Sunday, March 9, 2014
By ROD HARMON Deputy Managing Editor
When "The Avengers" movie opens on Friday, it will mark a unique approach to establishing a film franchise: Make big-budget marquee films over a period of years with separate casts but with the intent of having the main characters come together into one movie later on.
Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark in the "Iron Man" movies, a role he reprises in "The Avengers."
Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner in 2008's "The Incredible Hulk."
And as an added touch, weave a plot thread -- in this case, the forming of a team -- throughout all five films, sprinkling secondary characters and cameo appearances throughout to heighten the effect.
Here's a quick recap of the films that have led up to "The Avengers." (SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen the movies but intend on doing so, read ahead at your own peril -- or, as Thor would say, "Shield thine eyes!")
"Iron Man" (2008): Tony Stark is a brilliant scientist/inventor. He's also a billionaire playboy, a risk-taker and a bit of a jerk. While in Afghanistan demonstrating his company's latest high-tech weapon, he's mortally wounded and kidnapped by insurgents, who want him to build a similar weapon for them. But he builds a suit of armor instead that not only saves his life and allows him to escape, it's a one-man weapon complete with pulsar blasts, a near-impregnable hide and flight capability. (Comic book rule No. 1: The bad guys are always over-confident, allowing the heroes to do stuff on the sly.)
Naturally, it's not long before the government wants to get their hands on the armor, and Stark has to battle his own company's evil CEO, who's built a suit for himself. At the end, Nick Fury, head of a super-secret spy organization named S.H.I.E.L.D., tells Starks about something called "The Avengers Initiative."
"The Incredible Hulk" (2008): Dr. Bruce Banner is a genius scientist/inventor who's tasked by the government with recreating the super-soldier formula that resulted in Captain America. (See below.) He tests the formula on himself, and is transformed into the super-strong but short-on-intellect Hulk, trashing the place and earning the ire of Gen. Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross. (Comic book rule No. 2: Experimenting on yourself always results in something bad.)
Banner goes on the run but is hunted by Ross, who uses another variation of the formula on an assassin -- who eventually becomes more of a menace than the Hulk. Hulk smash! At the end, Ross is drinking in a bar when Stark approaches him and tells him about a superhero team that's being put together.
"Iron Man 2" (2010): Iron Man is now a world celebrity, but he's still a jerk, and an alcoholic to boot. He's also being slowly poisoned by the thing in his chest that's been keeping him alive since Afghanistan. Disgusted by Stark's drunken use of the Iron Man armor at a party, friend Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes, a colonial in the U.S. Army, takes Stark's War Machine armor and turns it over to the military.
Meanwhile, the son of a former partner in Stark Enterprises who was booted from the company for, you know, being evil, decides to build his own suit (with whips!) and take revenge on Stark. The bad guy is arrested but freed on the sly by Stark's nemesis, Justin Hammer, who wants him to build an Iron Man-type suit for him. The bad guy turns on Hammer and builds robots to kill everybody, and has to be taken down by Stark and Rhodes. (Comic book rule No. 3: Never hire a supervillain. Ever.) At the end, S.H.I.E.L.D. comes upon a strange-looking hammer in the desert belong to
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Chris Evans stars as the titular character in "Captain America," from 2011.