The news is grim – a team member has gone down, the worst is feared – and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) exchange pensive looks while, all around them, the agents of a super-spy agency called S.H.I.E.L.D. tend to their duties as an off-planet enemy force threatens the entire planet.
The scene, being filmed on an elevated set, was watched from a safe and ironic distance by Joss Whedon. "You know, you shouldn't worry too much," the director and co-writer of "The Avengers" reassured a visitor to the New Mexico set. "This kind of stuff happens here almost every day in the Marvel universe."
It does feel sometimes like Hollywood has become a digital factory dedicated to cosmic dangers and costumed heroes, but "The Avengers" is a special case even in this summer when Spider-Man and Batman will also be back in action on planet popcorn.
When "The Avengers" arrives in theaters on Friday it will represent an unprecedented Hollywood experiment – can the narrative threads from four film franchises come together to form a unified tapestry in a fifth, all-star franchise? (And by throwing in a couple of newer faces, can it even launch a sixth or seventh?)
International viewers seem to think so. The film raked in $185.1 million in 39 countries outside the US this past weekend, according to Disney. It set new records in the biggest box office opening weekend for any film in Mexico and Brazil. In the United Kingdom, it pulled in $24.7 million, which is the best weekend haul for a super-hero movie in the UK, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The great thrill the movie offers is a sky full of iconic characters, but the danger is that without a story that can handle their combined weight, the movie will never get off the ground.
"This is something unprecedented,and some days that makes it exciting, and then there have been days along the way where it was nerve-racking or a little scary," said Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios and the key architect of the latticework approach that connects "The Avengers" with the continuities of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk in their "home" franchises.
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