Since superheroes started making the transition to live action, by far the hardest things to translate has been the literal action and the larger-than-life sorts of stories. Superman II
, in the very early period, delivered some decent-looking stuff, but the technology really wasn't all there. Most of the movies in the post-X-Men
world have tried to play down some of the more fanciful elements of the genre -- Marvel's own Thor
, a part of this series, was pretty out there, but went out of its way to tone down the magic in favour of science. Fantastic Four
shows the downside of this, where they completely stripped what should have been the most adventurous Marvel property of its wonder. I don't know if this movie is more "magical" per se, but in terms of both scope and live action fights this sets a new bar. All future superpowered action movies will be measured against this.
After so many movies worth of buildup, Whedon knits things together fairly efficiently, and so many pieces have been put in place that things start running very quickly.
The cast all works fairly well. Some characters feel a bit more unmored from their settings than others (Captain America most pronouncedly, though in a way that's fitting; but the movie mostly leaves his character arc for his next solo movie). Iron Man and the two characters basically introduced here (Black Widow and Hawkeye) feel most at home, and Banner slips in very seamlessly. I'm still not entirely sure I like Johansson as the Widow. She's not bad in the fight scenes (the opening chair scene features a few poor stagings, but that's not her fault), and is a good actress, but she never really feels foreign, which this movie confirms that Natasha is supposed to be; she doesn't have the sense of mystery that I think the Widow should have.