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The Avengers - On Screen History
Quick Facts: The Avengers comic book first appeared on the news stands in 1963. Published by Marvel Comics and created by Stan Lee (1922-) and Jack Kirby (1917-1994).
Created in response to the success of DC Comics Justice League of America (1960) which featured a formation of superheroes coming together to fight crime.
The first Avengers superhero line-up included Iron Man, Thor, Ant Man (aka Giant Man), The Wasp and The Hulk. The next group to be recruited were Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, The Black Panther, Vision and Hercules.
The Avengers, dubbed "Earth's Mightiest Heroes", is one of Marvel's most popular comic book titles and still selling well today.
Captain America (1944) directed by Elmer Clifton and John English, starring Dick Purcell as Grant Gardner / Captain America, Lorna Gray, Lionel Atwill, Charles Trowbridge, Russell Hicks and George J. Lewis. 243mins.
A serial in 15 chapters.
Produced by Republic Pictures, a company that specialized in serials and B-westerns. Captain America was their most expensive serial, costing $222,900. The studio rejected the comic book origin of Steve Rogers / Captain America and renamed him Grant Gardner, a district attorney.
Dick Purcell was one of the first on screen superheroes, he died of a heart attack while playing golf a few weeks after Captain America was released, he was 35.
IMDB rating 6.7
The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982) TV series starring Bill Bixby as David Bruce Banner, Lou Ferrigno as The Incredible Hulk, Jack Colvin as Jack McGee.
5 Seasons, 82 episodes, 44mins each.
In the comics the Hulk was Dr. Bruce Banner, but it was changed to David Banner (Bruce was later revealed as his middle name) for the TV series because the studio thought 'Bruce' sounded a little gay, I kid you not. The producer Kenneth Johnson also wanted to change the Hulks colour to red instead of green, Stan Lee rejected the idea.
Bill Bixby (1934-1993) had been popular on TV with My Favorite Martian (1963-1966), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969-1972) and The Magician (1973-1974).
Lou Ferrigno (1951-) a professional bodybuilder and actor had won Mr. America and Mr. Universe Bodybuilding Championship Awards before turning into the Hulk. He appeared with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron, an entertaining look at the world of bodybuilding. He has also played Hercules and Sinbad on film.
To satisfy the fans David Banner had to change into the Hulk at least twice in each episode. Richard Kiel and Arnold Schwarzenegger were considered for the Hulk before it went to Ferrigno.
IMDB rating 7.0
Captain America (1990) directed by Albert Pyun, starring Matt Salinger as Steve Rogers / Captain America, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, Michael Nouri, Kim Gillingham, Melinda Dillon, Bill Mumy and Scott Paulin as the Red Skull. 97mins.
This film is closer in tone to the comic books than the 1944 serial, showing Steve Rogers suffering from polio and turned into a supersoldier by a female scientist working for the US government, she is killed by a Nazi spy. After a battle with the Red Skull Captain America crashes his plane somewhere in Alaska, where he is found frozen 50 years later.
Dolph Lundgren was considered for the role of Captain America but was busy filming The Punisher (another Marvel Comics hero).
IMDB rating 2.9
Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD (1998) directed by Ron Hardy, starring David Hasselhoff as Colonel Nicholas Joseph Fury, Lisa Rinna, Sandra Hess, Neil Roberts and Gary Chalk. 120mins.
The Hoff as Nick Fury, nuff said.
David Hasselhoff (1952-) produced and starred in one of the most watched TV series in history, Baywatch (1989-2000). Hot girls in skimpy bikinis running around on the beach, that was the formula and it worked!
IMDB rating 3.5
Hulk (2003) directed by Ang Lee, starring Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross, Sam Elliott as General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, Josh Lucas and Nick Nolte as David Banner. Music by Danny Elfman.138mins.
An unusual project for Taiwanese director Ang Lee, who was previously known for the films Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), Sense and Sensibility (1995) and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000).
Eric Bana (1968-) was the second actor to play the Hulk's alter ego Bruce Banner.
A well made, well acted and expensive movie but it was a little too serious in tone, not enough humour. I liked the comic book panels in some sequences.
Hulk was nominated for a Best Science Fiction film Saturn Award, and the visual effects received a nomination from the Visual Effects Society Awards.
It took two and a half million hours and 180 ILM technicians working one and a half years to create the computer generated Hulk, and it still looked fake.
Hulk cost $137m to make and has grossed $245m worldwide.
IMDB rating 5.7
Iron Man (2008) directed by Jon Favreau, starring Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark / Iron Man, Terrence Howard as Colonel James Rhodes, Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stone, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Leslie Bibb, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, Paul Bettany as the voice of JARVIS and Samuel L. Jackson (uncredited) as Nick Fury. Music by Ramin Djawadi. 126mins.
Critically acclaimed and successful, the first live action appearance of Iron Man. A huge gamble was taken in casting Robert Downey Jr (1965-) who's many drug-related problems and imprisonments turned the movie industry against him. The success of the movie and plaudits he received in the role of billionaire playboy and genius inventor Tony Stark has turned his life around.
Christine Everheart: You've been called the Da Vinci of our time. What do you say to that?
Tony Stark: Absolutely ridiculous. I don't paint.
Christine Everheart: And what do you say to your other nickname, the Merchant of Death?
Tony Stark: That's not bad.
Samuel L. Jackson (1948-) makes his first appearance as Nick Fury after the end credits.
Nick Fury: You think you're the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet.
Tony Stark: Who the hell are you?
Nick Fury: Nick Fury. Director of SHIELD.
Tony Stark: Ah.
Nick Fury: I'm here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative.
Nicolas cage and Tom Cruise were both interested in playing Iron Man.
Oscar nominated for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects.
Iron Man cost $140m to make and has grossed $585m worldwide.
IMDB rating 7.9
The Incredible Hulk (2008) directed by Louis Leterrier, starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, William Hurt as General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky / Abomination, Tim Blake Nelson and Christina Cabot. Music by Craig Armstrong. 112mins.
A sequel to the 2003 Hulk but with a different cast and director.
Bruce Banner: [in poor Portuguese] Don't make me hungry. You wouldn't like me when I'm hungry.
Tough Guy: [in Portuguese] What the hell is he talking about?
More like the comic book Hulk than the previous movie, faster-paced and more humour, with a destructive showdown between monsters, Hulk vs Abomination. The visual effects for the look of the Hulk are a little better this time but it still looks like an elaborate special effect, to be fair the monstrous size and exaggerated muscles of the Hulk and its green colour doesn't help to integrate it well with its surroundings.
Abomination: Any last words?
Hulk: Hulk SMASH!
Ex-Hulk Lou Ferrigno recommended Edward Norton (1969-) to the producers because he reminded him of the late Bill Bixby. Ferrigno voices the Hulk in the movie.
Robert Downey Jr has a cameo before the end credits talking to William Hurt.
The Incredible Hulk cost $150m to make and has grossed $263m worldwide.
IMDB rating 7.0
Iron Man 2 (2010) directed by Jon Favreau, starring Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle as Lt. Col. James Rhodes / War Machine, Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman / Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Garry Shandling, Jon Favreau and Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko / Whiplash. Music by John Debney. 124mins.
Disappointing sequel to Iron Man (2008) with Mickey Rourke (1952-) as a mumbling, incoherent, barely bothering third tier villain. Tony Stark, drunk, showing off and dancing in his Iron Man suit is a low point.
Gorgeous Scarlett Johansson's (1984-) first appearance as Black Widow, her big fight sequence is a highlight.
Nick Fury: I've got my eye on you.
Tony Stark: I told you I don't want to join your super-secret boy band.
Terrence Howard was replaced by Don Cheadle as 'Rhodey', Entertainment Weekly reported that director Favreau did not enjoy working with Howard whose pay was more than the star Robert Downey Jr in the first film. He wanted a substantial increase in wage to return and was shown the door instead.
Oscar nominated for Best Visual Effects
Iron Man 2 cost $170m to make and has grossed $624m worldwide.
IMDB rating 7.0
Thor (2011) directed by Kenneth Branagh, starring Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Colm Feore as King Laufey, Ray Stevenson as Volstagg, Jaimie Alexander as Sif and Rene Russo as Frigga. Music by Patrick Doyle. 114mins.
An excellent comic book adaptation of one of the more difficult superheroes to bring to life on the silver screen. Kenneth Branagh has done an ace job putting it all together, Asgard home of the Norse gods looks impressive and Hopkins is good value as Odin.
Chris Hemsworth (1983-) as Thor, God of Thunder and Tom Hiddleston (1981-) as Loki, God of Mischief, are very well cast. Natalie Portman (1981-) is good as lovely Jane Foster.
Odin: You are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!
Thor: And you are an old man and a fool!
Odin: Yes... I was a fool, to think you were ready.
Odin: Thor... you have betrayed the express command of your king. Through your arrogance and stupidity, you've opened these peaceful realms and innocent lives to the horror and desolation of WAR! You are unworthy of these realms, you're unworthy of your title, You are unworthy of the love of those you have betrayed! I now take from you your power! In the name of my father and his father before me, I, Odin, cast you out!
Channing Tatum, Daniel Craig and Brad Pitt were rumoured to be in consideration for the role of Thor. Brian Blessed was considered for the role of Odin.
Thor's hammer 'Mjolnir' is so powerful it can smash through a mountain, it has the inscription "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor."
Thor cost $150m to make and has grossed $449m worldwide.
IMDB rating 7.0
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) directed by Joe Johnston, starring Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. Music by Alan Silvestri. 124mins.
Joe Johnston had directed The Rocketeer in 1991 and was a good choice to direct Captain America. Rich in period detail the film captured the look of the old comics perfectly.
Nick Fury: At ease, soldier! Look, I'm sorry about that little show back there, but we thought it best to break it to you slowly.
Steve Rogers: Break what?
Nick Fury: You've been asleep Cap. For almost 70 years.,,, are you going to be okay?
Steve Rogers: Yeah. Yeah, I just... I had a date.
Sam Worthington and Will Smith were considered to play Captain America.
Chris Evans (1981-) had previously played the Human Torch in the two Fantastic Four films.
Captain America's shield is made from vibranium, a fictional alloy which can absorb vibrations.
First appearance of the 'tesseract' the mysterious object possessing unimaginable power which figures more prominently in The Avengers (2012).
Captain America cost $140m and has grossed $368m worldwide.
IMDB rating 6.8
The Avengers (2012) directed by Joss Whedon, starring Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark / Iron Man, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Music by Alan Silvestri. 142mins.
Retitled Avengers Assemble in the UK in case we Brits confuse it for The Avengers starring John Steed and Emma Peel.
Tony Stark: Let's do a headcount: Your brother, the demigod; a super-soldier, a living legend who actually lives up to the legend; a man with breathtaking anger management issues; a couple of master assassins; and you've managed to piss off every single one of us.
Loki: That was the plan.
Tony Stark: Not a great plan.
This was the big one and it delivered. One of the best superhero movies ever made, kudos to Joss Whedon for putting it all together so expertly. All the heroes have their moment to shine, the Hulk steals the show and got the biggest applause from the audience at my screening.
Tom Hiddleston was enjoyably nasty but the invading alien force were fairly anonymous, who were they and who cares? The extended climactic battle is spectacular and worth the price of the ticket in itself.
Tony Stark: Dr. Banner, your work is unparalleled. And I'm a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.
Bruce Banner: Thanks.
Edward Norton was supposed to return as Bruce Banner but couldn't negotiate a deal with the studio, he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo who is excellent as Banner. The Hulk itself is well rendered and looks better than previous versions, it does look like Mark Ruffalo.
Tony Stark: When they come, and they WILL come, they'll come for you.
Loki: I have an army.
Tony Stark: We have a Hulk.
Stay for the end credits which contains a scene featuring the appearance of a Marvel comic book villain who might turn up in an Avengers sequel.
The Avengers cost $220m to make and has grossed $1,511,757,910 worldwide, making it the third biggest film of all time.
In America the film opened with a record-shattering $207m in 3 days and a total of $623.3m by the end of the year.
IMDB rating 8.8