Monday, November 23, 2015

Recap: "The Avengers" Intro

Last Hanukkah, I began my look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man. Since then, I moved on to The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and I now find myself here at the end.

Well, not the final end. Marvel’s going to draw out this money printer for as long as humanly possible, and we all know it.

But Marvel was about to do something completely unprecedented. Sure, there had been film crossovers before. AVP, Freddy vs. Jason, and Quentin Tarantino’s movieverse, for a few examples. But never before had anyone made four completely different movies with different characters for the purpose of teaming them all up in a big finale.

The result? Near-universal praise.

But among the voices celebrating the film’s action, humor, and heart, there were a few small voices trying desperately to be heard. These outnumbered voices managed to band together and eventually make their message heard. “It’s not that good.”

Do these people have a valid case to make? Perhaps. But I figure that the biggest crossover in comic history was something worth being thankful for. Which is why I'm doing this in November instead of during Christmas.

But before I can examine the film itself, I’ll need to go over exactly how this crossover went from being just a crazy idea to a new paradigm in filmmaking. Whether we like it or not.

Seriously, they’re trying to turn everything into a “Cinematic Universe.”
The plans for The Avengers were laid in 2005, as I've elaborated before. And when Iron Man proved successful, The Avengers was scheduled for a 2011 release.

The idea was that each individual Avenger would get their own solo movie before appearing in the big crossover. You might have noticed something about that plan. Namely, that it didn’t happen. Partially because of the lack of name recognition and popularity with a couple of Avengers involved.

Sad, but apparently true.
Zak Penn, the man who wrote The Incredible Hulk
Ugh. Yeah, I was expecting this. Fine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp were in earlier drafts. In fact, Wasp was the viewpoint character in one draft. Ant-Man was the first to get cut out, followed by Wasp when Scarlet Johansson signed on to play the Black Widow in Iron Man 2. There. Leave me alone.
“Fine. I’ve complained about it on your blog for almost a year anyway.”
Anyway, Zak Penn….

"So now it's my turn."
What? But… don’t you have the same complaints as Scott Lang?

“No. See, I was originally slated to be in The Avengers. But now? I don’t even get to be an Avenger!”
Ooooh. Yeah, that’s pretty harsh, considering that you were a founding Avenger in the comics.

“You think he’s got it bad?
I’m also a founding Avenger, and I only show up in Ant-Man in flashbacks!
I named the team, for crying out loud!”
What? But Evangeline Lilly played you in the movie, right?

“No, she played my daughter who originated in an alternate continuity.”
Yeesh; you two got the short end of the stick.

"Yeah. It sucks."
It’s okay, Hawkeye and Black Widow have yet to get their own movies. At least you guys didn’t have to piggyback off of another Avenger.

“I guess you’re right.”
So may I continue?

"Actually, I...."
Anyway, Zak Penn was hired to write the script in 2007. Casting began in 2008 when Robert Downey Jr. was signed on. And the various actors from the other films would return after signing on for their respective films. In 2010, Joss Whedon got the directing gig, and also polished up the script. And by that, I mean that he basically rewrote the darn thing. Jon Favreau was offered the director’s chair before this, but he ended up declining, even before Iron Man 2 left a bit of a bad taste in his mouth.

Casting continued for the various films that were still in production. Thor, Captain America, etc. As the all-star cast assembled, it was around this point that Ed Norton was dropped from the project.

Here's what Marvel had to say: “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.”

Translation: Ed Norton was a bit of a jerk and didn’t like that Bruce Banner would once again be stuck struggling with his Hulkish side.

So Mark Ruffalo, who was actually in the running for The Incredible Hulk, was offered the role in 2010. And after Ruffalo called up Norton to make sure there would be no bad blood between them, he took the role. The main new addition for the film was Agent Maria Hill, played by Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother fame. Actually, her co-star, Alyson Hannigan, recommended her to her buddy Joss for the role.

Once again, I must say that the transition from plan to product was fairly smooth, compared to some of the other rigmaroles that they went through to get some of their other films off the ground. Really, the biggest challenge was coming up with the central conflict (the Tesseract) and then reverse-engineering the other films to lead up to the big crossover showdown.

But that’s not to say there aren’t a few juicy trivia tidbits to mention before I begin the Recap proper. In no particular order….
  • The film was originally from Tony Stark’s point of view. Naturally, this was RDJ’s suggestion, as his film was the one to kick off the MCU. When Joss Whedon realized the angle wasn’t working, they reworked it.
  • Sony and Marvel reached a deal to put the OsCorp tower from The Amazing Spider-Man into the New York skyline. Unfortunately, the skyline was finished before the digital OsCorp tower was.
  • The first cut was three hours long. So they cut out some of Captain America’s scenes to save for a sequel. Luckily, this kind of editing wouldn't be a problem until Age of Ultron.
  • In the UK, it’s called Avengers Assemble to avoid confusion with the British TV show called The Avengers.
Here, Avengers Assemble is something quite different.
The film ended up making a buttload of money.

$623.4 billion in North America alone.

First film to gross $200 million in three days.

First MCU film to make a billion dollars.

12th film to pass the billion-dollar mark worldwide.

Beat out The Dark Knight as the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time.

And as of 2013, it was the highest-grossing movie that didn’t involve James Cameron.

But as I said, though it met critical acclaim, there are those who consider it overrated. So now that three years have passed, I think it's time to put this film’s reputation to the test.

Coming up in Part 1! The gang’s all here. Finally.


  1. way back around 2011 or so I heard a rumour that said Nathan Fillion and Hillary Swank were in the running for Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne. Would've been cool to see Captain Hammer be Ant-Man.

    As unpopular as they were in this one, I think Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron got me to like Black Widow and Hawkeye much more, to be honest.