I used to be a film snob. Up until just a few years ago I wouldn't watch a superhero film no matter how good everyone said it was. So I passed on Spider-Man, the X Men, the first of the new Batman films (I later only watched it because of Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine). But then I got into my 20's and realised life's too short to be snobby about things. Music, film and TV are here to be enjoyed. So fuck what everyone says and just enjoy. I do still tend to not watch what the majority regards as waste of time, just not very good or flat out bad. But my point is, with starting to watch everything Star Trek-related thanks to my friends & the arrival of Iron Man a few years ago, I gave into my childhood fascination with sci-fi and started to slowly include superhero films into my to-watch list.
I don't necessarily enjoy them all. I can appreciate the thought and skill which went into the new Batman films but hell, I did not enjoy them. Can't think of another superhero who is more bland than Christian Bale's version of this hero. And I do like Bale's acting in other films, included Nolan-directed ones. On the other hand I really liked Michael Keaton's Batman in Tim Burton's adaptations. Both films had its pluses and minuses (did both villains really have to be that disgusting?) but as a whole I prefer them to Nolan's more perfect and better thought out films.
But I digress. I mentioned Iron Man earlier: this film and this character were an induction to the Marvel universe for me. Apart from Donald the Duck and a Czech comic about a group of four animals I never read any comics (I still don't, heck I barely have time to read my fiction and non-fiction books and the two magazines I subscribe to), so I literally have zero knowledge about the characters portrayed in the new Marvel films, beyond what's presented in the films.
Therefore what I've come to expect from these films is intelligent fun: good action (that even someone like me, who gets easily bored by endless fight scenes, can enjoy), witty and smart dialogues, great actors and easy-to follow (for someone with little comic book knowledge) story*. The Avengers features all of the above in best possible quality.
Hell, I want to re-watch the whole film for the dialogues and one-liners alone. Joss Whedon definitely wrote a brilliant script. While I love his Buffy and Dollhouse TV shows I'm definitely not a devout follower. I don't agree with all of the plot developments in Buffy, and I don't think storytelling is necessarily Joss's strongest point BUT he was the ideal guy for the job of breathing modern life into The Avengers. He can do ensemble and he can make sure each of the characters gets enough screen time. His dialogues and quips are legendary. He's the master of detail. And as far as I can tell, he can do action.
Sure enough, while the story of The Avengers is very simple, it's the witty bits, the dialogues and action where the film excels. With this script it would be hard for this film to fail completely, even with bad actors. But all of the main actors are more than just capable, the ensemble actually includes several Oscar nominees and also one lean mean British Shakespearean actor. Each and every one of them balance the wits, the action and the darker and/or emotional moments perfectly.
Talking about darker moments... [SPOILER AHEAD] The film's villain Loki (about whom you could write an essay, what an interesting, layered character he is) killed our beloved Agent Phil Coulson, though largely Coulson's own fault, his death was not in vain, it became a totally understandable fuel for the Avengers stopping their petty fights and actually assembling. Phil will sure be missed though. Loki, brilliantly played by Tom Hiddleston, can kill many civilians, as well as "good" soldiers but him killing Coulson is the point of no return. Or is it?
I hope there will be a sequel to The Avengers but unless Joss is involved again, at least in writing the script, I probably would choose not to see it. The Avengers is as good as superhero films with multiple heroes can be. It will be hard to follow it up with something equally good and I'm not sure I'd trust anyone else with that task.
As long as Marvel produces films like these there's no way I could go back to being a Dogme 95 film snob again. (Kidding, I never was that kind of freak.)
*except for Captain America...didn't expect much and got even less.