The first big culmination of the neverending, self perpetuating narrative loose ends of the Marvel universe. The prologue (minor SHEILD characters being chased by Loki through a base) lacks wonder. Then we get a globe trotting first act to pinpoint where all our actual heroes are. These introductions are strong. Everyone gets a nice bit of business (especially Black Widow and Bruce Banner) and you can chalk this up to Whedon – his innate understanding of characters with dual lives, mythic responsibility and a uniform brevity of wit that doubles up neatly as storytelling shorthand. His TV work on Buffy, Firefly and Dollhouse made him a dab hand at playfully exposing the root of his characters in a well placed quip and an unfussy tease, watching him unleash his talents on the figureheads of superheroics is a snarky joy to behold. Then we get poorly motivated in-fighting at a time of crisis. Watching Thor / Cap / Stark go at it in a forest makes for cool trailer moments but on repeated viewings feels superfluous and indicative of a lot of the rot the franchise has concealed behind critical acclaim and stellar box office. If the end of the world is nigh, then we don’t really have time for macho posturing and inconsequential scraps. Then an interminable extra half hour of chat and further arguing on a hellicarrier. Staffroom bickering (a hangover from Whedon’s TV work too) and a flaw he exported wholesale to his Justice League reshoots. But finally we are in New York, with a palpable insurmountable threat, a villian on the loose and the steel, glass and concrete of an iconic metropolis as a playground. The blockbuster comes to life with a prolonged spectacle where the Hulk gets to smash, Cap gets to valiantly lead and Black Widow gets to do that thing where she wraps her supple thighs around a bad guy’s head and then pivots around him like a swingball thus breaking his neck and making me want to be a doomed henchman. It is a jamboree of destruction, courage, one liners and sheer comic bookyness. Such a spot on jubilant climax wipes clean the flat and stunted water treading of the earlier acts. You get massive screen fun… then you get the inevitable trademarked and copyrighted teases of where this will all go next. It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny or multiple viewings but the first big Avengers team-up gets away with being a top heavy delight where it counts.