‘The Avengers’ assemble: Filming gets underway in New Mexico

It’s a big day in the Marvel Universe — principal photography is now underway in Albuquerque, N.M., on “The Avengers,” the film that will bring together the superheroes from four separate film franchises and, perhaps, launch a few new ones.

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) and the Hulk (Oscar-winner Mark Ruffalo, stepping in for the banished Edward Norton) will be joined by Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, reprising her slinky S.H.I.E.L.D. spy role from “Iron Man 2“) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, who makes a cameo with his bows and arrows in “Thor,” which opens May 6) as well as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), the representatives of S.H.I.E.L.D., the secret-ops government agency that appears to be the glue holding much of the upcoming mythology in place. As expected, Tom Hiddleston from “Thor” will be the bad-guy Loki, which fits with the classic 1963 tale from the first issue of the Avengers comic book. The lineup of heroes here is different than the roster from that vintage first issue; Widow and Hawkeye weren’t on the scene yet, and two of the printed-page founding members, Wasp and Ant-Man, are (so far, at least) nowhere to be seen.

 

So director Joss Whedon, the man behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the woefully mistreated “Firefly,” is now at work with a large cast that will challenge even his signature affinity for group dynamic and dialogue. The biggest star on the set is the Downey, who took upstart Marvel Studios to dizzy heights with their first feature film,  “Iron Man” in 2008, and even higher with the 2010 sequel — the two films collectively brought home $1.2 billion in worldwide box office. It was that success, primarily, that has propelled Marvel Studios PresidentKevin Feige’s dream of delivering this unprecedented team-up film, and all eyes will be on the summer releases of “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” — if those characters don’t bring in heroic numbers on their own, the mood (and the story emphasis) on this new venture will be affected in interesting ways.