What complete delicious fun! Director Joss Whedon balances and channels multiple superhero personalities to finally bring the Marvel universe together in one whiz-bang movie. An over-the-top camp action extravaganza, it sure helps that “The Avengers” is funny.

Kudos goes to distributors Paramount and Disney for having confidence in their enjoyable, if largely forgettable, tentpole release by screening the film early enough for most critics, including this one, to make deadline. And the gamble should pay off handsomely. “The Avengers” or “Marvel’s The Avengers” should get many favorable reviews and land easily on top of the weekend box office with record numbers.

The story doesn’t matter, however, it will really helps if you’ve seen “Thor” and have a working knowledge of the two “Iron Man” movies and took in last year’s surprise hit “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Watching either of the previous “Hulk” movies is not a preliminary requirement. And like “Captain America,” the tongue-in-cheek approach is ham-fisted and aimed to capture viewers both young and old—although the carnage and bloodless body-count is high.

In “The Avengers,” Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from Asgard transports himself to earth in order to steal back a bit of Asgradian technology to harness its power for an invading race to conquer earth. When the technology is stolen by Loki, Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) attempts to deal with the situation without superhero intervention. Of course, his attempts to stop Loki lead him to contact Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Bruce Banner aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton), and Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans). Into the mix is the shapely and silent deadly Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). There’s more than enough “aka’s” to go around in this one. And where there’s Loki there’s the beefy and hammer toting Thor (Chris Hemsworth).

The unlikely team of supers have to unite and do battle with the dark invading forces from beyond while unraveling the true intentions of the extra-governmental secret organization SHIELD in the process. The plot is dense and filled with many twists and turns that should satisfy Marvel diehards and the 3D special effects will impress the popcorn fan. But without the right mix of humor, “The Avengers” could have devolved into a loud and dizzying mess that marked last year’s “Tranformers” sequel.

Luckily, writer/director Whedon understands the comic goofiness that must be injected into the ridiculous subject matter to balance blockbuster action set-pieces. And this excuses the excesses taken in the action packed conclusion. With the likely massive success of “The Avengers” look for more Marvel comics on screen in coming years.

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