Avengers is nothing short of amazing, but that’s still selling this movie short. It is the perfect summer movie- wall to wall action, huge characters, and tons of fun. I have never heard an audience break into applause so many times in any movie as this. I personally had at least 5 “F@#$ YEAH!!!” moments of sheer joy. I say “at least” because I stopped counting I was having so much fun.

I was able to get into a sneak Fan Screening Disney put on in Houston, so this morning I got up at 4am and drove 3 hours to the AMC Gulf Pointe, where I got in line with hundreds of other various geeks, nerds, and Avengers fans of all ages and races. Yeah, driving to Houston and back for this screening? STILL worth it. We saw it on their IMAX screen in 3D and guess what? The 3D didn't suck! There were parts it was actually quite enjoyable. But by the end, I was so engrossed with the film I stopped noticing it was in 3D or not. It was just The Avengers, and that's all it had to be.

(Plot spoilers for the first act of the movie follow so be warned) Our film’s prologue opens with SHIELD at a secret base experimenting with the cosmic cube tesseract we last saw in Captain America that he tried to crash into the ocean to destroy, and they’ve got a problem—it’s malfunctioning. They’re going to evacuate, but only after first securing some suspicious sounding mega-tech (what is it, I wonder? And does it have more to do with later plot developments? Hmmmm...) The tesseract opens a door to another dimension, where we see Thor’s brother Loki plotting with members of an alien race (and yes, like in The Ultimates, the aliens are, in fact, the Chitauri. Happy now-- everyone who was sooooo sure it was Skrulls or Atlanteans or some such nonsense?) Their plan is to invade and subjugate Earth. As Loki materializes through the tesseract, he is different. This is not sitting back, pulling strings Loki—this Loki gets his hands dirty, kicks some major ass, then using his magicks to turn several key SHIELD personnel, including super-archer and spy Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and scientist/Thor expert Dr. Erik Selvig into his slaves, stealing the tesseract. They escape after a prolonged and awesome chase sequence of Nick Fury and Maria Hill pursuing Loki, Hawkeye, and the others. Loki and co.  begin to work on a design to open a stable doorway to allow the Chitauri army loose on Earth.

Nick Fury sends out the alert, and they begin bringing in key personnel to help them find and track the tesseract and Loki. Avengers Assemble? Not quite. It seems no one believes in the Avengers Initiative. Its members are too unstable, too different to ever form a cohesive team. So Bruce Banner is there as an expert on the tesseract’s unusual gamma radiation emissions, Captain Steve Rogers is there for some moral support and to be a good soldier, Black Widow is doing her SHIELD Agent thing trying to hunt down her partner Hawkeye, and so on. And Tony Stark is off in his tower, not even necessarily invited to this particular party but asked to look over some of the scientific data. When they finally get a lead on Loki, some teamwork is needed to bring him in.

However, on the way back they’re waylaid by Thor, intent on bringing his brother home to Asgard. Egos and agendas clash, there’s some awesome fights between Cap, Thor, and Iron Man, but they finally get him into custody, at which point Loki reverts to type as he begins working on each of our heroes to try to turn them against each other. And. . . that’s all in the first 30-45 minutes or so of the film. The rest of it. . . .it only gets better from there. Hijinks ensure, Avengers final Assemble, and they have to thwart a Loki-led invasion of earth. LOTS of fights and action. I mean, even those parts I described in the first hour have more action sequences in them than the first halves of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man 2 combined. You’ve seen a lot of the best pieces in the trailer so far, but you haven’t seen all of them.

Stuff to look forward to? Without revealing any spoilers, here's some cool stuff: The Mark VII Iron Man Suit, Hawkeye's abilities with a bow, Loki's fighting skills, Tony Stark being a dick, Tony Stark  being selfless and heroic, Cap admitting how dumb his outfit is, how much of fanboy Agent Colson is, seeing what Quinjets can do in action, seeing Nick Fury take stuff down with his gun, with a bazooka, oh, and Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill is awesome, too.

In the final act of the film, each character gets their due. Each and every one of our heroes gets several, and I mean several not just one or two, major, jaw-dropping moments to show off their stuff. And a lot of them are in combination with their various teammates. It is just awesome. Again, tons of cheering, applause, and squeals of joy from the audience as this all unfolds.

The movie not only sets the bar for summer superhero movies, it may have knocked it so out of the park that it may be a mark that everyone else is constantly chasing. Spider-Man is going to have a really tough time topping this. Dark Knight, as a sequel and final chapter, may be able to, but Nolan will have to deliver one hell of a movie to do it.

All of this is to say it is not a perfect film. Compared to its action-packed second half, the first half spends a lot of time on plot and exposition. But that’s only by comparison, so take that criticism with a grain of salt. It’s like complaining that a delicious cheesecake’s crust isn’t as moist as its cheesy custardy goodness. Without the added plot and character development we just have a big, dumb action movie with no coherent plot or characters (I’m looking at you, Transformers sequels!!), so it's still worth it.

But beyond that, what’s it get right?

Damn near everything.

First, Whedon’s script and direction. This script is funny. There are tons of little throwaway bits that you’ll miss if you blink. And Whedon masterfully handles…

The actors. Each of these people have anchored their own summer blockbusters, but in this they all share the stage so well with one another. Everyone intuitively understand what they’re doing, what their particular part to play is, and they do it. And it’s beautiful. This could’ve been a clusterf@#$ of an ensemble piece, but instead it works like a finely tuned Shakespearean Company—so used to inhabiting each others’ space and elevating each others’ performances.

The film’s running time clocks in at almost 2 and a half hours, but it never feels it. In the same way you wouldn’t complain that a roller coaster ride is too long or has too many dips and turns and falls, you don’t complain here either. While I complain about plot and character, there are genuine great moments in unexpected places—specifically from Scarlett Johanssen? A scene she has interrogating Loki and another later scene with Hawkeye were beyond unexpected and pleasant.

The Hulk. I think this is the first film where they really got him right. I think it helped that Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner is far more nerdy, awkward, and vulnerable. In the other Hulk films, I loved the Hulk parts and tolerated the Bruce Banner parts. Also, I think the digital effects have progressed enough to make a more believable-looking Hulk who fits in with human characters. But right before the ultimate battle when Bruce Banner reveals his “secret” about how he controls The Hulk. . .the theater erupted. A beautiful little moment.

Also, f@#$ YOU, Joss Whedon. First for being so damn good. Second, (minor spoiler alert ahead—skip to end of paragraph if you don’t want to know any more) you’re known for being willing to kill major characters that everyone loves (still haven’t forgiven you for Wash’s death in Serenity) but you are a bad, bad boy. How dare you take a character that we fanboys love so much—and sacrifice him to the greater good?!?!?!!

Oh, and final spoiler alert: stick around after the main credit sequence for a sneak peak of what we might get in an Avengers sequel. Hint: If you’re playing along with our Avengers vs X-Men Tournament, it’s fairly likely that six of our #1 and #2 seeds will likely be in Avengers 2. Figure it out by process of elimination.

If you don’t already have your tickets, get them. And get one for Friday, one for Saturday, one for Sunday. If I had the option, I would walked right out of that theater and gotten in line for another showing.

I'm happy to answer any other questions people may have-- hit me up on Twitter @CitizenAndy and I'll answer anything you throw at me. You want spoilers? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE SPOILERS!!!

7 stars. Out of 4. That's right. 7.

1 for Cap, 1 for Iron Man, 1 for Thor, 1 for The Hulk/Bruce Banner, 1 for Nick Fury, Black Widow, and Hawkeye, 1 for Loki, and 1big one for Joss Whedon.

This movie is two 3 and 1/2  movies put together-- THAT'S how good it is.

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