The Avengers is finally being released in America today, (typical America, always last with everything, especially movies, ahem), but as it's been out here for some time now, we can step back and consider what made it so darn awesome.
The singular aspect of The Avengers that everyone I've spoken to loved the most is how it used the character of the Hulk.
For any child of the '80s, the Hulk has always represented massive unfulfilled cinematic potential. As beloved as the popular The Incredible Hulk TV show was, all he ever really did was lift up cars and jump off (small) buildings.
The parameters of a weekly television series in the '80s prevented the Hulk from doing what he was clearly designed to - smashing the crap out of anything and everything.
When the special effects revolution came about in the '90s, it became one of the most tantalising prospects of the new technology: presenting the Hulk in all his epic destructive glory.
Practical tests eventually gave way to the fully digital Hulk of Ang Lee's divisive 2003 movie, Hulk. I remain a steadfast defender of this unique film, and the CGI on display is nothing short of amazing, but I can't deny feeling slightly disappointed with the action scenes.
The muted response to this film lead to a change of talent for 2008's The Incredible Hulk, which saw Edward Norton take over the role of Bruce Banner from Eric Bana, and Frenchman Louis Leterrier (The Transporter) in the director's chair.
The second film rests somewhere between a reboot and a sequel, and took more direct inspiration from the TV show in an attempt to remind everyone why they liked the Hulk in the first place.
The action choreography here was better than in Ang Lee's film, but the CGI somehow looked worse. The film isn't without merit, but overall, audiences were once again disappointed, and Hulk's cinematic potential remained unfulfilled.
With no spectacular results after two ambitious attempts, it was starting to look like the Hulk would never get his proper due on the big screen.
Then along came Joss Whedon.
The Avengers' writer/director inspires almost religious devotion among his fans, and much of it can be attributed to him being the ultimate "nerd made good".
The endless pop culture and comic book references that pepper his work show him to be a tried and true fanboy. His talent for empathetic characters and snarky witticisms generally render his films and TV shows nothing short of a delight.
But while there was plenty of action in the Buffy and Angel TV shows, Whedon the director had never really flexed his muscles in this area on a large scale, let alone the gargantuan scale present in The Avengers.
But hoo-boy did he step up. In a film full of eye-popping moments, the stuff with the Hulk is the most impressive. In the screening I attended, the Hulk garnered a round of applause from the audience on no less than three separate occasions. Anyone whose seen the film will know what I'm talking about.
One of the coolest ways in which Whedon pushed the character forward was by (mild spoiler alert if you haven't seen The Avengers) having Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) come to achieve a greater level of control over his giant green alter ego.
This is a place the comics went decades ago, and it instantly makes the Hulk a more intriguing character. If the Hulk can think for himself and not simply be driven by rage and instinct, it makes him a much greater threat and a tougher character to create a legitimate antagonist for. Kudos, Joss.
Up until this week, the Hulk seemed like the only significant Avenger without his own movie on the way. No doubt partially inspired by the positive reception to the jolly green giant in The Avengers, there are now plans for several Hulk films starring Ruffalo.
I can't wait to see where they take the character now that he's less of a Jekyll and Hyde-type figure, and more of tortured scientist who can tap into near limitless strength.
The comics had no qualms going interstellar, and it's very enticing to imagine a studio film centered around the idea of a controllable Hulk.
Did you thing the Hulk was the best thing about The Avengers? Did Ruffalo work for you?What else in that film really rocked your world? Are you amped there are going to be further Hulk films? Comment below!