Whedon acquits himself well handling what is an organisational nightmare of a film. With millions having seen at least some Marvel Studios output, at least he didn't have to worry about introducing the characters. But he does have to make room for each of them, and commendably he rations the time in favour of those without their own film franchises. While Cap has a moment lamenting his lost past and Thor goes off to take a bath (for reasons that remain mysterious), we learn a lot more about Black Widow and Hawkeye. And Whedon injects quite a bit of himself into the latter's secret family retreat. But the rest is a rehash of preoccupations he has covered in more detail before. Natasha Romanov's history of abuse and conditioning make her into a lost sister of Echo in Dollhouse. And Stark's ambition to built armour around the world feels like revisiting Serenity's Isaiah Berlin-like distrust of utopian visions.
Avengers finds Whedon shackled to Marvel's ridiculous narrative demands, and unlike so many times before, he has learned to deliver. But this has come at the expense of the idiosyncrasy and originality that doomed so many of his earlier projects. No wonder he's a bit sick of the treadmill now (meanwhile J.J. Abrams shows no sign of slacking). Whedon's brilliant Much Ado was done during a break in the filming of the first Avengers film. I for one am really looking forward to what he does after this one.