Please excuse my overly-intellectual critical response, but...GOOD LORD! HOLY CRAP! HELL'S BELLS!
I had high hopes for The Avengers movie and boy, did Hollywood deliver this time. There were so many ways they could have gotten it all wrong...but for the most part, they didn't. My inner comic book nerd has been seduced by the screenplay and the special effects.
Jeez, where do I start?
Director Joss Whedon has pulled off a refreshing effort to both stay somewhat loyal to the source material and make it palatable for the non-comic-savvy. See, I was a fan of The Avengers back when the only attempts at screen adaptations of Marvel Comics were laughable, and few but comic aficionados knew that "the Avengers" were something besides secret agents on a TV show. For me, Iron Man, Captain America and Thor were the core of the group; there was boocoup conflict among the characters, both hero and villain; and slugfests aplenty (in true Marvel fashion, often between the good guys due to misunderstandings). Whedon and his screenwriters delivered on all counts.
In a film adaptation of any sort of book--graphic or prose--certain characters usually need to be combined or deleted to save screen time. I think omitting characters like Moondragon and the Vision was a good call--they never added much to the Avengers, IMHO, anyway. Occasional members like Wonder Man and Captain Marvel/Miss Marvel were rightly passed over, too. Personally, I would have preferred She-Hulk to the Black Widow, but since the He-Hulk is a member in the screen version, that would have been redundant.
And speaking of costumes...the most faithful one in this movie was Captain America's. Surprising. I tend to be a purist, but wouldn't have minded if they kept the WWII version from his own movie. Well, I guess the Hulk was dressed pretty much exactly like he is in the comics. And Iron Man's armor is close and looks great. Hawkeye's looks nothing like his outfit in the comics. Maybe that's a good thing, given people's aversion to bright colors in real life. But no mask? Just seems wrong. He should at least have a helmet--like a modified chopper helmet with drop-down sunscreen and a Heads Up Display with targeting optics and so forth. Speaking of helmets: Why doesn't Thor have his?
But the main reason for mask-less superheroes on screen is the same reason you have cinematic Medieval knights who remove their helmets for battle while enemies are shooting arrows and swinging heavy melee` weapons at their heads: the actors can't bear to have their pretty faces covered. This is why Spiderman, who allegedly wants to keep his true identity a secret in the first 3 movies, removes his mask in public at every opportunity, when it's not conveniently ripped, burned or blasted off his head. (I just saw the preview for the next Spiderman flick and it looks like he keeps doing the same thing.)
I don't understand all the costuming choices, but I can live with them. Especially with an action flick as well-written and well-executed as this one. It's impressive that suspension of disbelief can be maintained throughout a feature film with such incredible subject matter. And the chemistry of the cast is just about perfect.
We are treated to Marvelesque skirmishes between Thor and Iron Man; Thor and the Hulk; and all the Avengers against an evil alien invasion force that seems vaguely familiar from the comics (I didn't read Fantastic Four much, which is where I think they were lifted from). The special effects are really something--even without the gratuitous massive destruction in New York City and SHIELD headquarters.
Until now, I ranked Batman Begins the best superhero movie made, with Iron Man I in second place and Captain America somewhere up there, too. I think we have a new champion, folks.
With it's box office success, I'm sure there will be a sequel. Almost every time a film maker shoots a sequel, they attempt something even bigger and better than the first...and accomplish just the opposite. Since evidently the Avengers will be squaring off against Galactus (another Fantastic Four regular) in the next installment, the "bigger" plot looks like a done deal. Whether Whedon (or whoever) can make another Avengers flick as good as this one is something I will anxiously await to determine.