MARVEL STUDIOS gave us fair warning. Back in 2008, at the end of the first “Iron Man,” Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury said to Robert Downey Jr.’s billionaire industrialist: “I am Iron Man? You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet. ... I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.” Those words launched a studio’s real initiative — Marvel’s bold plan to roll out four more films: an Iron Man sequel (which would debut Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow) and movies featuring the Incredible Hulk, Thor (which briefly introduced us to Hawkeye) and Captain America, all linked with the presence of S.H.I.E.L.D (as well as hidden scenes at the end of each film). Then, the biggest step: Assemble all the heroes together for a super-film. The studio’s initiative has paid off — and not just because those Marvel films have grossed more than $2-billion at the global box office.
2. HOW BLACK WIDOW holds her own:
With a lesser director and actress, it would be easy for Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow — who doesn’t have the powers quite like the rest — to be lost in this big-boys-with-toys club. But Scarlett's Black Widow stares down the Hulk and Loki — and her powers of persuasion are sometimes the strongest talent of all.
With all the nifty flying maneuvers and impressive weapons arsenal, we tend to forget that Iron Man’s high-tech suit also makes him very strong. In “Avengers,” he easily goes toe to toe, blow to blow with Thor when they battle in a heated disagreement.
7. THE EXQUISITE build:
It’s no mean feat to keep the wealth of storylines and characters all propelling clearly and cleanly to the unifying Big Finish. By the time we get to the Avengers forming a circle on that blasted-out Manhattan avenue — literally having each other’s backs in a moment already viewed by millions — the film has built to the finale beautifully. Verdict: Whedon knows crescendo!