For comic book fans, one of the highlights of last month’s Comic-Con was the panel that brought together, for the first time in public, the entire roster of The Avengers, the Marvel Comics super-team headed for the big screen in 2012. Since the end of 2008’s Iron Man, in which Nick Fury approached Tony Stark to discuss “the Avengers initiative,” fanboys have been teased with hints and cameos in almost every Marvel superhero film. After next summer’s one-two punch of Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, all the individual pieces will be in place to launch what could be the most epic comic book adaptation of all.
All those costumes in one film could be overwhelming for those who
can’t tell a Kree from a Skrull, so we thought we’d give you a primer on
who’ll be fighting for the best room in Avengers Mansion (yes, they
have a mansion).
CAPTAIN AMERICA (Chris Evans)
solo film (currently filming under the direction of Joe Johnston) uses
the comic’s World War II origin story, in which a frail, 4F army
volunteer becomes the sole recipient of a super soldier serum, turning
him into a perfect human specimen. While official images have been
sparse so far, a Comic-Con photo of a standee picturing Cap’s
red-white-and-blue shield encased in ice would indicate The Avengers
movie is going to adapt Stan Lee’s deus-ex-machina of a
suspended-animation Cap being unfrozen decades after WWII by his
would-be-teammates (to say how he got there would probably spoil the end
of Captain America’s first flick).
Following two successful Iron Man films, as well as
an Oscar nomination for his turn in Tropic Thunder, you’d think Robert
Downey Jr. wouldn’t be crazy about the notion of being part of an
ensemble superhero film. Then again, the Iron Man role is primarily
responsible for his career resurrection, and Downey still seems to be
having a blas tplaying the part. Besides, his brash, likeable armored
Avenger is likely to be the film’s biggest drawing point (at least as of
now). As far as his role in the Avengers, besides those repulsor rays,
the team relies mostly on Stark’s more human power: his vast wealth
subsidizes the super team.
WAR MACHINE (Don Cheadle)
going to have some familiar faces on set… Don Cheadle is reprising his
role as the ultra-weaponized Iron Man counterpart, War Machine, who, in
the comics was a member of the West Coast Avengers, a subsidiary of the
super team that fought crime when they
weren’t taking meetings with publicists and surfing (or so we assume).
BLACK WIDOW (Scarlett
Although never referred to as such, Black Widow was
Scarlett Johansson’s character’s code-name in Iron Man 2. In the
comics, the Russian counter-spy has slinked all around the Marvel
universe, as an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., partner of Daredevil, member and
even leader of the Avengers as well as the B-list supergroup the
Champions. It should be interesting to see how / if The Avengers tackles
the Widow’s stormy romance with our next superhero…
Marvel Comics’ answer to DC’s Green Arrow, the master
archer has been a minor character in the Marvel Universe since the
1960s, and a major player in the Avengers for most of its existence. The
Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner seems like a glove-fit to play the brash
bowman, currently the only major hero who’ll be introduced in The
Avengers rather than his own film first. One thing seems certain,
though… the character’s onscreen costume will probably bear little
resemblance to the ridiculous purple suit he wears in the comics.
Hemsworth) and LOKI (Tom Hiddleston)
The Asgardian Gods of
Thunder and Mischief respectively, brothers Thor and Loki square off in
next summer’s Kenneth Branagh epic, but with Hiddleston listed in the
cast for the Avengers, perhaps by the end of Thor, they will have
punched and made up (at least to form an uneasy alliance in The
Avengers)? It’s more likely that Loki will take part in whatever massive
evil requires a team of super powered heroes to conquer. In any case,
how the movie balances the grit of Iron Man with the fantasy of Thor
will be interesting to see.
After Ang Lee’s overly introspective HULK and Louis
Letterier’s video-gamey reboot, hopefully third time will be the charm
for Marvel’s grumpy green giant. Mark Ruffalo takes over the role of
Bruce Banner from the departing Edward Norton. Since the 2008 film
established Banner’s transformation as a gone-wrong attempt at
recreating Captain America’s super-soldier serum, we can assume that
plot point will play in The Avengers. There is speculation that the
impetus for the team’s initial formation is to capture (and recruit?) an
AGENT PHIL COULSON (Clark Gregg)
addition to handling exposition, perhaps Coulson will do chores that
the computer butler
Jarvis cannot (in the comics, Tony Stark’s butler is a human who does
double duty as major-domo to the Avengers).
The glue holding together the cinematic Marvel
Universe isn’t Stan Lee (although an Avengers cameo feels guaranteed),
but Sam Jackson’s leader of the Strategic Homeland Intervention,
Enforcement, and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.). It’s been reported
that in the film, Fury, and not Captain America will be the leader of
the Avengers, which could lead to some conflict of styles and ideals
perfectly suited to the angsty, clashing Marvel Universe.
At this point, the plot is a tightly guarded secret (The Infinity
Gauntlet, a jewel-encrusted glove that grants the bearer control of the
universe could come into play). The selection of Joss Whedon as director
should please fanboys, as his Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly
showed he’s adept at balancing action and characterization.
So now it’s hurry up and wait. If both Captain America and Thor’s
films turn out to be duds at the box office, that could put a serious
damper on the excitement for The Avengers… with the mainstream audience,
that is. As for the fanboys, nothing short of recasting David
Hasselhoff as Nick Fury could keep them away.
NOTE: This piece originally appeared on STARPULSE on
August 8, 2010.