Comic heroes unite to stop world destruction
A BIT like buses, you wait years for a superhero to come along then suddenly loads turn up at once.
Later this summer, Spider-Man and Batman return to silver screens, in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises respectively. But before that comes Avengers Assemble – a superhero extravaganza, in which no less than six Marvel Comic favourites unite.
Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans have reprised their super-skilled alter-egos – Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor and Captain America – while newcomers Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner join the pack as The Incredible Hulk and Hawkeye, for Joss Whedon's highly anticipated blockbuster based on the Marvel Comics series, The Avengers, first published in 1963.
The film's plot sees top secret international intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D (Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division) tasked with a world-saving mission, as Thor villain Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, is threatening to destroy earth.
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S.H.I.E.L.D leader Nick Fury, brought to life by Samuel L Jackson, calls in the superheroes.
Here's a closer look at the baddie-busting line-up...
THOR (GOD OF THUNDER) – Chris Hemsworth, below
Things get personal for Thor in Avengers Assemble, as he joins Fury's unlikely alliance to prevent his wayward brother Loki from destroying the world.
"Joining the team is tricky because he (Thor) has a more personal objective than the rest of them. His brother Loki is the one who's causing the chaos and he fears that the others may just want to kill him, instead of stopping him and taking away his powers," says the Australian actor.
IRON MAN (Tony Stark) – Robert Downey Jr
As the self-described "genius, billionaire playboy philanthropist", armoured superhero Stark is also the go-to guy for the Avengers, after previously agreeing to be a S.H.I.E.L.D consultant in Iron Man 2.
Unlike his alter-ego, who is reluctant to get involved at first, Downey Jr couldn't wait to get stuck in.
"I think more now that I'm 46, I should be in this phase of my development where you appreciate things while they're happening, and this is one of the first times I really had that feeling throughout the production," he says.
BLACK WIDOW (Natasha Romanoff) – Scarlett Johansson, pictured
Johansson loved playing the butt-kicking Romanoff, a valued member of S.H.I.E.L.D given her credentials as one of the world's best spies and skilled assassins.
The 27-year-old actress had little hesitation about squeezing back into the Black Widow's unforgiving catsuit, and did a lot of training for her role, though admitted it wasn't always easy doing the stunts.
"The whole thing was just one big injury – you get used to it. You just grin and bear it," she added.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK (Bruce Banner) – Mark Ruffalo
Following Edward Norton and Eric Bana's previous incarnations, the mean, green giant has undergone a transformation with Ruffalo – even in full fierce form, he is physically smaller.
The 44-year-old, who was inspired by his young son's rages, jumped at the opportunity to portray a superhero.
"As a kid, I was a Hulk fan, and I was a particular fan of the TV show," he says.
HAWKEYE (Clint Barton) – Jeremy Renner
As one of S.H.I.E.L.D's most elite agents, Barton, code-named Hawkeye, is the greatest living marksman on earth, and in Avengers Assemble is introduced to the big screen for the very first time.
"What I liked more than anything was the idea that he's a human being with a high skill set, who is a bit of a rogue agent," says 41-year-old Renner.
CAPTAIN AMERICA (Steve Rogers) – Chris Evans
At the end of his 2011 movie, Captain America crashed into the Arctic and froze. But now, decades later, he has defrosted – just in time to help save the world.
The 30-year-old admits that the Captain doesn't have it easy when he joins his fellow supers.
"The others give him a bit of grief in this one. He's just trying to do the right thing, but he has some hurdles," Evans adds.
LOKI – Tom Hiddleston
After his bid to overthrow the throne of Asgard which was thwarted by brother Thor, the angry demi-god plots deadly revenge against his sibling and the world.
"I get to be the ultimate baddie in a big blockbuster. Loki is terrifying. That's cool!" says Hiddleston.
The English actor, who learnt various fighting techniques including Wushu, boxing, knife work and hand-to-hand combat for the role, admits that he sometimes wished he'd possessed his alter-ego's godly powers during training, after smashing his elbow on set.