Marvel Studios has been preparing audiences for this thrilling, collaborative action-adventure for the past few years, beginning with "Iron Man" and continuing with its sequel, plus "The Incredible Hulk," "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger."

Global annihilation is imminent when Thor's brazen, bitter brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), arrives on Earth from Asgard and swipes the energy-packed Tesseract, an all-powerful Cosmic Cube, discovered on the ocean's bottom in "Captain America," through which he can summon intergalactic alien invaders. That's why eye-patched Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) overrules his colleagues in the international peace-keeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D, and summons the disparate yet similarly egocentric, spandex-clad superheroes to a summit aboard his enormous airship.

Snarky playboy billionaire Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) immediately spars with the earnest, no-nonsense W.W. II hero Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), along with the straight-laced, imperious, hammer-wielding Nordic god Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Fury's sultry, covert operative Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has a vested interest in breaking Loki's spell on her archer/assassin ally, Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), while world-weary scientist Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), tracking the Cube's radiation, struggles to control the curse of his terrible temper.

Based on series created by Stan Lee (who does a cameo in the climactic chaos) and Jack Kelly, it was scripted by Zak Penn and re-written by director Josh Whedon ("The Cabin in the Woods," TV's "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer"), combining sly, snappy dialogue with an awesome special-effects, particularly in the massive battle in midtown Manhattan. Seamus McGarvey's cinematography is superb, along with Alan Silvestri's score. Plus there's Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Stellan Skarsgard as Professor Erik Selvig, Paul Bettany as Jarvis with Clark Gregg and Cobie Smulders as Agents Phil Colson and Maria Hill. In post-production, it was digitally converted to 3D and re-mastered for IMAX 3D.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Marvel's The Avengers" is an amusing, entertaining 9 - for those who have been eagerly anticipating the familiarly iconic, comic-book-based superstar line-up. And remember to stay through the credits.

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