It has been in the pipeline for ages...
Plans to make an Avengers movie have been simmering away since 2005, when Marvel Studios announced their intention to create a crossover movie using the raft of characters involved in their deal with Paramount. With $700 million of the studio’s money to play with, Marvel announced a series of solo films for heroes such as Thor, Iron Man and Captain America before revealing that all three, and more, would be part of super-team movie The Avengers .
The plan was to introduce these characters to non comic-book fans, thus maximising their potential audience for an eventual crossover movie. So as Iron-Man , Thor and Captain America were divvied out to directors John Favreau, Kenneth Branagh and Joe Johnston over the coming years, The Incredible Hulk writer Zak Penn was charged with knocking up a script that would bring them all together.
No small task then, but one that comic-book aficionado Penn was more than ready to take on…
Continuity is the name of the game...
The biggest issue for Penn was trying to create a script that would fit in with Thor and Captain America , a tricky one to keep track of given that neither film has yet been released.
“My job is to kind of shuttle between the different movies,” he told Crave Online, “and make sure that finally we’re mimicking that comic book structure where all of these movies are connected.
“We are learning it as we go and it’s pretty complicated,” he continued. “I have regular meetings at Marvel to catch up on continuity. There’s a board that tracks, ‘here’s where everything that happens in this movie overlaps with that movie.’ It’s just what they do in the comic books.”
A fairly painstaking process then, but one that finally bore fruit in March 2010, when Marvel Comics Editor In Chief Joe Quesada revealed via his Twitter feed that he had a first draft of a script for The Avengers sat on his desk.
“Definition of 'goose bumps,” gushed Quesada, “Pressing enter and watching a screenplay entitled 'AVENGERS' come out of my printer.”
However, Penn’s labour of love would prove only a template for the finished article, as Marvel had another comic-book geek in mind to make the story his own…
Joss Whedon is directing...
After months of whispers linking him to the project, Serenity helmer and occasional Marvel scribe Joss Whedon was finally confirmed as the film’s director at last year’s Comic-Con festival in San Diego.
After a pulse quickening teaser trailer, the full Avengers line-up was presented to a rabid crowd, with Whedon the final big name to take to the stage. In a brief, self-deprecating speech, the director sent the delirium in the room to fever pitch, playing up his love for the original comics, with his newly acquired cast backing him up like a posse of impeccably styled rabble-rousers.
So what of the script? Well, up until relatively recently, it had remained unclear just how much of Penn’s efforts would make it through to the final cut. We knew that Whedon was planning to give the script a fairly radical overhaul, but it now appears that the finished article will bear little if any resemblance to Penn’s early draft. Indeed, Whedon’s is said to be the only name on the Avengers script, which more or less puts the discussion to bed.
Not that Penn seems at all bitter, with the screenwriter having recently gone out of his way to talk up Whedon’s credentials.
“Do you believe in Joss Whedon?” he asked Coming Soon. “Do you believe in him? I believe in him! That’s my comment. If you believe in Joss you should be excited. Actually Joss and I went to the same college so we have a long history. I’m very excited and I can’t wait to see what happens with it.”
Marvel are confident they have the right man...
Having initially joked that he was bound to mess it up, Whedon has done his best to try and alleviate the pressure of a feverishly expectant fanbase. However, regardless of whether his nerves are legit, there’s no such trepidation amongst the Marvel bigwigs, with President Kevin Feige certain he’s bagged the right man for the job.
"I've known Joss for many years,” he told MTV. “We were looking for the right thing and he came in and met on it. He's incredibly intelligent, he's got great things to say about it, and if you look at the directors we've worked with, we hire directors who have the potential to do great things. We want our film to be that great thing."
“So far we have been lucky in choosing our directors,” continues Feige in a lter interview. “They have experience of filming on this scale is not essential. They come with their creativity and we bestow a technical team to manage the habit of big movies. This is what happened with Bryan Singer on X-Men , with Sam Raimi on Spider-Man or Jon Favreau on Iron Man . We have had several meeting with Joss in which they told us that he felt ready to take this course, which we are also convinced. It has also shown me the preview of the first big action sequence of The Avengers , and it’s really phenomenal.”
Whedon meanwhile is happy with the backing he’s had from Feige and co., praising their willingness to let him get on with things. “They’re very trusting at Marvel,” says the director. “There was a script, but I had a different take on it. And when they showed it to me I said ‘But this doesn’t work for me, I would do something different.’ And they said, ‘Well tell us what you would do,’ and now I’m doing it.”
“They have no idea what I’m doing,” laughs Whedon.” They do actually know exactly what they want to do, but they don’t mind a film maker making his film in the service of what it is they want to do, they’re not trying to press me into something that isn’t me, which is really gratifying.”
It certainly looks a good fit, with Whedon’s cult credentials marking him out as the perfect man to deliver an Avengers movie faithful to the original material. So what exactly has Whedon got lined up for his superhero dream team?
It's all about family...
With Marvel guarding Whedon’s script with the sort of fervour usually reserved for the most sinister of State secrets, details concerning the plot are few and far between. However, what we do know is that the overarching theme of the movie will be family.
The thing I love about it,” he announced at Comic-Con, “the thing that made me excited to do it, is how counterintuitive it is. These people shouldn't be in the same room, and that is the very definition of family.”
Warming to his theme, Whedon told i09 that, “the whole movie is about finding yourself from community, and finding that you not only belong together but you need each other very much. Obviously this will be expressed through punching but it will be the heart of the film!”
So there will be a healthy dose of in-fighting amongst our heroes, with Captain America and Iron Man set to lead the bickering.
“They definitely are at odds,” says Whedon. “They are two very different definitions of a person. One is a self-made man, a modern man, a rock star. The other is a World War 2 grunt, just trying to do his part. They couldn't have more different views of the world. It ended up in Civil War in the comics, but in my movie it will be witty banter.”
However the plot turns out, we can at least expect one thing: it will be a good old-fashioned superhero romp, with nary an ounce of postmodernism in sight.
“I feel that (Hollywood) went from the really terrible studio executive’s idea of what a comic book movie should be,” says Whedon, “to a very short moment when they sort of started getting it right, and then went directly to post-modern. Directly to Watchmen , Kick-Ass , The Dark Knight …(a stage where), we’re taking the comic book movie for granted. I want to see an awesome movie about superheroes that are awesome, that I really care about the whole time, I haven’t seen enough of those. I don’t want to deconstruct it yet! First I want to construct it.”
The Iron Man team are on board...
Brilliantly, Marvel seem to have pulled off their wish of maintaining cast continuity, starting with Robert Downey Junior reprising his role as Tony Stark. RDJ was ringmaster at Comic-Con’s grand cast unveiling, and couldn’t resist cranking the Avengers hype machine into overdrive with a few choice words.
“I think Inception was just about the most ambitious movie I’ve ever seen,” he began, “and then I thought, ‘wait a Goddamn second. Marvel Studios is going to take all of their top superheroes, and they’re going to put them all together in The Avengers ? That’s the most ambitious movie I’ve ever seen.”
Happily, in the midst of frenzied plot speculation, and endless Avengers -related interview questions, Downey Junior has managed to maintain a sense of humour about the whole project. “It’s going to be great,” he told MTV recently, “once I tell them what to do.” In fairness, he is the senior player amongst the Avengers cast, and with one eye on the future, the Iron Man star is keen to make the most of the experience while he can. “This will all come to an end one day,” he continued, “so I think the thing is to just really enjoy it while you have it.”
Rob’s definitely excited then, but the Iron Man connection doesn’t end there, as Scarlett Johansson will be re-pouring herself into that catsuit to star as Black Widow, with the star recently revealing that her character would get to “fight it out with the boys”, this time around. And With John Favreau exec-producing the whole shebang, expect The Avengers to fit in nicely with the previous adventures of Tony Stark and friends.
Chris Hemsworth will reappear as Thor...
Currently enjoying his moment in the spotlight is the Thunder God himself, with Aussie star Chris Hemsworth set to reprise his role of Thor for Whedon’s team of allstars. So how will the hammer-wielding Norseman fit in with the rest of the gang? Well according to Hemsworth, he won’t be happy playing second fiddle…
“They’re three big egos,” he explained to MTV. “I don’t think (Thor) likes to be pushed around! I don’t think any of them do, and I think that’s what’s so interesting. I just want to see the dinner scene between these three guys!”
A thoroughly entertaining action romp in its own right, Thor has also worked wonders as an appetiser for the Avengers movie, with the now-customary post-credits scene (more on that later) sending fans home happily discussing what is set to happen next. So how much was The Avengers on Hemsworth’s mind when working on Thor ?
“During filming, I didn’t think about it at all,” admits Hemsworth to Speakeasy. “The film I was doing was my focus. But I certainly now take away from that experience and say, okay, I’ve got to bring that back now and keep it consistent to some degree. As far as the character goes, I hoped for some sort of evolution. and having read the script, there certainly is that next step for Thor. I feel like he matures, so I couldn’t be happier.”
He won’t be the only cast member to reappear either, with both Tom Hiddlestone and Stellan Sarsgard also signed up for The Avengers . But we’ll have more on them shortly…we’ve more heroes to get through first!
Chris Evans is Captain America...
Chris Evans has yet to take his bow as the First Avenger, but he too is looking forward to a spot of spandex-clad sparring with his fellow superheroes. “I don’t know if they’re going to make (Captain America) the boss,” Evans told MTV. “But I don’t think anyone tells Downey what to do. That’s what makes Downey Downey.”
As for the commitment of signing on to the Avengers movie before shooting a frame of Captain America , Evans regarded it as an opportunity too good to pass up. “When I was deciding whether or not to jump on board on Captain America , ( The Avengers ) certainly came into consideration,” he says. “I thought, ‘well if I do Captain America , in a few months, I’m going to get to work with Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson and all these amazing actors.’ That’s a dream.”
There will be differences however, between the Cap portrayed in the first film and the one who will line up for The Avengers , notably in the gear he’s wearing. “(It's a new costume," Evans told MTV. "It's awesome. It's really cool. I was worried, because I started to get really attached to the old one, but I really started digging it. It's not that easy to move in, but I started really liking it.”
Sounds as though it will be more of a suit than a costume, but we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, there’s the Captain America movie to look forward to, which may well contain another Avengers pointer in the form of a scene between Nick Fury and the Cap filmed recently in New York’s Time Square. Whilst some have speculated this may be an early shot from The Avengers itself, eagle eyed viewers noted the presence of Captain America director Joe Johnston, suggesting this will be another post-credits treat from Marvel.
Sam Jackson will get his moment in the sun...
After cropping up in cameos and post-credit teases across a glut of Marvel films, The Avengers will see Sam Jackson get some much-deserved screen time as S.H.I.E.L.D. boss Nick Fury, with the star recently referring to the films as, “my own starring vehicle for the character.”
Appearing on Jimmy Fallon’s NBC talkshow, Jackson compared his role to the glue that holds Marvel’s various properties together, as Fury’s fleeting appearances gradually lay the groundwork for Whedon’s big team-up. “Everybody loves Nick Fury,” began Jackson. “ In the next month or so, I have to do one day on Thor , and one day on Captain America , and then in April we start The Avengers , which is the big deal with everybody. Thor and Captain America are pretty much done…I am the connective tissue for them to come and join The Avengers .”
Jackson went on to reveal that he will have a new S.H.I.E.L.D. cohort for The Avengers , telling Fallon that he was set to screen-test with a number of different actresses for the role. “They have this new character who I guess is like my sidekick,” he explained. “She’s with me all the time, so, they’re auditioning girls for it now.”
That “sidekick” has been revealed to be none other than S.H.I.E.L.D. executive director Maria Hill, with the role going to How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders. And in a crowd-pleasing piece of news, Smulders has revealed that she too will be donning a catsuit.
“We start in April, which is like… tomorrow,” she told ScreenRant. “I literally leave here and I go to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to shoot some scenes in a catsuit… I’ve tried on portions of the catsuit (and) I’ve seen conceptual drawings of what they want it to be. It’s fascinating to me. I feel like wardrobe becomes very creative on these types of movies because they literally spend weeks designing just the pants or the emblem. It’s such an all-consuming process, so I’m excited to see how it all turns out.” You’re not the only one Cobie. You’re not the only one…
Mark Ruffalo is the Hulk...
Having parted company with Ed Norton in rather acrimonious circumstances (Kevin Feige suggesting Norton was a stroppy git, before Norton proved his point with a haughtily affronted public retort), Marvel were forced to break with continuity and find themselves a new Hulk. So it was that Mark Ruffalo was unveiled as a Norton’s replacement at Comic-Con to widespread approval.
“He was my first and only choice for Bruce Banner," Whedon told MTV. "I'm stunned that we landed that, just stunned. He has what I remember loving about the show, he invites you in in a way that (no) other performer has since Bill Bixby. He is a guy who's been beaten up by life, but not defined by that. That’s what I want from Bruce Banner, is a guy who’s still getting it done, even though he has his problem.”
Ruffalo for his part was diplomatic about the whole Norton debacle, asserting there were no hard feelings between the two stars. “I'm a friend of Ed's,” he said, “and yeah, that wasn't a great way for all that to go down. But the way I see it is that Ed has bequeathed this part to me. I look at it as my generation's Hamlet."
“He's a guy struggling with two sides of himself, the dark and the light,” continues Ruffalo. “Everything he does in his life is filtered through issues of control. I grew up on the Bill Bixby TV series, which I thought was a really nuanced and really human way to look at the Hulk. I like that the part has those qualities.”
Happily for Ruffalo, he’s managed to dodge the frenzied gym sessions forced upon his Avengers teammates in order to accentuate the physical differences between Bruce Banner and his big, green alter-ego.
“I’ve lost 15 pounds,” revealed the star. “They don’t want me all ripped up, but they want me to be lean and mean. It’s about trying to get the psychology of somebody who knows, at any moment, they could literally tear the roof off of wherever they are and trying to bring something real to that and totally fantastic.”
Jeremy Renner is Hawkeye...
The finals surprise of the Avengers Comic-Con extravaganza was the announcement of Hurt Locker star Jeremy Renner as gifted bowman Hawkeye. And from what he’s had to say about the role, it’s clear he’s been doing his homework.
“I like (Hawkeye) because he isn’t a superhero,” he told MTV. “He’s not a guy in tights doing his thing, he’s just a regular dude with a highly trained set of skills. I think that’s kind of cool, and I can actually connect to that more than if he was flying around with a codpiece on!”
Reassuringly, Renner has since confirmed that his character will eschew the purple spandex favoured in the comics in favour of a more military-themed outfit. “I think it’s going to be a little more reality-based,” he told The Playlist. “You can kind of tell with Scarlett (Johansson)’s character (in Iron Man 2 ), it’s going to be more of a uniform, and not a big, purple, comics sort of thing. That’s why I think it’s more palatable to audiences…there’s almost a sense of reality to these superheroes. That’s what makes it interesting to me, anyway.”
And if that wasn’t enough to convince you that Hawkeye is a canny addition to the team, his recent cameo in Thor surely will be. Appearing as a kind of special S.H.I.E.L.D. enforcer, Renner makes his presence felt with a slew of pithy one-liners and an authority-baiting attitude that should prove a welcome respite from the more weighty side of things. Expect plenty of scenes to be stolen when the finished article rolls into cinemas…
Tom Hiddlestone will appear as Loki...
Now this is interesting! Up until very recently, The Avengers ’ Big Bad has been kept firmly under wraps, but now we have our first clue as to what our heroes will be facing off against. Because having taken on villain duties as Chris Hemsworth’s villainous half-brother Loki in Thor , Tom Hiddleston has let slip that he will be repeating the trick in The Avengers .
“I think (Loki’s inclusion) was a plan from the get-go, but it wasn’t really dead-set until near the end of Thor ,” Hiddleston tells Vulture. “What was wonderful is that about four days after I wrapped on Thor , I went out for a cup of tea with Joss Whedon. We sat down at two o’clock in the afternoon, and we were still sitting there at six o’clock. He said, ‘Listen, you’ve lived with this guy for six months. I want you to spill the beans and tell me all of his dark secrets. Who is this guy? Why is he who he is?’”
Well apparently, he’s the sort of villain that won’t take no for an answer, and no numerical disadvantage is about to change that. “I’m really so flattered that Marvel and Joss think I can take them all on,” continues Hiddlestone. “In Avengers , it’s going to be me versus seven of them, and I say ‘Good luck to them,’ frankly.”
An intriguing announcement then, and one that certainly chimes with Marvel’s policy of inter-film continuity. However, surely he won’t be taking on the Avengers alone? Especially if we’ve understood Thor’s post-credits scene correctly…
The Skrulls may yet be involved...
So, about that post-credits scene. What we saw was Stellan Skarsgard’s character Erik Selvig meeting with Nick Fury in a nondescript warehouse. Fury remarks on Selvig’s research concerning parallel dimensions before opening a briefcase containing a glowing cube. Suddenly, Loki’s image appears in place of Selvig’s reflection and remarks, “That’s interesting”. The camera pans back to Selvig who repeats the phrase.
That’s that cleared up then! No, alright, a little more detail is required to work out exactly what’s going on here. Basically, what Fury is carting around in his suitcase is the Cosmic Cube, a nifty box of tricks that allows the bearer to manipulate the fabric of the universe. Understandably, it’s the sort of thing Loki would love to get his hands on.
Now, as well as allowing its owner to tinker with the laws of the universe, the Cube could also be used to attract the attention of the alien race known as the Skrulls. In order to rid the world of the Avengers, Loki might just need a bit of help from the green-skinned extra-terrestrials…so, could they be the real villains of the piece?
It’s worth considering that Kevin Feige has gone on record as describing the Skrulls as the only viable villains to give the Avengers a proper challenge. “In my opinion, The Skrulls are really the only viable threat that would require so many super heroes to fight as a team,” Feige told Latino Review back in 2009. “Sure, you could have the Hulk as a villain in the beginning, but then they have to come together for an even bigger threat.”
What’s certain is that the Cube will have a significant part to play, and with Skarsgard revealing he too has signed on to appear in The Avengers , he could well be the vehicle by which Loki gets his hands on the mysterious artefact. Either way, consider our appetite officially whetted!
Shooting has finally begun...
Yep, difficult to believe as it may be, cameras have finally begun rolling on one of the most long-awaited projects in comic-book movie history. Joss Whedon recently announced that filming had begun in a typically tongue-in-cheek statement released on his website.
“Tomorrow [Monday 25th] we start shooting,” began Whedon. “(I THINK I'm legally permitted to say that). Day one. That's right. We'll be shooting the pivotal death/betrayal/product placement/setting up the sequel/coming out scene, at the following address…*Marvel Lawyers rush in, take Joss's keyboard, blowtorch a picture of his family like in Stormy Monday, drink his milkshake, leave the seat up, fluff his pillows, violently unfluff his pillows, leave.*”
"Went too far,” continues Whedon. “My bad. Anyhoo, it should be a fun day, followed by the eighty thousand other fun days it will take to finish this. So wish me luck. DO IT! LUCK! NOW! I'm off to finish some Buffy pages, and then figure out what the movie is about already. I'm pretty sure it's about the Justice League [*Marvel Lawyers re-enter, unspeakability occurs*] or possibly something else. I'll get it. I've been looking forward to this. For about 46 years."
And in case anyone thought Whedon was just titting about, Kevin Feige confirmed the announcement as legit in an interview with Collider. “It started filming last Monday,” he said. “Definitively last Monday in Albuquerque. Most of our movies go for about 80 to 100 days. I think The Avengers falls right in the middle of that somewhere. That is for first unit and then it could be anywhere upwards to 50 days for second unit. But we will be going through September.”
Break out the party poppers, it’s actually bloody happening! So after all the hype, will it actually be any good? Well from the early noises emerging from Marvel, we think there are reasons to be confident…
Everyone is quite excited...
Filming may only be in the early stages, but reports from Marvel have been overwhelmingly positive thus far. Granted, they’re hardly going to announce it looks crap, but there’s a genuine excitement palpable in the preliminary buzz.
Feige compared the look of the film to the action-heavy trailer for Transformers 3 , admitting that he had been daunted by the sheer scale of Michael Bay’s third outing. “You look at something like that,” he told Collider, “and you go, ‘That is gigantic. That is huge. That is awesome. Wow. Boy, we have to equal that.’”
“Literally an hour later I go into the dailies of The Avengers from the first few days. I saw Sam Jackson as Nick Fury in a slightly redesigned outfit with the eye patch, turning around on the bridge of the Helicarrier and I went, ‘Oh. That is cooler than anything else. That one shot. That one thing.’ I’m not worried anymore.”
Big talk indeed, but sentiments that are echoed by Marvel CCO Joe Quesada. “Just starting with the cast, it’s like a rock concert,” he gushes. “It’s unbelievable, even in San Diego when they brought them all up on stage. You got to see all these amazing actors on stage. If you didn’t get chills up your spine, you have no pulse. Basically, get yourself a casket and go home.”
“And then you have Joss Whedon at the wheel,” he continues. “I’ve seen the screenplay, it’s amazing. I’ve seen what we’re going to do. I’ve seen designs; they’re out of this world. It’s going to be the quintessential superhero movie. I hesitate to say more but we’re really, really, excited about it.”
Usually, we’re not ones to be bowled over by a bit of flannel from the studio PR machine, but in this case, we can’t help but be excited. May 4th 2012…get it in the diary. You’re going to want to keep it free…