I saw the screening tonight. Just got back minutes ago. So many thoughts pouring through my head...
First of all, it totally lives up to the hype. Anyone who thought jamming this many heroes into one movie would create a mess was dead wrong. Director/screenwriter Joss Whedon hits it out of the park in terms of making everyone relevant and giving them their own meaningful stories. Heck, I think we connected more with CapAm, Thor, and Hulk in this movie than we did when they were each given 2 hours on their own! Whedon is a genius!
The plot hums along at a nice pace -- which is really important because this is a 2 1/2 hour movie. For the most part, everything makes sense. If you stop to think about some of Loki's actions and motivations too much, they start to break down a bit, but the action and the fun never lets up so you don't really bother to notice those shortcomings.
Speaking of the action. Whedon brilliantly sets up the story so it is not just good guy vs bad guy all the time. He gives our heroes some legitimate reasons to work against each other and even fight. The fight scene between Thor and Iron Man is fabulous, one of the best action pieces in comic book movie history. And then there is Hulk vs. Loki. It is almost certainly my favorite scene EVER in a comic book film. I could watch that one over and over and over again and never get tired of it.
But there is no way this movie would work without the humor. There are at least a dozen laugh out loud moments. I am not talking about a chuckle, I am talking about the entire theater heaving with laughter, people almost falling out of their seats. These moments cut the tension nicely and somehow avoid being silly or slapstick. Whedon is a brilliant screenwriter and he knows exactly where to pay homage to this genre as well as where to poke fun at it. Tony Stark/Iron Man is constantly entertaining, funny, and insightful. You can tell Whedon enjoyed writing him the most.
This is not a perfect film. Like I said, some of the plot points are a bit thin when examined too closely. The final big action sequence may have gone on a tad too long and featured some close up stuff that made it hard to follow. I didn't think the 3D did very much and would have been fine seeing it in 2D. It went for fun versus being dark and brooding (which is how it is markedly different in feel from Christopher Nolan's Batman films or the Spiderman films of the past decade). Fun is fine, but it meant that the movie lacked weight at times.
All that said, it was a wonderful time at the movies. 2 1/2 hours of glorious escapism and excitement. A true popcorn flick where you just sit back and enjoy. It will do monstrously huge business. I'll be shocked if it makes less than $300 million and I think it is likely to earn something close to $400 million when all is said and done. Comic book fans will adore it, action movie fans will love it, and I think even folks who are not normally into this genre (like girlfriends/wives dragged to the theater by their geeky boyfriends) will find more than enough to make them happy.
-Jason "I want to see it again... even if it was 2 1/2 hours!" Evans