Fanboys and fangirls have been waiting for this day since 2008 when Nick Fury first appeared in the post-credits scene of Jon Favreau’s ‘Iron Man’. As each year passed, we got another piece to the puzzle: ‘The Incredible Hulk’, ‘Thor’, ‘Iron Man 2’, and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’. Finally, 2012 had rolled around and it was only mere months until Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’ would hit the big screen.

In the months leading up to the film, I’ve reported on every bit of Avengers news that I could. Quotes, stills, featurettes, trailers, posters, concept art, everything. I read the comics that tied into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I rewatched all the movies at least twice each. I was ready for this thing to happen as I sat in my press screening, as I’m sure many of you were ready at midnight on May the 4th of 2012.

Directed by the prolific Joss Whedon, ‘The Avengers’ brings together Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) as they are tasked with stopping the God of Mischief and younger brother of Thor, Loki, as he sets out to conquer and rule over the human race with the help of some extraterrestrials. But, in order to do that, the team needs to stop fighting each other first to start fighting the bad guys.

This movie not only assembles some of Hollywood’s A-list, but also brings together more heroes from their own separate films than ever before seen in cinema history. I don’t think it really needs much more introduction than that.

Let’s start by talking about the characters. Each one of these heroes is a well-defined character. Joss Whedon manages to remind the audience of who each one is without dedicating too much time to doing so. Even if you hadn’t seen the other Marvel movies, Whedon gives enough information that an outsider would understand where each character stands. The way that they were assembled together was a key part in the success of this. They were all in their own films’ worlds, but Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, sends Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Agent Romanoff out into those worlds and brings them back into the world of Whedon’s film. It was a nice way to introduce the players in the game. It was quick and effective, while still being engaging and memorable. When we first meet The Black Widow, for example, we know that she’s all business.

I also appreciated that each one was very close to the source material. Sure, when they established the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they made some things more realistic and tweaked character origins slightly, but not so much in a way that would annoy long-time fans. For example, (and this doesn’t spoil anything, I promise), in the beginning of the movie, Hawkeye is compromised by Loki and acts as a henchmen for the Asgardian. While not exactly taken straight from the comics, it makes reference to Clint Barton’s past as a reluctant villain.

One character that I can’t go without talking about is Bruce Banner AKA The Hulk. This is the third time that Marvel has tried to present the Jade Giant on the silver screen, and this version of the character had considerably less screen time than the other ones, yet Mark Ruffalo was able to succeed where Eric Bana and Edward Norton failed. Ruffalo’s Banner was relatable, approachable, and funny. Every other Banner was so serious and all about the smashing. But the Hulk that we see in ‘The Avengers’ is almost like comedic relief. Banner/Hulk has some really good one-liners and comedic moments. For example, I lost it when Hulk and Thor were finished fighting off the Chitauri soldiers and Hulk just decks Thor, who goes flying. Hulk also has a great scene with Loki in the third act that I won’t spoil. Hilarious moments like these were missing from the previous two incarnations of the Hulk, and I think that’s what contributed to those movies not doing so well. Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of Bruce Banner and The Hulk was indeed a stand out of ‘The Avengers’. Anyone who was skeptical when then Marvel replaced Edward Norton need not worry.

Though Ruffalo’s performance was an integral part of what made The Hulk great, the dialogue and the script as a whole that he and the whole cast was working off of was brilliant. Now, to be clear, I’m only referring to the words on the page that are spoken out loud at the moment. I’ll get to the rest later. The dialogue was indeed vintage Whedon. The man has a knack for going from a very serious intense moment into a joke to lighten the mood. The in-fight banter was pretty great too. Some of the throwaways like when Iron Man calls Hawkeye “Legolas” were hilarious. If you weren’t paying attention, you would’ve missed it, but if you catch it, you’re very pleased. And there’s a ton more lines like that scattered throughout the movie.

Going back to the Hulk for a second, another thing that made him great was the CGI. A lot of work went into making the Hulk look like Mark Ruffalo, and that effort did not go unappreciated. They nailed his eyes to the point that it was a bit scary. You believed that he was indeed the Hulk. And it looked even better in 3D, which was not dark at all, like ‘Thor’ was. Marvel really stepped up their 3D game with this movie.

Now, as much as I have and will continue to praise this movie, it was not without its flaws. There didn’t seem to be a single moment when The Avengers were going to lose. They seemed to have things pretty well under control while they were in battle, especially when Bruce Banner joined the fray. And speaking of Banner, he was the only one who’s epiphany moment wasn’t made too clear. With every other member of the team, it was pretty clear why they decided not to disband and take Loki down. As for Banner, he just kind of showed up and went to work. There was no big moment that made him realize that he needed to run into battle. He could’ve just as easily ran, but didn’t, and the fact that there wasn’t a reason why he didn’t kind of stood out to me.

That being said, ‘The Avengers’ was a quality movie. In fact, it’s the action movie that Michael Bay wishes the ‘Transformers’ franchise was. ‘The Avengers’ had these larger than life characters fighting a huge, citywide battle with a ton of explosions, but the difference between Whedon and Bay is that Joss gives good reasons for the fights and the explosions. There is a story and character development, and all those things that make a movie good in ‘The Avengers’. Sorry, Michael Bay. You just can’t handle what Joss Whedon and Marvel have going on.

Overall, ‘The Avengers’ made me happy on so many levels. First and foremost, it made me happy as a long-time fan of Marvel’s superheroes. They certainly handled with care while making this movie. Then, as a movie lover, because the film provided a stellar movie going experience. And finally, as a filmmaker. I’m not saying that anything that I’ve made or anything that I will ever make will be on this level, but I am saying that I appreciated all the choices that the director made and the shots and the script… all of it. Because of all the emotions that I went through while enjoying the hell out of this movie, I give Joss Whedon’s ‘The Avengers’ a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Even though I had some gripes with it, they weren’t big enough to go a full point down on the infamous scale.

Oh! And as if I have to remind you, don’t forget to stay in your seats until the very end of the credits. You will not be disappointed. Plus you might need some time to gather yourself after the first post-credits scene. I myself said very loudly, “HOLY SH*T!” Needless to say, I was enthusiastic for ‘Avengers 2’ and the other upcoming Marvel movies even more so after I saw that scene.