It's taken 5 years to get up and running...
Plans to make an Avengers movie have been in the pipeline 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…
The script has had a lot of fine-tuning...
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 of this year 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 will direct...
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 this year’s Comic-Con 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 speech, Whedon sent the delirium in the room to fever pitch, playing up his love for the original comics and joking that he was going to mess it up.
But if Whedon is suffering from a few nerves, 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."
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...
What was slightly lost amongst all the hoo-ha of the Comic-Con theatrics was the fact that Whedon will not only be directing The Avengers , he’ll also be giving Zak Penn’s script a bit of a re-write.
At present, plot details are few and far between, but we do know that Whedon has an overarching theme for the film, and that theme is 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.”
Iron Man, firing off witty banter? We know who we need on board then…
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.”
So Rob’s keen , 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, and director John Favreau will be exec-producing the whole shebang.
Whether or not Don Cheadle will re-appear as War Machine is unclear, but Samuel L. Jackson certainly will, as it’s his character Nick Fury who brings the team together. Excited yet? Yeah, us too…
As are Thor and Captain America...
Yep, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans will also be reporting for duty after starring in Thor and Captain America respectively, and both of them are looking forward to a bit of healthy inter-hero sparring.
“I don’t know if they’re going to make (Captain America) the boss,” Evan told MTV . “But I don’t think anyone tells Downey what to do. That’s what makes Downey, Downey.”
Hemsworth on the other hand, doesn’t anticipate his character playing second fiddle to anyone, be it Iron Man or Captain America.
“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!”
Sounds like Hemsworth has picked up on Whedon’s family theme there, and the Aussie star admits he was blown away by his new director’s plans for the film.
“I worked on Cabin In The Woods with Joss, so I knew him from back then, and I had a chat with him a month or two ago about The Avengers , and what he planned on doing. It’s incredibly impressive and exciting!”
And speaking of the “incredibly impressive”, that brings us nicely on to the most Incredible hero in the Avengers ’ ranks…
Ed Norton is not The Hulk...
This is where Marvel’s casting continuity falls down slightly, as while The Hulk will be appearing in The Avengers , Ed Norton will not. Marvel announced their decision to axe Norton from proceedings just under a month ago, through a fairly snippy statement from Kevin Feige.
“We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in The Avengers ,” said Feige. “Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble.”
So in other words, Ed Norton is a bit of a pain in the arse to work with? It certainly sounds as though Norton rubbed a few people up the wrong way during the making of The Incredible Hulk , but the star’s agent Brian Swardstrom was quick to hit back at any such suggestion.
“This offensive statement from Kevin Feige at Marvel is a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light,” ranted Swardstrom, before going on to conclude that, “this seemed to us to be a financial decision but, whatever the case, it is completely their prerogative, and we accepted their decision with no hard feelings.”
No hard feelings apart from the massive offense taken then! It all sounds a bit catty to us, but the bottom line is that Norton is no longer The Hulk. Which leaves a rather substantial pair of purple shorts to be filled…
Mark Ruffalo is The Hulk...
Probably the biggest Comic-Con announcement outside of Whedon’s involvement was that Shutter Island ’s Mark Ruffalo will be on chief smashing duties as The Hulk. And the star has plenty to say about his new, green-skinned alter-ego.
“He's a guy struggling with two sides of himself, the dark and the light,” Ruffalo told Entertainment Weekly . “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.”
When asked about the whole Norton affair, Ruffalo was keen to play down any controversy.
“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."
Hamlet eh? Ruffalo’s certainly talking the talk, but what does Whedon make of his new star? Well unsurprisingly, he’s rather keen.
“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.”
Quite the coup for Whedon then, but Ruffalo wasn’t the only major casting announcement in San Diego…
Jeremy Renner is Hawkeye...
The star of The Hurt Locker will be preparing for war of a different kind, with Jeremy Renner confirmed to play circus-raised bowman Hawkeye. Renner had been long-rumoured to nab the part, and he’s clearly done his homework on the Marvel universe.
“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!”
Whedon seems to agree, stressing that it’s Renner’s everyman quality that bagged him the role.
“The thing about Hawkeye,” he explained to MTV , “he’s got his bows and arrows, but you need somebody who's very down to earth, who's very grounded, and who's going to be the kind of guy who, when you see him, you understand why he likes to be far away from things and then shoot at them.”
That’s the heroes sorted then, but who or what will they be facing off against?
The Avengers could be fighting The Hulk...
Given the amount of superhero talent at the Avengers’ disposal, they’re going to have to be taking on a fairly hefty foe if it’s not going to be a chronic mismatch. Whedon is playing this one fairly close to his chest, but early rumours have focused around a storyline that would pitch The Hulk against his supposed team-mates.
One suggestion is that Loki, the villain from Thor , will cast a spell over The Hulk in order to use him as a weapon against his thunder-chucking nemesis. However, the chaps over at comicbookmovie.com claim to have received “several insider reports” saying that the big bad will be the alien race known as the Skrulls.
A bunch of humanoid space-dwellers, the Skrulls could also use The Hulk as a tool to defeat the Avengers and facilitate their occupation of Earth. Or maybe they just want to see an almighty ruck.
In any case, the film’s official release date isn’t until May 4th 2012, so there’s plenty of time to speculate, but we like the idea of a conflicted Hulk going apeshit against Iron Man et al. Make it happen Joss, make it happen...