** The following contains spoilers. Not all of them, just subtle hints. Though I get the feeling you all already know it anyway. Meh.**
The Avengers, or as I mentioned above, how the Hulk got his groove back. What a flick, worth the wait for sure. Now, allow me to break it down into easy to digest chunks.
What I Liked:
* S.H.E.I.L.D: The last crux, in my mind, was building up this secret agency into something more powerful than the previous movies in the series, while maintaining a sense of believability. I think Joss and co. certainly got that job done here. There's now an underlying power struggle at play for the future of the series, between Fury and whoever the 'secret six' like government collective are. Whether this will slip into the shadows or become a bigger issue when the galaxy comes calling will be interesting to see. And being a fan of the Invincible Iron Man series, I was glad to see a certain Maria Hill get some screen time. Which leads me to:
* Hawkeye and Black Widow: Thank the Gods for Joss Whedon. He turned one of the most stale and typical characters of Iron Man 2 and turned her into a real threat, both with brain and brawn. Now I want more of it, and if Joss or someone of his ilk sits in the director's chair or behind the pen, then I can see both of these characters becoming even bigger stablemates of the top four. She isn't perfect, but there's a great character in Widow just waiting to bust out. No pun intended for those of you who like, uh ... boobs? That's it right? Boobs? More of a legs man myself ... what was I talking about again? Right, Widow's boobs...
* Loki: I always thought he was underrated in Thor, but Loki gets the reward of being a top class villain, both power hungry and conflicted. Surprisingly, he also has some of the funniest moments. He's a trickster of course, but some of the lines he gets are pure Joss, and they work so well.
* The credits sequence: Okay so I won't spoil this bit just yet, but safe to say, it sets up a mouthwatering Avengers 2 in a few years time.
* Surprise Cameos: Again, won't spoil them here, but I liked the continuity at play. To be fair, fitting so many characters into this kind of movie was a hard call to make, but all the ones that make sense and get the fans right into each plot point are here, which means the flow of the story never stops in order to introduce anyone. Hill is the only real outsider that hasn't appeared before, but fits right in.
* The action beats: The one thing I really did enjoy about the entire thing was the action sequences. It could have been so easy to just throw them all together in a melting pot and have at it, but there's a sense of intelligent planning here, carefully drawn out moments that bring to fore the strengths of each character. Even better, there's some team-up moments too, such as Cap redirecting Iron Man's repulser blasts with his shield. It's things like that that made me smile.
* Hulk: What can I say, they got it right. The action, the humour, the humility of Banner. It's all there, and it's all good. To think that Marvel doesn't have plans for another Hulk movie, it would be a damn shame not to give Mark Ruffalo a chance to prove how good Hulk can be. Hopefully we see him again before the next Avengers movie. Iron Man 3 cameo perhaps?
* Iron Man: Do I really need to explain? It's Mr Jnr. doing what he does best, and I loved every minute of it.
* The 3D: Weird thing is, it works. It's converted, but there's a few shots that really make use of the medium. Loki's wand thing sticks out towards you, bits of metal and rock fly out as Hulk smashes. Actually, my favourite shot was Hawkeye inside his transport as it flew over the Hellicarrier. Strange as it sounds, but it actually felt like he was standing on the edge, with the inside of the little ship way behind him and the carrier dwarfing them all. Colour me impressed, especially when I don't normally recommend 3D movies unless they're fully animated. If you get a chance, give it a shot.
What I didn't Like:
* Captain America: Now don't get me wrong, all of these dislikes aren't big issues, just minor gripes. In terms of Cap, I felt there wasn't enough exploration into how he was fitting into the new world. Clearly that's been kept aside for his own flick later on, but I would have liked a little more here instead of a punching bag and a few off side references he doesn't understand.
To be fair, Cap proves his worth as the real leader of the Avengers towards the end, and even though most of his action sequences don't seem to have the same impact as the rest of the crew, he'll always be the guy who doesn't give up and has the best interests of those around him in mind.
* Thor: Here's what I don't get. All that setup about how he doesn't know how to get back to Earth, now that the rainbow bridge has been taken out, but how do they get around it? The old man's dark magic. Dark magic?! Please, please explain this further in Thor 2, especially while little miss Natalie Portman gets nothing but a passing mention who, I might add, is desperately trying to find him. But dark magic? Really? That's the best they've got? Why couldn't they have shot a sequence where Thor and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy finds Loki's secret way to get to Midgard? This just felt like a cheap work around to me.
* Hawkeye and Black Widow: Yes, I did say I was happy about them. The problem rests with Hawkeye, not that he was a bad character, there just wasn't enough of him. In fact, I'd go as far to say that Hawk is a better character that has yet to be fully realised, which means there's plenty to look forward to then if they do go ahead with his own flick. But, I will say, I'd prefer these two to stick together, not be split into two separate adventures.
* Joss' Habit: In typical 'oh no he didn't!' fashion, there's a death in the family. Joss pulls the strings the only way he knows how. Damn you Joss and your evil, evil ways!
I'm kidding, of course.
But he is evil.
Marvel did it. They got the job done, and then some. I'll admit I was worried after Iron Man 2, but I shouldn't have been. It's all just a great thrill ride, an adventure that will take some beating as the series pushes on, with that little hint of humour that all of the characters should have on their resume.
So what's next? The extremis story arc for Iron Man 3 for sure, that's a perfect way to evolve Stark further. Thor 2 would do well to explore less of Earth and more of the rest of the galaxy. Rocket Racoon anyone? Cap will get used to the new world around him and connect with lost family (and here's hoping Red Skull gets more screen time). Finally, fingers crossed, Hulk appears somewhere. Anywhere. Just do it Marvel!
As for Avengers 2? An Ant-Man movie is in the works (Wasp with him), Doctor Strange isn't far behind, and we all know the secret ending to this by the time the week is out. Yup, it's all coming together nicely. Though there is one small, tiny little problem that still needs to be solved. Where the hell was War Machine in all this? Enjoying his new toy a little too much, huh? Lazy good for nothing little...
*ahem* Avengers gets four and a half 'Hulk Smashes' out of five.
Also, I apologise if this was a TLDR moment and you just skipped to the end. If you did, it was good. Real good.