With apologies to a certain Marvel supervillain who's not in the film, Joss Whedon has hit a bull's-eye with The Avengers.
Marvel's highly anticipated first outing for its band of superheroes known as S.H.I.E.L.D.—directed by the man who brought you TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Serenity—isn't out in theaters yet, but it's already a big hit with critics.
E! News has a roundup of the early reviews, which by the sound of them, should guarantee Hollywood will be off to a stellar start at the box office this summer when The Avengers unspools May 4.
"The Avengers is humongous, the film Marvel and its legions of fans have been waiting for. It's hard to imagine that anyone with an appetite for the trademark's patented brand of fantasy, effects, mayhem and strangely dressed he-men will be disappointed," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy, heaping glowing praise on the blockbuster. "Director Joss Whedon has adroitly balanced the celebrity circus to give every single one of the superstar characters his or her due. Worldwide box office returns will be, in a word, Marvelous."
"As the first of this summer's three superhero blockbusters (the others are The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man), Avengers sets the bar impressively high, and that it does it with a smile is all the more refreshing. A lot of this stuff has been done before, and recently—but never quite as well as this," says Robbie Collin of the U.K.'s Telegraph.
"The Avengers have been assembled and, for the most part, they fit together superbly. A joyous blend of heroism and humour that raises the stakes even as it maintains a firm grip on what makes the individual heroes tick," offers James White of Empire Magazine.
One reviewer extolled the film for infusing its characters with unexpected depth.
"Crucially, the wise-cracking id of Robert Downey Jnr's Iron Man is balanced out by instilling a hearty dose of fear in one of the team's central figures, thanks to a beautifully honed performance by Mark Ruffalo. He plays Bruce Banner—the brilliant scientist who turns into the uncontrollable colossus Hulk when angered—as a man afraid of himself," opined The Guardian's Henry Barnes.
White did, however, take issue with the constraints imposed by the movie's genre.
"Unfortunately, this being a comic-book movie, the need for biff-bang-pow tends to prevail," he adds. "The hero-against-hero slugfest that the comics have been trading on for decades is entertaining at first, but the various combinations of Hulk v Thor v Iron Man quickly blow themselves out."
"The end of the world may loom but Whedon creates a good time atmosphere, seeming to take inspiration from old WWII capers like The Dirty Dozen where the fun is as much derived from the rat-a-tat banter between the guys as it is from the big explosions and the butt-kicking," wrote Digital Spy's Stella Papamichael.
"The first half contains too much laboured exposition, and even the action-packed second half may not convert every-one who finds superhero movies immature. But this is a superior example of its kind, with sequences on a par with the best Spiderman and Batman movies. And technically, it's a real marvel," raved Chris Tookey of the Daily Mail.