“Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD. I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.” Since those words were uttered in the post-credits scene of 2008’s Iron Man, fans of Marvel Comics have gone crazy in anticipation for The Avengers. Over the past 5 years, Marvel Studios has embarked on the most ambitious film project in history, with astronomically small odds of being successful, given how comic books can easily alienate outside viewers. So far, there have been 5 movies by Marvel that have tried to create an interwoven, complex, cross-continuity narrative culminating in a team-up in the most highly anticipated superhero movie ever.
In total, we have seen two technology-based action movies, a character-driven monster movie, a tale of Norse gods and a World War II epic. Out of context, it can be difficult to see how these movies coincide, but each is laced with small allusions to one another, and some major plot points can be difficult to grasp without knowledge of the previous movies. For instance, the Norse mythology surrounding the Cosmic Cube or Tesseract featured in Captain America: The First Avenger is not explained, because it has already been covered at great length in Thor.
The Avengers are a team known as ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’. We have met the six members that will form them to varying degrees. Tony Stark/Iron Man is the best known; he’s proud of his billionaire, playboy, philanthropist image and has gone public with his identity as Iron Man, which is a suit of the most technologically advanced armour on the planet. Steve Rogers/Captain America became a war hero after he was selected for the Super Soldier Programme, which elevated him to the absolute peak of human physical fitness and potential. Frozen at the end of WWII, he wakes up in our strange new world and must find his feet before he can lead the Avengers. Thor, the Norse God of Thunder is the son of Odin and his status as a deity grants him immense strength, flight and the ability to control thunder and lightning. He also wields the mighty hammer Mjolnir. Bruce Banner attempted to recreate the Super Soldier Programme but failed, awakening inside him the Incredible Hulk, an impossibly strong creature of pure instinct. Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow appeared in Iron Man 2 and quickly captured the attention of audiences with her skin-tight cat suits and impressive flexibility in combat. She is a SHIELD agent and is highly trained and well equipped. Lastly, we have Clint Barton/Hawkeye; he made a minor appearance in Thor where he was an operative in the hastily constructed SHIELD base around Mjolnir. Hawkeye is also a SHIELD agent so he is highly trained and a master archer.
The Avengers contains a massive wealth of talent in the cast and crew. Samuel L Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. are all big names in Hollywood, though many main roles are also taken by relative newcomers such as Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) and Tom Hiddleston, who plays the antagonist, Loki. Chris Evans has elevated his career by playing Captain America and nicely rounds off an impressive cast. Behind the scenes, the movie is directed by Joss Whedon, fan favourite and legendary creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Serenity. He is a man of real vision and a master of mixing genres, such as in Firefly, in which Western and Sci-Fi combined spectacularly. The movie also boasts an impressive list of executive producers, including Stan Lee and Avi Arad, two very important men in the history of Marvel Comics, Jon Favreau, Director of the Iron Man movies, and Kevin Feige, who has produced practically every Marvel movie to date.
Even if you’re not usually a comic-book fan, the sheer range that this movie has to offer with its expensive production and diverse pool of characters means there should be something for all to enjoy. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!