John Gholson is a life-long Avengers fanboy who has previously covered all manner of superhero news at AOL. After dabbling with comic book self-publishing in the '90s, John moved on to study sequential art at the Savannah College of Art & Design, and currently produces a regular web comic, ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ for Tapsauce.com. You can read his Spider-Man Countdown here at Movies.com once a month.
Comic books and TV shows have no problem recapping the previous entries, but in movies, that’s a little more rare. Having seen The Avengers, I can tell you that there’s no such “Previously...in the Marvel Universe” montage that begins the story. You just jump right in. While the film does an excellent job starting with a fairly clean slate (for the two of you who see The Avengers without any prior knowledge at all), we’re here to catch you up to speed on where we last saw our heroes before Joss Whedon's film takes place.
Iron Man - We last saw Tony Stark displaying a bit of sour grapes towards S.H.I.E.L.D. Turns out that after careful consideration for the “Avengers Intiative,” Natasha Romanoff (aka The Black Widow) felt that Stark was too unstable for a spot in the planned roster of superheroes, but that he might make a good consultant. Stark, in his trademark narcissism, was sure he was a shoo-in, so instead of discussing the consultant role, he simply walked.
Hulk - Hulk was on the run, again. This guy is always on the run. The last time we see him, he’s settled into someplace new, and seems to have learned some minor bit of control over his rampaging alter-ego. The most important part of The Incredible Hulk, something that carries over directly into The Avengers, is Banner discovery that he can use Hulk as a tool for good, in the right conditions. It’s an important step in learning that he’s not just a monster, but a hero too.
Black Widow - After helping Iron Man and War Machine shut down Justin Hammer’s operation from within, she turned in a full psych report on Tony Stark to S.H.I.E.L.D. She says yes and no to Stark becoming a member of the Avengers - yes, he should help, but no, he shouldn’t be counted on as a member. Nick Fury’s trust in Romanoff is rock-solid, and it seems the Avengers will assemble without “Old Shellhead” at the end of Iron Man 2.
Thor - After a tough lesson in humility, Thor was seemingly trapped in Asgard forever, sacrificing the Bifrost to keep Loki away from it. The Avengers finds a way to bring Thor back down to Earth pretty quick, and there are several nods to his previous adventure in the new film.
Hawkeye - In keeping with his loose cannon nature, we last saw S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Clint Barton not taking the shot he was ordered to take to keep Thor away from Mjolnir. First he swapped out his sniper rifle for a bow, leading moviegoers who had no idea that Jeremy Renner was already cast in The Avengers, scratching their head. “First of all, what’s that guy doing here? Secondly, who gives up a rifle for a bow?” Hawkeye, that’s who. You won’t miss the sniper rifle at all, trust me.
Captain America - We left Captain America almost exactly same spot at the end of his solo film when The Avengers opens. He’s a man in the wrong decade, under S.H.I.E.L.D.’s watch, just waiting for the right time to get called back into action. And guess what? He does get that call. It’s too bad there’s no time in The Avengers to spend on Cap’s lost years, but I guess that’s what Captain America 2 is for.
“But what about our villain?” you ask. Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered.
Loki - We last see Loki, learning of the Tesseract (aka the Cosmic Cube) through the eyes of Dr. Erik Selvig in the post-credits segment of Thor. Nick Fury has no idea that he’s just shown off one of the most powerful weapons in the universe to an evil Norse god, and it’s an oversight that definitely comes back to bite Fury on the butt in The Avengers.
The Avengers, a Joss Whedon film, stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth. There are 2 days until release.