The Avengers movies: everything you need to know so far
Expectations are high for Avengers: Age Of Ultron, the latest film from the Marvel cinematic universe, and one that lands in multiplexes at the end of April in the UK. Here are some things that you might not know about The Avengers, to prepare you for their next adventure..
THE FIRST AVENGERS IS THE THIRD BIGGEST FILM OF ALL TIME
If you need proof as to just what the stakes are with Marvel's collection of Avengers movies, then consider this: on its release in cinemas in 2012, The Avengers - known as Avengers Assemble in the UK - took over $1.5bn at the global box office. Only Avatar and Titanic have ever beaten that. Throw in the cash that the film made from home formats releases and merchandising, and it's one of the most lucrative blockbusters of recent times.
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The Avengers. So, for instance, in The Incredible Hulk, Robert Downey Jr makes a brief appearance as Tony Stark, whilst after the end credits of the first Iron Man, we meet S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury - played by Samuel L Jackson - for the first time. He explains to Tony Stark that he's "not the only superhero in the world". And he's not kidding...
THE ROSTER IS CHANGING
So far, the core of The Avengers movies have been Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, the Hulk and Hawkeye. Iron Man has three films to himself too, whilst Captain America and Thor have two apiece, with a third to come. But the evolving nature of Avengers stories means the roster is set to change over time. Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel are but some of the characters Marvel will be bringing to the screen in the coming years. That's going to mean a lot of different action figures to collect...
SO IS THE DIRECTOR
After he's done on Avengers: Age Of Ultron, the man who has directed the two Avengers movies to date - Joss Whedon - is expected to move on to other projects. The next Avengers movies instead are reportedly going to be the work of Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, which is due in cinemas in 2016.
THE AVENGERS MOVIES DON'T ASSUME YOU'VE SEEN OTHER MARVEL FILMS
Just because the likes of Thor: The Dark World, Captain America, Iron Man 3 and Guardians Of The Galaxy have proven to be sizeable box office hits, that's not something that The Avengers film makers take for granted. They approach the films as if people are coming to them with no background knowledge, whilst layering in lots of treats for fans willing to look a little deeper. As director Joss Whedon notes, he's treated his pair of Avengers films in a manner not dissimilar to The Godfather. That events have happened between the various movies, and you don't need to have seen one to appreciate the other.
ACTORS HAVE TO SIGN LOOOOONG CONTRACTS
If you've got your long term sights set on joining The Avengers, then be aware that the leading cast of the Marvel cinematic universe need to commit for a long time to their roles. Chris Evans, for instance, signed a six picture deal to play Steve Rogers/Captain America, whilst Chadwick Boseman, who's signed up to play Black Panther, is committed to five films. Just bear that in mind before you head off for acting lessons...
THERE'S MORE TO COME
Make some space on your DVD/Blu-ray shelf: The Avengers films have barely begun. As well as Joss Whedon's The Avengers and incoming Avengers: Age Of Ultron, two more specific films have been confirmed. Avengers: Infinity War Part I is due in 2018, with Avengers: Infinity War Part II due in 2019.