The film open with Loki stealing "The Tesseract" (better known to Marvel readers as "The Cosmic Cube") from SHIELD's underground research lab. This sets in motion events including Nick Fury's activation of "the Avengers Initiative," and Loki leading an invasion of Manhattan by space aliens.
There are a few plot holes, but they are minimal. There's just so much cool stuff in there--. Even the SHIELD helicarrier is almost believeable.
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is a very effective master villian and plays with the good guys in a nicely evil manner.
One of the classic bits in marvel comics was the hero-vs-hero slugfest which often occurred when the new guy on the scene meets another hero, and each thinks the other is a bad guy. This never happened between Iron Man and Thor in the comics, since both were known heroes by the time they met. The revised timeline of the movies allows this epic battle to happen, with a bit of Captain America in the mix as well. Also, I don't ever recall a one-on-one fight between Black Widow and Hulk, either. Although an obvious mismatch, there's good reason for it happening as it does, and it is played to good dramatic effect. The Hulk in action is truly frightening.
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye gave good depth and feeling to this character, shown as a SHIELD agent with background in Spec Ops, who evidently has some (at least professional) history with Black Widow. This both harks back to comic origins, and makes it more interesting. We also get to see Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury actually in action this time, rather than just enigmatically lurking.
Joss Whedon is credited with (most of) the screenplay, and gives us a lot of wonderfully characterful smart-alec dialog, as might be expected from his work on "Buffy" and "Firefly."
Character development and plot actually take up most of the 143 minute film--the climactic battle does not actually comprise the last half of the film, as happens in some action/adventure movies. For all that, the big fight vs. the aliens is very well done, again, with a high coolness factor (alien invasion craft that look and move like paeleolthic fish--) satisfactory action, logical consequences, and actual teamwork among the heroes.
It must be admitted that some of the goodness of this movie is buit upon the prior solo features for the main characters, which allow us to get into the story without trying to cram in origins or introductions, so thanks again for the good work done by the prior crews, and to Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johannsen and Clark Gregg for carrying on their characters so well, and to Mark Ruffalo for picking up the difficult role of Bruce Banner and doing an equally good job with it.
And, of course, there's an "easter egg" among the end credits that foreshadows even bigger trouble coming in the next installment.
If you like superhero movies, you've probably seen this already. If you haven't, you must.
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