"The Avengers" brings together an all-star team of comic book heroes in a movie that's got loads of action and a number of laughs, but not quite enough craft to match its impressive scale.
Co-writer Joss Whedon nicely stitches together threads from a series of previous movies involving Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk, and adds new-to-the-screen characters Hawkeye and Black Widow.
But as a director, Whedon wasn't born to stage action sequences. And as the entire second half of the film is a series of battles, a lot of the early energy gets lost.
Still, there's much to enjoy. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans turn Iron Man and Captain America into an agreeably comic tag team. Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner make solid additions to the ranks. And Mark Ruffalo does a great job of reviving The Hulk in the character's third and most satisfying incarnation in a decade.
On that level, The Avengers is terrific. But Whedon needs to study such masters as Steven Spielberg or Sam Raimi -- or, shudder, Michael Bay -- to learn how to pull off the massive action ballets a film like this requires. He's not quite there, but he'll surely get another chance.