When it was announced in the summer of 2008 that Marvel was planning on making an Avengers film, I was initially quite skeptical. Maybe it had something to do with the disaster that was Spiderman 3, but, for some reason, I feared that The Avengers would try to squeeze too much action into a single movie. I tried to imagine a movie where they could successfully balance six superheroes, but I simply could not do it. My skepticism skyrocketed when the bland and forgettable trailer to the film was released. It seemed like The Avengers was going to fall flat on it’s face. Boy, was I wrong.

The Avengers is an absolute thrill to behold, a movie filled with more fist-pumping action than I thought possible in a single film. There are moments in this film that are impossible not to cheer at. Every single hero gets their chance to shine and the movie never feels convoluted.

The story is one of the weakest aspects of the movie, serving very little purpose other than a reason to assemble The Avengers. When Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), attacks SHIELD, he kills dozens of people and steals a powerful device. Realizing how great their enemy truly is, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls in a group of elite superheros called The Avengers: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Together, they are given the task of saving humanity from an enemy they could have never predicted.

Every single hero has at least one memorable moment, but The Hulk is easily the biggest crowd pleaser. One scene involving him and Loki is guaranteed to get equal amounts of cheers and laughs. Some other great moments include Iron Man using Captain America’s shield for deflection, and Captain launching Black Widow onto a nearby flying object. Throughout all of the action and chaos, the real star of the show is director Joss Whedon. He manages to balance all of these heroes, realizing that without characters that we can care for, the action will amount to nothing. It would have been easy for the action to become mind-numbing, but Whedon is able to pull off enough cool techniques to keep things fresh. A scene that follows all of the heroes without cutting may get overlooked by general audiences, but it will cause film geeks to jump with joy.

Performances are quite good across the board. Robert Downey Jr. was born to play Tony Stark. His performance has become so spot on that it is difficult to say whether or not he is truly acting anymore. Tom Hiddleston is fantastic as Loki, giving the god the amount of mischief that he deserves. His eyes and smile are initially friendly, but can turn evil with the snap of a finger. The real star of the show is Mark Ruffalo, whose portrayal of the Hulk blows previous actors Edward Norton and Eric Bana out of the water. He portrays Bruce Banner as a social outcast, a genius who does not mesh well with others.

The story feels like it could have been used for any Marvel movie and the film has its fair share of eye rolling moments (a scene involving a flying invisible aircraft carrier is too over the top, even for this film). Joss Whedon has a knack for creating fun characters and, even though he did not create these ones, he never throws them by the wayside in favor of action. A smart choice made by a smart man.

The Avengers receives 3.5/4