It's time for all the heroes
THE first major movie of this year's blockbuster season has arrived and it's set the standard that every other big film will have to measure up to this summer.
Joss Whedon's Marvel's Avengers Assemble ticks about every box possible for a film of this size and ambition, and is what every summer blockbuster should be – thrilling, exciting, funny, even moving at times.
Crucial to the film is its sense of humour. Writer/director Whedon throws in plenty of pithy dialogue and makes sure we never take our superheroes and villains too seriously – even if they do themselves.
So amid the action and Earth-threatening dilemmas, there are plenty of laughs.
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The story picks up in a vast US military compound run by S.H.I.E.L.D. – a shadowy intelligence and operations organisation headed by Sergeant Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson). In this facility, scientists are experimenting on a Cosmic Cube, the 'Tesseract' (last seen in the Captain America movie), which seems to be an unlimited source of power. But it's also a portal to other worlds and through it comes Loki (Hiddleston), arch villain, Norse demi god and all-round bad egg looking to cause trouble, as usual.
This time he's plotting to lead an alien invasion of Earth aiming to enslave mankind in the process... but first he needs to steal the Tesseract to let the alien invaders in.
Obviously, Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D aren't too happy about this and reignite the Avengers Initiative (which has been hinted at in the preceding Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America films).
This is where the fun really begins as the Avengers assemble with Fury, his sidekick Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and superspy Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson) gathering together the team.
To his huge credit, Whedon has produced a blockbuster with brains, a film that is thoroughly and unrelentingly entertaining, and that takes itself seriously enough to make you care what happens but isn't afraid of sending up its main players. Darryl Webber