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Directed and written by Joss Whedon. Produced by Kevin Feige. Release date: May 4, 2012.
The Avengers was the team-up movie we were all waiting for as soon as the stinger occurred in Iron Man. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and a relatively big gamble for Marvel Studios, and wound up being a huge success. It ended "Phase 1" of these movies, setting the stage for "Phase 2."
Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.): The lead of Iron Man and Iron Man 2. A genius inventor, he became the superhero Iron Man to fight crime and help world peace. Was the first one approached for the Avengers, although it was decided he would only be a consultant - he becomes a full-fledged member, anyway.
Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans): The lead of Captain America: The First Avenger. A biological weakling who was given a serum that made him a super soldier. Was frozen in time for 70 years before waking up in the present day.
Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo): The lead of The Incredible Hulk. He was experimented on with gamma radiation in order to create super soldiers. Now, when he gets mad he turns into a giant green monster. His transformations are now controllable. Ruffalo replaces Edward Norton in the role.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth): The lead of Thor. Heir to the throne of Asgard, he was banished for his immaturity but earned his powers back by learning humility from humans.
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson): Hired to be Tony Stark's personal assistant in Iron Man 2, she turned out to be an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. spy. A full Avengers member.
Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner): Had an uncredited appearance in Thor. He shoots people with a bow and arrows. A full Avengers member who serves as a sub-villain after being mind-controlled by Loki.
Loki (Tom Hiddleston): Thor's adoptive brother. The villain of Thor who also is the primary villain in The Avengers. Controls the Tesseract and uses its powers to wreak havoc on Earth.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., brought the Avengers together.
Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg): A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and a recurring character for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Would go on to star in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after The Avengers.
Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders): A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent working under Nick Fury.
Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård): A scientist who appeared in Thor and befriended the eponymous hero. Under the control of Loki at the start of The Avengers.
Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow): Tony Stark's former personal assistant and current love interest.
After Loki infiltrates S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and steals the Tesseract, Nick Fury activates the Avengers Initiative, which sees the protagonists from the lead-up films - Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk - along with a couple of the supporting characters, team up in order to stop him. Hawkeye and Erik Selvig have been brainwashed into working for Loki.
Loki lets himself be captured in order to board the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, which is where the Avengers' headquarters is. He does this in order to try to stop it, as well as force the Avengers members to fight with each other. In the fray, Phil Coulson is killed.
Loki escapes with the Tesseract and uses it to open up a wormhole that allow a group called the Chitauri to be transported to Earth. This happens in New York City, where the film's climactic battle takes place. Hawkeye is turned, the Avengers reassemble, and after much fighting, the Chitauri are defeated and the wormhole is closed. Loki is captured by Thor, and the Tesseract is returned to Asgard, where it belongs. The world is once again safe.
Is It Any Good?
I do love The Avengers. It's funny, it's exciting, it has top-notch visuals, and the inherent thrill of seeing these superheroes team together for the first time is just so great. It gives all of its characters something to do, it expands the universe even further, it lets Loki be a compelling villain, and it's just so incredibly fun from start to finish.