It was the big one to end Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase One. It was also the one that announced Robert Downey Jr. would officially be their leader. Now, the RDJ-led film is again making noise, this time on the Paramount+ streaming service, sitting impressively at number four on their most-watched list.
Marvel’s The Avengers was the culmination of five previous Marvel films – Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. These prior Marvel movies paved the way for one of the most successful films in Hollywood history.
The Avengers brings together Robert Downey Jr with many familiar heroes and villains from past films while setting up new heroes and villains for future adventures. Here, we find the devious Loki meeting up with The Other, the leader of an extraterrestrial race known as the Chitauri. Their deal on the table: Loki will retrieve the Tesseract while The Other will provide Loki with an army so he can rule Earth.
In a remote research facility, Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), a friend to Thor, is conducting research on the Tesseract when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) arrives. As the experiments continue, the Tesseract suddenly activates, opening a wormhole that allows Loki to arrive on Earth. Loki then takes the Tesseract and uses his scepter to take control of Selvig, other nearby agents, and Clint Barton/Hawkeye. As Fury is able to escape Loki’s scepter, he initiates the Avengers initiative, where the heroes will be called to work together to stop a major threat.
The team is slowly brought together with the help of Natasha tracking down Bruce Banner, Fury locating Steve Rogers, and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) asking Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark for his help.
Loki arrives in Stuttgart with Hawkeye and others in order to obtain iridium, which will help stabilize the Tesseract. After a confrontation against Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow, Loki surrenders.
Loki is in the process of being transported to S.H.I.E.L.D when Thor arrives, hoping to convince Loki to abandon his plan and return to Asgard with him. Of course, Loki has no intention of altering his plan, causing strife within the Avengers. They divide on how to deal with Loki. The division intensifies when they realize that S.H.I.E.L.D. has plans of their own for the Tesseract. They want to use the Tesseract’s power to develop weapons to use against hostile forces.
The arguing Avengers are distracted, allowing Loki to use agents under his mind control to attack the Avengers Helicarrier. Banner becomes enraged, causing the Hulk to appear and promptly begin destroying the Helicarrier. While the remaining Avengers try to keep the Helicarrier flying, and Robert Downey Jr’s character has a heroic moment with the help of Captain America, Loki has done major damage, killing Coulson in the process.
Not only does Loki take out Coulson, but he is also able to open a wormhole above Stark Tower for the invasion on Earth. Now, the Avengers must put their petty squabbles aside and do what Fury intended for them to do – protect Earth.
Joss Whedon was the mastermind of The Avengers. He was given the director’s chair and took a script originally written by Zak Penn and retooled it to fit the new narrative. Not only did Marvel hand Whedon the keys to the car, but they also gave him $220 million to film his epic superhero adventure. It paid off, and then some. Whedon rewarded their faith in him by bringing home over $1.5 billion at the box office, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
It was the success of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man that prompted Marvel and President Kevin Feige to announce in 2008 that The Avengers would have a 2011 release date. The intent was to bring Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo taking over for Edward Norton), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) together as the ultimate team to battle against whatever entity threatened Earth. When Scarlett Johansson was brought on board as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, the movie was pushed to 2012 to allow the story to further develop.
The success of The Avengers set up three more team-ups, Phase 2’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Phase 3’s Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Those four films alone have brought in a mind-boggling $8 billion for Marvel and Disney worldwide at the box office.
While the attraction of The Avengers lies in seeing all the superheroes come together in battle, the true strength of the film, the glue that holds it all together, is Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark. He wasn’t director Jon Favreau’s first choice to play Iron Man in the 2008 original film. Favreau actually approached Sam Rockwell for the part. But Favreau changed his mind immediately after Robert Downey Jr. screen-tested for Tony Stark.
Audiences immediately took to Downey Jr. as Iron Man. The sequel, Iron Man 2, came two years later for Downey Jr., and the plan for the end of Phase One with The Avengers was set in stone. In total, Robert Downey Jr. has played Tony Stark/Iron Man in 10 Marvel films, the most of any actor in the MCU.
Downey Jr. (supposedly) ended his Marvel affiliation with Avengers: Endgame and followed it up with the ill-fated remake of Dolittle, a film that was meant for family fun entertainment but missed by a wide margin. Unfortunately, not everything that Robert Downey Jr. touches turns to gold as Universal announced that they lost between $50-100 million on the film.
This bit of bad news hasn’t stopped Robert Downey Jr., nor should it. Up next for him is the feature All-Star Weekend and then fans will see him in the TV mini-series The Sympathizer. Also on tap for Downey Jr. is his return to the sleuthing world of Sherlock Holmes, with the third film in the series.
For now, you can see Robert Downey Jr. in the film that kicked off an $8 billion franchise. The Avengers can be seen on Paramount+.