A man in a leotard, a green monster, a Norse god and a Playboy made $642 million in a week. The Avengers broke records its opening weekend and outperformed both Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II as well as The Dark Knight. Although the film’s publicity was years in the making, Marvel Studios has nonetheless succeeded in translating the entire Marvel universe to the big screen, and has made billions in the process.

On paper, however, The Avengers was a risky gamble. Marvel Studios had to promote and profit from five films with five different directors that were distributed by three different production companies. It had to remake The Incredible Hulk after its predecessor’s abysmal performance and make a Captain America film that would connect to modern audiences. All of these challenges came with a price tag of over a billion dollars.

Therefore, the studio hit the ground running with Iron Man, one of the best superhero films ever made. From that point, Marvel built momentum with clever tie-ins to The Avengers in each film’s storylines. Moreover, each film featured a unique storyline that attracted different audiences, from the semi-Shakespearean drama of Thor to the Indiana Jones-like adventure of Captain America.

The Avengers, had the film failed to reach expectations in the slightest, would have sabotaged any of Marvel’s future films. Luckily, it did not, largely thanks to the film’s director Joss Whedon (Cabin in the Woods). Whedon has proven once again to be a master at balancing the character complexities of an ensemble cast. Each hero gets his or her fair share of screen time, including Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, The Island) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker). More importantly, Whedon explores how the team comes to be by developing how the Avengers meet, fight amongst themselves and eventually come together.

How well it ties into the previous films is the beauty of The Avengers. Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Star Trek) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston, War Horse) are still struggling to resolve the family conflict established in Thor while Captain America (Chris Evans, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is still trying to adapt to the modern world. The film rewards its audience for watching its prequels by building on its established characters.

Furthermore, the film manages to satisfy young and old audiences. The kids came for the action and the film’s third act does more than appease them with epic violence. At the same time the interactions between the heroes combines drama with comedy. The friction between Hiddleston’s and Johansson’s characters as well as the camaraderie between Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island) translates the drama to the big screen. Despite its darker tones, the film has some of the best comedic one-liners in film history, most of which ironically concern the Hulk.

The Avengers does more than create a stellar film, it stimulates interest in marvel’s future projects. Marvel could produce another film centering on Johansson’s and Renner’s dynamic and mysterious relationship. The same can be said for all the film’s heroes but Marvel could delve into other Avengers’ storylines, like the Black Panther or the Scarlet Witch by riding on the prestige built by this film.

Marvel has built a cinematic dynasty, bringing a seventy-year-old comic book universe to the big screen. The studio has found its cash cow and it is a fat cow.