I’d been waiting a long time for this film to come along. Growing up it always bugged me that the worlds depicted in superhero films were always so self-contained. Batman would never run into Superman or Spider-Man never called on the X-Men for help. Due to tight restrictions on trademarks, studio control meant that the only place you’d ever see your favourite heroes teaming up is in the comics. However, thanks to Marvel’s new vision of a shared filmic universe, I can finally see the film I’ve been waiting for my whole life. In The Avengers, Joss Whedon has skilfully built on an existing handful of strong standalone films (though designed to exist in the same continuity) and delivered an amazing action film with a solid foundation of character and heart.

In an ensemble film, there’s always the risk of one actor or character overshadowing the others. Whedon manages this difficult task expertly, alternating focus between the major players and weaving in and out of multiple narratives to give everyone equal attention. This works especially well on a character level, as the power levels of the different Avengers exist on a wide spectrum, ranging from talented assassin to Asgardian god. None of the heroes ever feel superfluous or out of their depth.

All of the Avengers have great moments in the film but the Hulk really stands out. Both Mark Ruffalo as Banner and the CGI Hulk offer terrific performances (including some genuinely hilarious moments of physical comedy). Even though there’ve been two previous cinematic versions of the Hulk in the last ten years, Whedon really delivers the quintessential iteration.

Even though the action sequences are amazing, The Avengers never totally disappears under a CGI haze. The focus always comes back to character interaction and that’s one of the main reasons this film works so well. All the characters are believable and I truly cared about what happened to them. The Avengers also managed to surprise me more than once, even given the massive marketing blitz, and that’s down to Whedon’s writing and direction.

The Avengers is an epic superhero crossover event and has easily become one of my favourite films from the past few years. Here’s hoping that DC sees this as an example and works toward that Justice League film we’ve been dreaming about for 30 years.