"Marvel's The Avengers"

courtesy of Paramount Pictures

“Marvel’s The Avengers” grossed a whopping $200.3 million domestically over the weekend, claiming the highest grossing weekend total in history, a record previously held by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” at $169.2 million.

In its first three days, “The Avengers” has already grossed more than “Thor” ($181 million), “Captain America: The First Avenger” ($176.6 million) and “The Incredible Hulk” ($134.8 million), and is on track to surpass “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2,” with lifetime grosses of $318.4 million and $312.4 million, respectively.

“The Avengers” had an equally impressive debut in the foreign market, drawing in an additional $441.5 million to bring the film’s worldwide gross to $641.8 million.

The film began its advertising campaign back in 2008, when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) made an appearance after the credits in “Iron Man,” and the release of “Thor” and “Captain America” thereafter indicated a future film to unify the Marvel characters under a single title.

“The Avengers” is that title, its success served well by using each of the previous Marvel films as a form of advertising, though the profits of those films certainly speak for themselves.

Even for those who have not seen the individual titles, “The Avengers” offers a plot relative to, but independent enough from each of those films to prevent a viewer from feeling left behind or confused.

Is the film as good as its earnings suggest? Yes, and better. In fact, it was good enough to turn me, a self-declared superhero film skeptic, into a believer.

“The Avengers” begins with the reintroduction of Fury, the director of an espionage agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., who is experimenting with a Tesseract, an energy source with great military potential. As the device begins to emit unusual radiation, the Norse God Loki portals in through the energy field, fights off Fury’s agents, and manages to escape with the Tesseract. Loki promises to give the Tesseract to an alien race known as the Chitauri in exchange for an army to help him subdue Earth’s population.

Knowing the power of the Tesseract, Fury reactivates the Avengers Initiative and with the help of his staff, tracks down Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans). The group manages to track down Loki and capture him, but Thor, Loki’s brother, bursts into their plane and takes Loki in an effort to reason with him.

After a scuffle with Iron Man and Captain America, Thor returns Loki and accompanies the group back to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s aircraft carrier to imprison him. As the group grows divided on how to proceed in finding the Tesseract, Loki’s enslaved agents attack the carrier and set Loki free. Loki later uses the Tesseract to open a portal above Stark Tower to enable the Chitauri invasion. The Avengers must regroup, put their differences aside, and put their skills to use in order to fight of the Chitauris and save the planet from Loki’s ruthless rule.

The cast shares the spotlight pretty equally, with, justifiably, a bit more focus on Robert Downey Jr., who is simply at his best in this film. His character is witty, fast thinking, and egotistical, but above all, just plain funny. In fact, this film has an abundance of laugh-out-loud moments and could easily be qualified as an action-comedy. The dialogue is just as impressive as the action, giving the film additional depth and helping build suspense for each coming action scene.

There are an abundance of semi-climactic moments in this one, made possible by the fact the Avengers can’t seem to play nice with one another. Whether it’s Hulk versus Thor or Captain America and Iron Man teaming up against Thor, the film is made that much more action-packed by placing the Avengers against one another before they unite. The Hulk’s temper is more outrageous than ever, and though his loyalty to the Avengers eventually comes around, his unpredictability will no doubt keep viewers on the edge of their seats, and at times, bursting into laughter. The supporting roles of Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye are solid, without taking too much of the spotlight away from the four legendary superheroes.

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