Now this is how to do a superhero movie.
"The Avengers" melds together the egos, powers and box-office appeal of several comic-book heroes into one colossal film that actually delivers on most of its promises.
Written and directed Joss Whedon, it's everything a summer blockbuster should be: action-packed, humorous and pure unadulterated fun.
The story pulls together several of Marvel Comics greatest heroes to, of course, save the world. This time, the threat comes from a familiar source, Loki, estranged brother of the superhero Thor.
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) steals a unique power source, the Tesseract — bravely buried by Captain America last year — that can help fuel an invasion of Earth. All that stands before him is the super-secret organization of SHIELD, run by Samuel L. Jackson's stoic Nick Fury, and its tenuous alliance with a handful of well-meaning superheroes.
Iron Man is still on the planet, while Thor has to soar in from Asgard, and Captain America has to emerge from the '40s. Added to that group of solo movie stars is another incarnation of the Hulk, with Mark Ruffalo taking over from the failed Eric Bana (2003) and decent Edward Norton (2008) versions.
Then there's sexy assassin Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who doesn't have superpowers but is good with her hands, feet and any gun that happens to be around; and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), another unaltered human with a really cool bow and arrows.
Perhaps because most of them have had setup movies, the characters are all vivid and colorful.
The heroes are amusingly unfriendly and uncooperative with each other, a squabbling family with some entertaining internal battles.
Whedon does a good job of playing up the personality clashes that happen when such a diverse group is forced together, and many good one-liners follow.