idnight screenings for The Avengers are just hours away, and the reviews for Marvel's superhero family reunion blockbuster are in — and overwhelmingly positive. The film boasts an impressive 92 percent approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with critics calling it the "best Marvel movie yet." (Watch a trailer below.) Co-written and directed by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), The Avengers brings together seven of Marvel's most iconic and bankable superheroes — Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man, Chris Evans' Captain America, and Mark Ruffalo's The Hulk among them — for one earth-saving mission. Comic book nerds are geeking out over the film with predictable glee. Will the uninitiated join them?
Casual moviegoers will be lost and frustrated: In Mission: Impossible, all you need to know to enjoy the film is that Tom Cruise is the good guy, says Sean O'Connell at Cinema Blend. By contrast, The Avengers references several key plot points from past Marvel flicks and assumes audiences are experts on the heroes' backstories. "Whedon didn't make this film for non-fans, and it doesn't hold your hand at any point on the ride." Geeks wouldn't be thrilled if the 142-minute movie stopped every two minutes for exposition, but Marvel newbies might.
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C'mon. Everyone will love it: Yes, "Comic-Con nerds will have multiple orgasms," says David Edelstein at New York. But I'm not one of them, and I still "had a blast." The cinematography has "the thrust of good comic-book illustrations without overdoing it," while the CGI and 3D look satisfyingly expensive. Having all seven major characters on screen together is as fun for non-fans — who delight at Iron Man's cracks, the Hulk's brooding, and the epic throwdown between Thor and Captain America — as it is for the obsessives who have been clamoring for this on-screen union for decades.
Either way, this film is a major accomplishment: The most convincing reason to see The Avengers, says Josh Wigler at MTV, is that it exists at all. The production doesn't just wrangle several legendary comic book characters into one movie, but four Oscar-nominated actors and three other A-list celebrities. And to his credit, Whedon makes it work in a believable and compelling way. "Somehow, some way, Whedon and the fine folks of Marvel Studios... exceeded all expectations for just how great this movie can be." As we gear up for a summer of dark, gritty takes on Batman and Spider-Man, The Avengers is notable for being good, old-fashioned fun.
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