If anything can be said of “The Avengers,” it’s Joss Whedon doesn’t mess around. The cult favorite and multi-talented director took the gargantuan task of assembling the Avengers and transformed it to one of the best comic-book movies ever made.

When Joss Whedon signed on to direct the epic, he was fulfilling the dreams and fantasies of comic book devouring lovers across the globe. Already having achieved legendary status for creations such as “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly” and mostly recently, the well-received “Cabin in the Woods,” Whedon possesses an uncanny sixth sense when it comes to the world of fantasy and science fiction, and how to make it appealing to the masses while still rewarding the die-hard fans with plots and scenes that deliver.

On the other side of the lens, the superb performances of Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston and Scarlett Johansson also elevated the superhero flick into a solid movie, one that not only focuses on acrobatic moves and explosions, but also relies heavily on dialogue and acting. The Avengers is a happy medium between Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy and the previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe–a good amount of seriously somber scenes intercut with side-splitting comedic relief.

The film follows the chronological order of the comic book series, with Loki being the team’s first major villain. Tom Hiddleston’s performance as the overshadowed and overlooked god who has fallen out of grace is perhaps one of the best in the film; he may be the bad guy, but there are moments when the lines blur and you catch a glimpse of what truly lurks underneath all bitterness and resentment.

Some of the most enjoyable moments of the film come from Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) wicked wit and the dangerous unpredictability of how far his genius can take him and the rest of his team. One of the best scenes depicts the Avengers arguing with one another over the right and wrong of Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D’s actions, with the fight culminating in Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) unleashing “the other guy.” There is also a line spoken to Captain America by Tony Stark that hits close to home, as it brings to the forefront the ethical implications put forth by scientific experiments and the repercussions of advancing technology.

One of the most impressive and admirable trait of “The Avengers” is Joss Whedon’s thorough understanding of power play. Many worried that the movie would focus too much on one hero and leave out another, or that there would be an imbalance of strength and power. Whedon handled the problem skillfully by creating scenarios that allow for each character to show their prowess. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is especially commendable; as a girl with no special powers hanging out with the big boys and their fancy machinery and enhanced abilities, Black Widow held her own and showed the guys just how ruthless and cunning she can be.

Different fight scenes between different members of the Avengers highlighted and best and the worst of the each hero, and the most notable came from the Hulk and Black Widow, and between the Hulk and Thor. Whedon was honest and clearly laid out the imbalance in power, but each character has an invaluable asset that makes them perfect for the team and in the end, all members contribute to make the Avengers whole.

There were misgivings about Edward Norton not reprising his role as Bruce Banner/the Hulk, but Mark Ruffalo was perfect for this particular Hulk and gave a refreshing insight into the mind of the genius physicist. Edward Norton would not have fit in with Whedon’s vision of “the other guy,” but Ruffalo’s portrayal of the tortured Banner made him just about the most memorable and the largest, most powerful Hulk to date.

Whedon has mastered the art of build-ups and manipulated the development of the plot so smoothly that the climax felt appropriate–not at all overwhelming like the majority of superhero  films, nor riddled with Michael Bay explosions that become boring after the first two minutes. The final showdown in the film still gave each individual member of the Avengers time to shine and a last chance for the audience to remember them for what they’re each capable of. The way the Hulk dispatches Loki is a scene that will be the most talked about is already becoming one of the most searched moment from the film on Google and YouTube.

2012 is the year for comic-book films, and “The Avengers” did one hell of a job starting off the chain. Whedon’s vision for “The Avengers” is sheer greatness, and one can only hope that with three or more films left in the franchise, that Whedon can take his ideas further and show us more intimate details of each of the Avengers and bring the audience closer to them rather than to the action.

4 stars