Helmed by writer/ director Joss Whedon, this long-gestating Marvel superhero showcase manages, against formidable odds, to hit all the right notes. Earth's mightiest heroes, chaperoned by the cyclopean Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), join forces to thwart the dastardly designs of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the estranged brother of Asgardian demigod Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Long before the climactic Transformers
-style battle royale, the true tension is between the heroes themselves—as a roiling brew of ids and alpha males, these crusaders bicker and bloviate. Whedon manages to successfully juggle screen time to afford each character his or her big moments. Shrewder still is that the script doesn't take itself so seriously, often allowing humor to drive the narrative even more than the 3-D eye candy, particularly when it comes to the indomitable Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/ Iron Man.
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This long-gestating superhero showcase comes saddled with hulking expectations, an iron-fisted fan base and hawkish backers hoping the latest entry in this banner franchise can captain the American movie scene back from recently stark box office tallies.