Crowding a movie with talent often seems like a good idea only in the abstract sense. In practice, such films can easily feel overstuffed. For example, the basic conceits for both The Expendables and Grown Ups sound like products of wishful thinking held during a drunk conversation between a group of 19-year-olds at 3am. Yes, in theory a movie featuring all of the action stars of the 80s or the most successful SNL cast since the late-70s would be great – however, a bunch of famous people do not a seminal action film or great comedy make. What’s most surprising about Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is that the whole somehow proved greater than its parts. A movie with this quantity of iconic superheroes runs the incredible risk of being overstuffed and only half-cooked. The standards created by previous Hollywood films indicate that studios would be happy enough allowing the conflagration of bankable characters stand in for (or, more accurately, distract from the lack of) actual entertainment value; mammoth opening weekends, after all, are always more a sign of effective marketing than good filmmaking. But The Avengers not only stands as an equal to some of the stronger entries in Marvel’s 4-year, 5-film multiverse-building, but is arguably superior. Some of these characters came across more fully-fleshed and three-dimensional as part of an ensemble than in their respective standalone films.