The Avengers is, without a doubt, one of the biggest movie events of the year. Combining four separate superhero licenses into one film on this scale is a first of its kind, and it’s 12 kinds of awesome (yes, we’ve seen it already).
However, we understand the pressure some of you may be feeling. Perhaps you never watched Thor. Or The Incredible Hulk. Or Iron Man 2. Perhaps you never stayed beyond the end credits for any of the films. Some of you may be worried that you’ll go into this colossal beast of a blockbuster without the knowledge of all the films that came before it. Or maybe you’ve just forgotten one or two titbits of info.
Never fear, for we have set up this quick crash-course/memory-refresher on everything and everyone you’ll need to know before going into The Avengers. Read our 4-star review here.
Iron Man/Tony Stark
Played by Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Appeared in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk; mentioned in Thor
Rich. Cocky. Engineering genius. These qualities combine into a narcissistic playboy who made himself one badass robo-suit, equipped to the teeth with intimidating weaponry.
He was first to be approached by Nick Fury for The Avengers initiative, but while S.H.I.E.L.D. wanted to work with the powerful heroic Iron Man, they did not want to work with the unstable arrogant Tony Stark.
He’s also trying to live up to his father reputation, Howard Stark (played by Dominic Cooper), a father who helped create the super soldier serum and retrieve the mysterious cube of near-limitless power.
Played by Mark Ruffalo (The Kids are Alright), previously played by Edward Norton (Fight Club) and Eric Bana (Hanna)
Appeared in The Incredible Hulk; mentioned in Iron Man 2 and Thor
Bruce Banner is a ridiculously smart scientist who got exposed to high amounts of gamma radiation. But, instead of dying like a regular human, he just turns into a giant green chaotic monstrosity whenever he gets angry.
The Army thinks he’s a threat, so they’re constantly trying to hunt him down. Banner doesn’t want this power, but he can never find a cure. Thus, he tries to avoid the problem entirely by channelling his inner Zen, or something. However, at the end of The Incredible Hulk, we see him in some yoga pose, smiling, eyes turned green. A hint of control, perhaps?
Also at the end of that film, we see Tony Stark wander up to General Ross (head of the take-down-the-hulk squad), mentioning his interest in Bruce and how they’re “putting a team together.”
Played by Chris Hemsworth (Home and Away)
Appeared in Thor; mentioned in Iron Man 2
Most of his powers reside in Mjolnir (pronounced “M-yoll-near”), a massive hammer that only the chosen one, Thor, can lift. Also, by spinning it around really really fast, he can fly. That’s how physics works, kids.
Once banished from Asgard, his home world, Thor was stripped of his godly powers, getting them back only when he was deemed worthy. Luckily, he got a chance to prove his worth when his brother Loki started wrecking doom on Earth and Asgard. After an honourable display of selfishness, Thor regained Mjolnir and his right to return home. Unfortunately, the portal they took to get to Earth was destroyed in the process.
Captain America/Steve Rogers
Played by Chris Evans (Sunshine)
Appeared in Captain America; his shield appeared in Iron Man 2
During World War 2, the American Army came up with a super soldier serum, capable of boosting a man’s physical and mental capabilities way beyond anything Barry Bonds could’ve hoped for. Young Steve Rogers was chosen for the experiment (labelled Project: Rebirth), going from twig to beefcake in only two painful minutes. Rogers was then pushed into the propaganda parade, becoming Captain America.
He was sent to hunt down a Nazi side-party called Hydra, lead by The Red Skull, whose head looks like… a giant red skull. The Hydra were in search of a legendary power source, which looks like a glowing blue cube.
After a series of gunshots, explosions and well-timed shield throws, Cap’ and Skull fight on an out-of-control aircraft. Skull looses, touches the cube and is inexplicitly zapped away by a giant bolt of lightning. Rogers crashes with the ship, landing in a frozen wasteland. He is thawed out decades later by an ever-present Nick Fury.
Played by Tom Hiddleston (War Horse)
Appeared in Thor
The brother of Thor discovered he was actually adopted. He didn’t take the news too well. He also lost the Asgardian throne to his older sibling-in-law. That’s what really made Loki go bonkers. Two ugly combinations of jealousy combined to make him the bitter merciless being he is today.
At the end of Thor, he fell into the abyss of space, presumably dead (but obviously not the case).
As the god of mischief and deception, he has the ability to cloak himself in some pretty arbitrary ways. He is also a master of manipulation.
Professor Erik Selvig
Played by Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Appeared in Thor
This honest middle-aged scientist is a colleague of Jane Foster, a smart, young, passionate scientist who ended up doing smoochie-face with Thor. He also claimed to have known Bruce Banner at one point.
At the end of Thor, Erik is taken to an underground facility where he meets up with Fury, who shows the doctor the near-limitless power-cube thing. Suddenly, in the reflection, that sneaky bugger Loki appears, whispering “Well, I guess that’s worth a look,” to which causes Dr. Selvig to say “Well, I guess that’s worth a look,” suggesting that Loki has him under some sort of spell.
Stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division
Aside from their astounding skills with acronyms, S.H.I.E.L.D. is an elite counterterrorism unit co-founded by Howard Stark, Tony Stark’s dad. They consist of:
Played by Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane)
Appeared in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America; mentioned in The Incredible Hulk
Fury is the one-eyed director of S.H.I.E.L.D, responsible for getting The Avengers initiative off the ground. His lack of depth perception doesn’t seem to affect his ability to fire a gun on point. However, his super secretive ways don’t exactly evoke trust within the people he associates with.
One by one, he’s organised various “meetings” with all the superheroes (except Thor), making them aware of his plans.
Agent Phil Coulson
Played by Clark Gregg (500 Days of Summer)
Appeared in Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Thor
S.H.I.E.L.D.’s go-to guy for leading the grunt work. Calm, cool, collected, Agent Coulson has gotten a bit of a cult following, spawning two amusing short-film. He gave Stark some extremely useful PR advice (which was largely ignored) and led the squad that occupied the area where Thor’s hammer crash-landed.
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff
Played by Scarlett Johansson (We Bought a Zoo)
Appeared in Iron Man 2
A Russian secret agent who works for S.H.I.E.L.D., experienced in manipulation, undercover work and several fighting styles including Tae Kwan Do and Lucha Libre (probably). She aided Iron Man in taking down Whiplash and his associate Justin Hammer.
Played by Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
Appeared in Thor
He’s good with a bow. Like, really good. Like, Robin Hood with four arms good. He’s also a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who almost shot an arrow at Thor.
Played by Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
A high-ranking espionage S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who works closely beside Nick Fury. There’s not much else to her at this point, but we suspect her character will play a bigger role in years to come.
And there you have it. You are now certified to watch The Avengers.
You may now print out your diploma.