the same name, then do like the rest of us and beat that particular memory to the back of your mind. It's time for your re-education Avengers Assemble style.
Based on the ever-popular comic book series first published in 1963, the film sees Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow answer the call to action when the world is threatened by an unexpected foe. But for anyone who's ever tried to bring together a rather diverse spectrum of superheroes (some with super egos to match) you'll know there's always going to be a few internal clashes on the way. In this case, some physical, but mostly verbal and from the mouth of everyone's favourite genius billionaire, playboy and philanthropist.
But despite the Avengers' conflicting personalities, Nick Fury, Agent Coulson and the international peace keeping agency S.H.E.I.L.D must rally the heroes in battle against the trickster God Loki before he brutally channels the unlimited cosmic power of the Tesseract.
Reprising their roles are Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America not The Human Torch), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawk Eye) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki). But filling the ripped shorts of the Incredible Hulk is Marvel newcomer, Mark Ruffalo, with a lot of pressure to "smash it" after the lead balloon performances by Eric Bana and Ed Norton. But luckily for Ruffalo and the rest of the gang, Joss Whedon was at the helm of this ship, steering it away from the choppy waters of bad script writing and dodgy effects.
"My visual style as a director comes from comic books. My understanding of visual storytelling comes from panel art, which I was reading more voraciously than I was watching movies for most of my childhood."
Whedon's love for comic books and their sharp dialogue has ensured the AA script isn't just the padding in between fight sequences. The witty banter from these big personalities is just as enjoyable to watch (if not more so) than the battles, and anyone who's watched Buffy, Angel and Firefly will be reassured to find the Director's puntastic tone throughout.
The balance of action, tone and humour, speaks volumes for Whedon's direction, especially when we've seen it fail in these superheroes' individual franchises. Yes, I'm talking about you Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man 2, Hulk and Green Lantern (I know he's not in this film but we can all agree, GL still warrants a mention). Furthermore, each character retains the quirks that make them unique, allowing the audience to identify with their personalities and back stories even if they haven't see the heroes' individual films.
But apart from the sharp script and array of hero-on-hero fight sequences you've always wanted to see, the biggest success of Avengers Assembles is the astounding visual and CGIs. Not only did the producers manage to paint an incredible version of the Marvel Universe onto the screen, but with Mark Ruffalo's help, managed to restore the Hulk to his former green glory, and in doing so, make him the comedic dark horse of the team.
Third time's a charm right?
The most accessible and reliable comic book movie to represent the genre, Whedon and his super team have avenged the lacklustre superhero movies of yester-year. Marvel's Avengers Assembles has set the standard; let's just hope those that follow, keep the bar as high.
In cinemas this Friday, 26 April.