Marvel's The Avengers (classified under the name Marvel Avengers Assemble in the United Kingdom and Ireland), or simply The Avengers, is a 2012 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the sixth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Written and directed by Joss Whedon, the film features an ensemble cast including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner as the Avengers, alongside Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, and Samuel L. Jackson. In the film, Nick Fury and the spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. recruit Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, and Thor to form a team capable of stopping Thor's brother Loki from subjugating Earth.
The film's development began when Marvel Studios received a loan from Merrill Lynch in April 2005. After the success of the film Iron Man in May 2008, Marvel announced that The Avengers would be released in July 2011 and would bring together Tony Stark (Downey), Steve Rogers (Evans), Bruce Banner (Ruffalo), and Thor (Hemsworth) from Marvel's previous films. With the signing of Johansson as Natasha Romanoff in March 2009, the film was pushed back for a 2012 release. Whedon was brought on board in April 2010 and rewrote the original screenplay by Zak Penn. Production began in April 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before moving to Cleveland, Ohio in August and New York City in September. The film has more than 2,200 visual effects shots.
The Avengers premiered in Los Angeles on April 11, 2012, and was released in the United States on May 4, as the final film of Phase One of the MCU. The film received praise for Whedon's direction and screenplay, visual effects, action sequences, acting, and musical score, and garnered numerous awards and nominations including Academy Award and BAFTA nominations for achievements in visual effects. The film grossed over $1.5 billion worldwide, setting numerous box office records and becoming the third-highest-grossing film of all time and the highest-grossing film of 2012, as well as the first Marvel production to generate $1 billion in ticket sales. In 2017, The Avengers was featured as one of the 100 greatest films of all time in an Empire magazine poll. Three sequels have been released: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
The Asgardian Loki encounters the Other, the leader of an extraterrestrial race known as the Chitauri. In exchange for retrieving the Tesseract, a powerful energy source of unknown potential, the Other promises Loki an army with which he can subjugate Earth. Nick Fury, director of the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., and his lieutenant Agent Maria Hillarrive at a remote research facility during an evacuation, where physicist Dr. Erik Selvig is leading a research team experimenting on the Tesseract. Agent Phil Coulson says that the object has begun radiating an unusual form of energy. The Tesseract suddenly activates and opens a wormhole, allowing Loki to reach Earth. Loki takes the Tesseract and uses his scepter to enslave Selvig and a few other agents, including Clint Barton, to aid him in his getaway.
In response to the attack, Fury reactivates the "Avengers Initiative". Agent Natasha Romanoff heads to Kolkata to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner to trace the Tesseract through its gamma radiation emissions. Coulson visits Tony Stark to have him check Selvig's research, and Fury approaches Steve Rogers with an assignment to retrieve the Tesseract.
In Stuttgart, Barton steals iridium needed to stabilize the Tesseract's power while Loki causes a distraction, leading to a brief confrontation with Rogers, Stark, and Romanoff that ends with Loki's surrender. While Loki gets escorted to S.H.I.E.L.D., his adoptive brother Thor, arrives and frees him, hoping to convince him to abandon his plan and return to Asgard. After a confrontation with Stark and Rogers, Thor agrees to take Loki to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s flying aircraft carrier, the Helicarrier. Upon arrival, Loki gets imprisoned while Banner and Stark attempt to locate the Tesseract.
The Avengers become divided, both over how to approach Loki and the revelation that S.H.I.E.L.D. plans to harness the Tesseract to develop weapons as a deterrent against hostile extraterrestrials. As the group argues, Barton and Loki's other possessed agents attack the Helicarrier, disabling one of its engines in flight and causing Banner to transform into the Hulk. Stark and Rogers work to restart the damaged engine, and Thor attempts to stop the Hulk's rampage. Romanoff reluctantly fights Barton, and knocks him unconscious, breaking Loki's mind control. Loki escapes after killing Coulson and ejecting Thor from the airship, while the Hulk falls to the ground after attacking a fighter jet. Fury uses Coulson's death to motivate the Avengers into working as a team. Stark and Rogers realize that for Loki, simply defeating them is not enough; he needs to overpower them publicly to confirm himself as ruler of Earth. Loki uses the Tesseract, and a wormhole generator Selvig built, to open a wormhole above Stark Tower to the Chitauri fleet in space, launching his invasion.
Rogers, Stark, Romanoff, Barton, and Thor rally in defense of New York City. Banner arrives and transforms into the Hulk, and together the Avengers battle the Chitauri while evacuating civilians. The Hulk beats Loki into submission. Romanoff makes her way to the generator, where Selvig, freed from Loki's mind control, reveals that Loki's scepter can shut down the generator. Meanwhile, Fury's superiors from the World Security Council attempt to end the invasion by launching a nuclear missile at Midtown Manhattan. Stark intercepts the missile and takes it through the wormhole toward the Chitauri fleet. The missile detonates, destroying the Chitauri mothership and disabling their forces on Earth. Stark's suit loses power, and he falls back through the wormhole just as Romanoff closes it. Stark goes into freefall, but the Hulk saves him from crashing into the ground. In the aftermath, Thor returns Loki and the Tesseract to Asgard, while Fury expresses confidence that the Avengers will return if needed.
In a mid-credits scene, the Other confers with his master about the failed attack on Earth.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man, a self-described genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist with an electromechanical suit of armorof his own invention.
- Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America, a World War II veteran who was enhanced to the peak of human physicality by an experimental serum and frozen in suspended animation before waking up in the modern world.
- Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / Hulk, a genius scientist who, because of exposure to gamma radiation, transforms into a monster when enraged or agitated. Ruffalo, who was considered to play Banner in The Incredible Hulk (2008) before Edward Norton took the role, was cast after negotiations between Marvel and Norton broke down.
- Chris Hemsworth as Thor, the crown prince of Asgard, based on the Norse mythological deity of the same name.
- Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, a highly-trained spy working for S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye, a master archer working as an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Thor's adoptive brother and nemesis, based on the Norse mythological deity of the same name.
- Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, an agent with S.H.I.E.L.D. who oversees many of the division's field operations.
- Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, a high-ranking agent with S.H.I.E.L.D. who works closely with Nick Fury.
- Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig, an astrophysicist and friend of Thor under Loki's control who is studying the Tesseract's power.
- Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. who was revealed in previous films to be coordinating the "Avengers Initiative".
Gwyneth Paltrow and Maximiliano Hernández reprise their roles from previous MCU films as Pepper Potts and Jasper Sitwell, respectively. Paul Bettany returns to voice J.A.R.V.I.S. Frequent Whedon collaborator Alexis Denisof portrays "the Other", and Damion Poitier portrays his master, Thanos (unnamed in the film), in a post-credits scene. Powers Boothe and Jenny Agutter appear as members of the World Security Council later revealed to be Gideon Malick and Councilwoman Hawley. Avengers co-creator Stan Lee has a cameo appearance in a news report. Harry Dean Stanton cameos as a security guard, and Polish film director Jerzy Skolimowski appears as Georgi Luchkov, Romanoff's interrogator. Warren Kole has a brief role as a S.H.I.E.L.D. bridge tech who is caught playing Galaga. Enver Gjokaj, who later went on to play Daniel Sousa in the series Agent Carter, appears as a police officer.
The Avengers grossed $623.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $895.5 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $1.519 billion, becoming the third-highest-grossing film of all time, the highest-grossing film of 2012, the highest-grossing comic book adaptation, the highest-grossing superhero film, and the highest-grossing film ever released by Walt Disney Studios, at the time of its release. The film's worldwide opening of $392.5 million was the fourth-largest. The Avengers also became the fifth film distributed by Disney and the twelfth film overall to earn more than $1 billion. It reached this milestone in 19 days, matching the record previously set by Avatar (2009) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011). Its grosses exceeded its estimated $220 million production cost 12 days after its release. It was the first Marvel production to generate $1 billion in ticket sales.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 91% with an average score of 8.00/10 based on 358 reviews. The website'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." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 69 out of 100 based on 43 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare "A+" grade on an "A+ to F" scale.
- The Marvel Database
- Feature on the 2012 Moviepedia Film Guide
- Vote for the Avenger with the best superpower on the Superpower Wiki
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