The Avengers (released internationally as Marvel's The Avengers) is a 2012 film set in the Earth-11584 continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is the first film in the Avengers franchise, bringing together leading characters from across the previous MCU films, and is the final film in Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the seventh film overall). It was also the final Marvel film to be distributed by Paramount Pictures, based on their original distribution deal from 2006. All further Marvel Films would be distributed by Walt Disney, pursuant to their purchase of Marvel Entertainment in 2010. The film was a critical and financial success, making over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office.
When the Marvel Cinematic Universe was first conceptualized, the idea was to create a series of origin stories that would connect to one another and eventually lead to a larger team-up film at the end. Initially the plan was to use The Defenders for this task, given the rights that Marvel Studios had access to. However, when a distribution deal with Paramount was signed in 2006, the game changed to build to an Avengers film, as first announced at the San Diego Comic-con in 2007. Jon Favreau was initially hired to direct The Avengers following his success with both Iron Man and Iron Man 2. However, by the time Iron Man 2 saw release, Favreau was reluctant to direct another Iron Man film, and bowed out of directing Avengers, remaining on as an executive producer and creative consultant. Eventually, Joss Whedon was hired as a replacement for Favreau, with all major players from Phase 1 of the MCU reprising their roles, save for Trish Stratus as Leila Davis, as the role would be recast to star Maggie Q instead.
In 2011 with the sudden collapse of Sony's planned Spider-Man reboot film, there was some talk of including Spider-Man in the Avengers film. However Sony struck a deal with Marvel that would allow joint distribution rights only if no other film got under production before 2015, meaning that only certain elements of the Spider-Man universe (namely the Daily Bugle newspaper, which can be clearly seen in a post-credits scene) would be included. The decision to include as a major big bad going forward was a late decision, but would set the stage for the next seven years of MCU films.
Production on The Avengers began in May of 2011, and wrapped filming in September of that year. Some footage had already been shot early, as a short trailer was attached to the end of Captain America: The First Avenger in most theaters.
Beginning at SHIELD's Dark Energy Research Facility, Nick Fury responds to a distress call from Dr. Erik Selvig, concerning the Tesseract project. After consulting with Agent's Phil Coulson and Maria Hill, as well as Agent Clint Barton/Hawkeye, a masked agent takes action and flips a switch to activate the Tesseract, allowing Loki of Asgard to come from the depths of space. Loki and the masked man, later revealed to be Taskmaster, defeat the few guards in the room, with Loki using some kind of mind control spell on Dr. Selvig and a few other SHIELD agents. They make their escape with the Tesseract, causing Nick Fury to call together launch the Avengers Initiative.
The Avengers are assembled from across the globe, despite the misgivings of the World Security Council to Fury. Agent Coulson retrieves Tony Stark, having just put the finishing touches on the Stark Tower skyscraper in New York, a building completely powered by an independent ARC reactor. Coulson and Nick Fury then retrieve Captain America in a replay of a Post-Credits scene. Bruce Banner being summoned by Black Widow to track the Tesseract itself, though with the knowledge that they don't want the Hulk. Meanwhile, Loki reveals that he contacted Taskmaster using a device of alien origin, though he himself doesn't possess the device now. Being contacted from beyond, The Other questions Loki's seeming lack of progress, insinuating that there is a higher power at work. Taskmaster makes it clear they need more men to attempt this, not just the Chitauri, and that he needs a distraction to break a team out of prison.
The team assembles on the Helicarrier, with Rogers somewhat amazed at seeing the flying fortress (and losing a bet he made with Fury earlier). Banner begins running an algorithm searching for gamma radiation, but facial recognition software eventually detects Loki in Stuggart, Germany. Rogers, Black Widow and Hawkeye are dispatched to Stuggart to capture Loki and, after a brief fight, eventually detain him when Stark shows up to even the odds. En route back to the Helicarrier, they learn that another prison break has taken place, with Taskmaster breaking out enhanced criminals for some kind of Task Force, namely Abomination, Blizzard and Whiplash (they also mention the Beetle was still in jail, apparently unwilling to be broken out.) They are sidetracked, however, when Thor appears and steals Loki from the Quinjet. After a brief exchange between the brothers, Thor is attacked by Iron Man. The two battle briefly, before Captain America restores peace between the three. Thor then accompanies the team back to the Helicarrier, wanting to take custody of Loki when this is all finished.
At the Helicarrier, and after listening to Loki's initial interrogation by SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell, Capt. Rogers discovers that SHIELD wasn't using the Tesseract to try and develop a clean energy source, as they claimed, but rather trying to reverse engineer the HYDRA weaponry from World War II. Through surreptitious interrogation by Black Widow, they learn that Loki's plan is to set the Hulk loose on the Helicarrier. This plan is enacted, as Taskmaster's team of escaped convicts attacks the Helicarrier and causes Banner to lose control. After freeing Loki, they also kill Agent Phil Coulson in the process and head towards New York to carry out the plan of opening the Tesseract. In the assault, however, Whiplash is killed by Nick Fury.
The Avengers eventually overcome their distrust of one another and form a team to defeat Taskmaster's group, traveling to New York where Loki has set up shop at the Stark Tower, intending to use the ARC reactor as a power source to open a stable portal to another realm in space and summon the Chitauri. After some back and forth, the portal is opened by Dr. Selvig, though the mind control that Loki holds over him is broken shortly thereafter. A battle ensues, with great damage done to the city, but in the resulting chaos, Blizzard and Abomination are captured with Taskmaster slinking off into the shadows. Selvig is approached by Black Widow, who says he set a failsafe in place on the portal device, subconsciously. But he needs time to activate it. In the meantime though, the World Security Council overrides Nick Fury and decides to nuke Manhattan to contain the Chitauri threat. Stark intercepts the nuke and steers it into the portal, nearly dying in the process, and falls back to Earth just before Selvig stops the portal, cutting off the Chitauri from their mother ship and disabling their weapons. Stark is intercepted by Hulk, who awakes him with a mighty roar, before the Avengers take custody of Loki.
With Loki defeated, the Avengers are allowed to part their separate ways. Bruce Banner is allowed to live at Stark Tower (renamed Avengers Tower) free from government interference. Rogers agrees to go on active duty as a SHIELD operative, joining Barton and Romanoff in doing so. Stark remains a "civilian consultant" officially, while Thor travels with Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard. Fury notes that in the future they will need the Avengers again to fight the threats they can't foresee yet to come.
Post Credits Scenes
[We cut to a parole board inside a prison, where we see Leila Davis, aka The Beetle, sitting in front of a panel of several men in suits.]
Parole Warden: Given your recent record of good behavior since your incarceration began, combined with your recent decision not to join your former teammates in their attempt to break you out of jail, this board has seen fit to turn over custody of you to a third party for the duration of your sentence, effective immediately.
[We then cut to the outside where Davis is let out of the prison. She smiles as she approaches a man in a sedan outside the prison walls.]
Davis: Well, I was wondering where I was going. Didn't think the military was interested in me though.
[Cut around to reveal Thunderbolt Ross as the man in front of the sedan.]
Ross: This isn't on behalf of the military. This is a strictly civilian matter off the books.
Davis: How did you manage that, General?
Ross: Retired General, and let's just say I pulled a few strings. I presume you've heard all about New York?
Davis: Yes. I've also heard about these so-called Avengers. They're calling them Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Ross: I call them renegades. That's what this is all about, Ms. Davis. I think it's about time that we have a team of our own, wouldn't you agree?
[Davis smiles at the General before we cut to black.]
/ = / = / = /
[We fade in on Sanctuary, the domain that Loki had visited before in a vision. We see The Other before a great throne, trying to explain the situation.]
The Other: The Earth was not as defenseless as we were led to believe, Lord. It seems that the Asgardian Loki has disappointed us, and even your mighty Chitauri were no match for their warriors. They are a chaotic, unruly race, and therefore cannot be reasoned with or conquered. To challenge the might of their heroes...is the height of folly and hubris...
[The Other is cut off by a blast of energy from the throne, disintegrated before our eyes into a pile of dust. A figure steps down from the throne, clad in golden armor and carrying a large scepter with a glowing stone at its end. He looks down at the piles of ash and then over to a pod in stasis in the distance.]
Thanos: If the Asgardian has failed, than perhaps it is time that someone else be sent in his place. Someone with more knowledge of the Earth.
[We cut over to the pod to see the sleeping form of the Red Skull lying there; unconscious but very much alive as we cut to black.]
/ = / = / = /
[We see a hard cut to a scene right after the Battle of New York, where the Avengers are gathered around a table eating Schwarma together while the restaurant owner's slowly sweep away the debris from the store. In the background, we see a copy of today's edition of the Daily Bugle before we cut to black without a word spoken.]
Summary of Changes
- Taskmaster returns from Black Widow and acts as the agent deliberately bringing Loki back from his location with Thanos. It is also said that Loki had contacted Taskmaster telepathically from that location.
- Loki uses a simple mind control spell on Selvig and several SHIELD agents, not the staff he used in the MCU film. He also doesn't mind control Hawkeye at any point in the film.
- Selvig builds a device to control the Tesseract based on a design Taskmaster and Loki give him, combining their knowledge and intellect to create it. Selvig doesn't require iridium for this design.
- In the fight with Loki in Stuggart, Hawkeye joins Widow and Captain America in the fight. Also, the fight serves as a distraction not to rob a laboratory, but to free Abomination, Whiplash and Blizzard from prison. Beetle is also seen in this sequence, though she refuses to leave.
- Loki does allow himself to be captured, though his initial interrogation is handled by Jasper Sitwell rather than Nick Fury.
- Black Widow's interrogation of Loki does not involve her friendship with Hawkeye, as Barton is in no real danger.
- It is never explicitly said where Jane Foster is in all of this.
- While Captain America and Iron Man do discover the prototype weapons based on the Tesseract power source, there is never any mention of Phase 2 or anything other than trying to create general weapons for defense.
- Nick Fury kills Whiplash in the battle on the Helicarrier, rather than just a random goon.
- Blizzard and Abomination play a role in the larger Battle of New York, though both are captured.
- The failsafe that Selvig placed in the Tesseract machine does not involve Loki's staff, for obvious reasons.
- The first Post-Credits Scene involving Beetle and Thunderbolt Ross is entirely new, leading to the Thunderbolts Movie in Phase 2.
- The second Post-Credits scene is slightly altered from the original, with Thanos killing The Other and revealing that Red Skull is under his command.
- There is an Easter Egg appearance of the Daily Bugle newspaper in the third and final post-credits scene (the schwarma scene.)
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man- A self-professed genius, billionaire, playboy and philanthropist who fights terrorist threats in armored suits of his own design and also acts as the de-facto co-leader of the Avengers.
- Chris Hemsworth as Thor- A Prince of Asgard based on the Norse deity of the same name, sent to Earth to retrieve both Loki and the Tesseract who winds up helping the Avengers fend off the Chitauri.
- Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America- A WWII veteran enhanced to peak Human physiology by an experimental serum, who is frozen in ice and awoken 70 years later in the modern day. Rogers also acts as the de-factor co-leader of the Avengers.
- Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk- A scientist who, due to accidental exposure to gamma radiation, transforms into a super-strong monster whenever he is angered or overly agitated. Ruffalo also provides motion capture for the Hulk, replacing Lou Ferrigno from the first Incredible Hulk film.
- Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow- A former mercenary assassin turned special operative for SHIELD who has been on deep cover assignment, watching the Hulk.
- Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye- A SHIELD special agent who is also a master marksman and archer.
- Tom Hiddleston as Loki- The adopted brother of Loki who comes to Earth seeking the Tesseract to open a portal for the Chitauri army to invade.
- Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury- The Director of SHIELD and founder of the Avengers Initiative.
- Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson- A SHIELD special agent who's death provides the catalyst for the Avengers coming together.
- Colbie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill- A Deputy Director of SHIELD and official field commander of the Helicarrier
- Titus Welliver as Taskmaster- A master criminal and strategist who escapes jail and is hired by Loki to help him bring the Chitauri to Earth.
- Maximiliano Hernandez as Agent Jasper Sitwell- A SHIELD agent, previously seen in the background of several MCU films, who is second in command of the Helicarrier.
- Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination- A former military commando who, due to exposure to gamma radiation and an imperfect Super Soldier Serum, becomes an inhuman monster with strength comparable to the Hulk.
- Cuba Gooding Jr. as Donald Gill Jr/Blizzard- A former chemist turned criminal who uses a specialized suit to create extreme cold around him.
- Falk Hentschel as Marco Scarlotti/Whiplash- A former electrical engineer turned criminal who uses a modified ARC reactor to generate electrical whips of extreme power.
In addition, Maggie Q replaces Trish Stratus in the role of Leila Davis, AKA The Beetle. William Hurt reprises his role as General Thunderbolt Ross in a Post-Credits Scene. Josh Brolin provides the voice and motion capture for Thanos in a Post-Credits scene, while Alexis Denisof portrays The Other. While Red Skull is seen in a post-credits scene, he was not portrayed by Hugo Weaving, instead archival footage was used to construct a CGI replica of Red Skull. The role would be recast in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Stellan Skarsgaard reprises his role as Dr. Erik Selvig from Thor. Kit Harrington and Idris Elba also reprise their roles as Balder the Brave and Heimdall in a brief scene on Asgard that was ultimately cut from the film. Stan Lee cameos as a SHIELD agent thrown off the bridge of the Helicarrier for being caught playing Galaga by Tony Stark.
The Avengers was released to near universal acclaim, with review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes scoring the film at 92% with an average rating of 8/10 based on 330 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads "Thanks to a script that emphasizes its heroes' humanity and a wealth of superpowered set pieces, The Avengers lives up to its hype and raises the bar for Marvel at the movies." Critics universally praised many of the performances in the film, pointing out the improvement in Ruffalo's portrayal of Bruce Banner in particular, and calling Tom Hiddleston's Loki as "the villain the franchise has been desperately needing."
The film broke box office records on its opening weekend, earning 207.4 million dollars in what was, at the time, the highest opening ever at the US box office. The film became the third highest-grossing film (unadjusted for inflation) and highest grossing film of 2012 with a final domestic tally of $623.4 million dollars. Worldwide, the film became the 12th film overall to cross the 1 billion dollar mark in box office receipts, finishing with a final total of 1.519 billion dollars.