"As of right now, we are at war."
In Joss Whedon's The Avengers, a gang of Marvel superheroes, led by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), pool their skills to save Earth from a hostile takeover, led by the deranged demi-god Loki.
The group dynamic serves the characters well: Robert Downey Jr.'s quippy Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth's all-muscle Thor and Chris Evans' charisma-deprived Captain America are better in small doses — and in interactions with other heroes. Naturally, there's some tension; nobody's that heroic. And while the last two Hulk movies were pretty bad, this Angry Green Giant was clearly the audience's favorite.
Whedon shows respect for the fans by not dragging down the action with a lot of explanation about who's who and why's what. (Even if, like me, you're pretty clueless about the Marvel universe, you should do fine: It's easy enough to tell good from bad.)
With so many bulked-up heroes, I was rooting for Loki, the slender, blue-eyed villain. Tom Hiddleston portrays him with a malevolent slinkiness, and has pitch-perfect delivery. (Loki has some of the best lines.) I also liked that his skill set was as much mind games as wielding a fatal zapping stick.
Fury's last speech translates to "in the inevitable sequel ... ," and if you want a sneak peek, be sure to sit through the first set of credits. Stick it out through all the credits for a final — and droll — scene. In 3-D in select theaters.