People keep waiting for the bubble to burst with Marvel Studios’ groundbreaking experiment at constructing a shared cinematic universe for its various superhero properties (indeed many even bizarrely claim it already has, despite the repeated critical and commercial hits they seem to still regularly churn out), but contrary to all the naysayers there really is no objective way to claim it has yet. This is their thirteenth entry into what is now the biggest-grossing film franchise of all time (surpassing even the twenty-four James Bond films, not bad for a series that only started in 2008), and it sustains the same balance of sticking to a winning formula while shaking things up just enough to keep it interesting and stop the whole thing from getting stale.

Quite how they’ve managed to keep all their plates spinning across films is hugely impressive, but to do so within a single story as they manage here is arguably their finest achievement so far. There are a grand total of twelve superheroes now mixing it up as The Avengers (quite literally at one point, during a climactic six-on-six fight scene that crams more action into its fifteen minutes than most films manage across their entire running time), two of which are introduced here for the first time (Chadwick Boseman’s perfectly-pitched Black Panther, a refined and elegant African prince, and Tom Holland’s new version of Spider-Man, actually portrayed as the teenager from the comics for once – both of whom have upcoming solo films to flesh their characters out). Somehow all of them get their moments, none of them feel superfluous, and the whole thing clicks together like some kind of intricate clockwork puzzle.

Apart from the human resource management, the direction taken with storyline also ploughs new territory – there is no clearly discernible villain here, instead the film takes a remarkably grown-up approach and questions the political and social responsibility of a group of essentially international vigilantes. While asking hard questions about who watches the watchmen is obviously nothing new on the comic book page, it’s surprising to see such weighty themes tackled by what is ostensibly safe, family entertainment. It’s not all highbrow chin-stroking though – somehow the film marries these mature sensibilities with the same glorious sense of fun that has elevated the best Marvel movies, a feeling that all your toys have been taken out the box for a massive royal rumble, something which will openly delight children while secretly doing the same for everyone else.

Arguably the crowning achievement of Marvel's cinematic universe so far9
Managing to balance twelve protagonists through some kind of miracle of screenwriting9
Some surprisingly weighty and serious themes for a summer blockbuster8
Still stays within the confines of a safely traditional superhero film though7
The six-on-six "civil war" fight towards the end is one of the best action scenes ever filmed10
Bechdel Test passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The named female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test failures
  • n/a
9Overall Score

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