The answer to your burning question about “The Avengers” is a resounding “Yes.”  If you’re into movies or comics, you’ve anxiously awaited its arrival since 2008’s “Iron Man,” which first hinted that an Avengers film was in the works. After four years and four more Marvel movies, you’ve been wondering “Will it live up to the hype?” Rest assured, not only does director/writer Joss Whedon’s flick live up to the hoopla, “The Avengers” surpasses it.

Whedon’s 3D beauty captivates you from the opening scene, where Thor’s angry step-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) makes a deal with some mysterious baddies. Promised an army to help enslave the human race, Loki drops down to Earth to assemble his force and stir up trouble. Despite Loki’s unclear motives, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) immediately realizes that he must call together the planet’s mightiest superheroes in order to stand a chance against the villain. 

Unsure that the heroes will cooperate with each other, Fury presses on anyway; calling in Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Oh yeah, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) shows up too somehow.

Their initial attempts at teamwork are disastrous, because each person’s ego gets in the way.  The group argues and beats the crap out of each other while Loki gains the upper hand. Fury’s greatest challenge becomes rallying them together toward a common goal. As you can probably guess, he does eventually figure it out and the results are spectacular.

Just seeing all of these heroes in the same vehicle is exciting, but watching them go toe-to-toe first is even more thrilling. Whedon amusingly places specific pairs of heroes in disagreement, which not only creates engrossing conflict between them; it makes their eventual cooperation even more rewarding. An obvious pairing is Iron Man, who plays by his own rules and Captain America, who follows orders without question. Nothing epitomizes their quarrels better than an exchange where Captain says “Stark, we need a plan of attack,” to which Iron Man responds, “I do have a plan….attack.”

Whedon’s camera work and visual effects are stunning throughout, but they really shine once these guys actually team up. Throughout the climactic battle between The Avengers and Loki’s army, Whedon’s camera makes gorgeous swooping motions that follow the action.  When The Avengers stand back to back in a circle, Whedon drops in with a 360-pan which will give you chills.

Tom Hiddleston is excellent as the manipulative, trash-talking Loki. With Whedon’s writing, Hiddleston’s character is at least twenty times more menacing than he was in “Thor.” Probably the best thing that “The Avengers” brings to the Marvel machine however is a more prominent role for The Hulk. The casting of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner plays a big part in it. He’s just nerdy enough to pass as a scientist, but also delightfully sarcastic and self-deprecating. The other piece is that The Hulk actually gets to be offensive instead of defending himself against people who misunderstand him. 

Whedon’s batting average this year is incredible. He pleased horror junkies with “The Cabin in the Woods” and he’ll delight comic book fans with “The Avengers.” Thank you Mr. Whedon, for making nerds happy, twice in one year.

My Grade: A