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If a movie's called The Avengers, you just know it begins with something that deserves avenging.
Here's what goes down: evil (but kinda sexy) god Loki (Tom Hiddleston) arrives at a top secret SHIELD base, stealing an all-powerful alien Tesseract and turning both Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Dr. Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgaard) into his zombiefied slaves.
SHIELD director Nick Fury decides it's time to bring out the big guns. And when someone whose last name is "Fury" gets furious—well, you know that it's rage time.
He and his team assemble a group of heroes to get the Tesseract back: unfrozen WWII hero Captain America (Chris Evans), celebrity billionaire Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and the ominously twitchy Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo).
They nab Loki in short order, thanks to the wayward god's "kneel before Zod" moment at a museum in Stuttgart. (When evil villains aren't monologuing, they find other ways of wasting precious villain-time.) But their trip back to base is interrupted by the arrival of the god Thor (Chris Hemsworth), there to take Loki back to Asgard and answer for all that horrible stuff he did in the original Thor. The heroes have a spat, but eventually agree to get Loki back to SHIELD's Helicarrier.
Once there, Loki waits patiently while the heroes start to dig into each other… and his zombots arrive to spring him.
Said zombot-springing commences, and the good guys are so not up for it. Loki escapes, SHIELD's Agent Coulson is killed, and the team is left scattered and traumatized.
The good news? They got Hawkeye and his arrows back.
Rallying around Coulson's memory (RIP), Fury convinces the heroes to pick themselves up and give it another go. Thor heads for Loki, followed shortly by the rest of the team.
Iron Man finds him first, with Loki's zombots plugging into Stark Tower's power supply to open a gateway to an alien world. The gate opens, evil aliens come out, and New York looks like it's gonna be toast.
But we're not done yet. The Avengers arrive—or assemble, if you will—and, under Captain America's leadership, beat back the invaders. It ends with Iron Man sacrificing himself: flying a nuclear missile into the opening and blowing up the alien army just as the rest of the team shuts down the gate. Stark falls through the hole as it closes, the Hulk catches him (aww: superhero bromance) and everyone symbolically high-fives each other.
Loki and Thor go back to Asgard with the Tesseract, while the other Avengers go their separate ways…but ready to come together again the next time any pesky threat to world peace emerges.
And you just know it will.