Click here for our Premiere coverage of Avengers Assemble (The Avengers)

It would be a handy cliché to say that Avengers Assemble has been a long time coming, but actually, it hasn’t. In just under four years, Marvel Studios have churned out the precursor films, and put everything in place for their super team-up – ridiculously quick considering barely six years ago, Marvel Studios didn’t exist. And while their Disney-backing now means it isn’t quite the farm-betting risk it once was, putting all their Super-eggs in an Avengers basket is still a huge gamble that could derail several franchises at once.

Fortunately for Marvel and the House of Mouse, it would seem the gamble will pay off – creatively at least.

Under the direction of Joss Whedon the film sails along, switching effortlessly between well-handled drama, carefully-crafted action, and perfectly-timed humour. The director has made his name pulling out great performances from ensemble casts, and Avengers Assemble is no different. Each character gets a chance to shine, without any one outstaying their welcome, or taking over the film. More importantly, the dynamic between the characters – the tension between Stark and Rodgers, the trust between Hawkeye and Black Widow, the respect for Banner, and the fear of the Hulk – feel totally appropriate, and entirely natural.

There’s also a moral ambiguity to the characters that makes the movie even more compelling. It also makes it play very much like Marvel’s ‘Ultimates’ comic – not entirely surprising, given that the Ultimate Marvel universe has formed something of a template for the film studio since Iron Man. Given that each of the leads has been the hero of their own movie, and that we’re already familiar with the supporting cast, the fact that there’s any question over their motivations is yet another impressive achievement on Whedon’s part.

Of course, while all this anodyne analysis is accurate, it fails to capture just how entertaining Avengers Assemble is. There are a few flaws – the compositing of some shots is ropey (OK, one flaw) – but after a five film build-up, it exceeds every expectation, and is also, to my mind at least, the closest a movie has come to putting the experience of reading a comic on screen. Avengers Assemble is utterly joyous. I challenge anyone to not chuckle and cheer throughout.