Being a big Josh Whedon fan, I was delighted to see that he wrote and directed The Avengers, but it is a fruitcake of a movie; Its disparate parts mesh together to form a whole that is interesting but does not live up to its full potential. My chief complaint is that the last third of the film is all action that is almost as mindless, but not quite, as the last third of Transformers (**½). For people who want an intense summer action flick, then the last third of the movie will be the "payoff" after a rather long build up. However, it is my opinion that action scenes work best, if not brilliantly, when they also serve to reveal more about the characters. The action scenes in The Avengers do a little bit of that, but not enough. They are mostly just an overdose of eye candy.
I felt vaguely satisfied but wished that it could have been better. In way too many movies when something horrendous threatens a city or the world, the movies show scenes of a small group of people on the ground with cars blowing up all around them. This has been done so many times that it has gotten old, and it is repeated too many times in this movie. (If I never see another car blow up, I will die happy.)
Speaking of recycled scenes: The cage that they put Loki in seems right out of X-Men (***). The flying aircraft carrier we saw before in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (**½).
Too many of the characters in this movie do things that are physically impossible, but maybe we can tolerate that in a movie about super-heroes. The movie defies logic at times: A redirected nuclear missile just happens to explode at the right place and time? A group of super-heroes have trouble putting aside their differences when faced with a threat to the whole planet? When faced with such an attack, the military is not called out to repel the threat? Real wars are not won by heroes or super-heroes, but by armies.
This weekend I also saw Men in Black III, which I found to be slightly more entertaining.