I’ve been scarred for life regarding sequels. I grew up watching and re-watching the Star Wars trilogy, and the prequels were a painful experience in disappointment. Likewise, just when it seemed that The Matrix would give us all a new trilogy to love, The Matrix Reloaded delivered two and a half hours of high-tech mediocrity (cameo of Cornell West excluded).

So when word of The Avengers began to emerge, it seemed to me like a recipe for disaster. It’s an uber-sequel, tying together the Thor, Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man franchises. Most of those movies were well-received by fans, and carrying on the stories of beloved heroes would be difficult under any circumstances. Such an effort ups the ante, burdening the film with trying to emotionally satisfy the fans of each individual character while simultaneously telling another story. I thought it would inevitably fail. I was wrong. Instead, it was a breathless adventure, faithful to the comic book world it emerged from in most of the ways that matter, and striking the right balance between funny, tense, and adventurous.

The Avengers follows the story arc of most comic book crossovers. Superheroes are forced together because of an impending disaster that none can conquer alone. At first, they resist the idea of joining forces, battling one another and exposing their own outsized egos. Eventually they unite and go to war against evil, earth-destroying forces.

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