It's hard to believe that it's been a year since The Avengers (2012) hit theaters worldwide, forever changing the superhero landscape, and cementing Joss Whedon as Marvel's shepherd for the near future.
What better way to celebrate the anniversary - and prepare yourself for Marvel Phase 2 - than to watch the movie over again. We'd be willing to bet that much of the behind-the-scenes planning and Avengers trivia still goes unnoticed by even the most devoted of fans. But fear not: we're here to help.
1. Embodying Whedon's Women
After Loki arrives on the scene and the task of introducing 'the good guys' begins, it is Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) who kicks things off. The scene was actually a particular treat for Whedon, who had studied the Russian language and literature in college, finally getting to put them to use.
Whilst filming the scene (which despite its order in the film, took place quite late in the shoot) executive producer Jeremy Latcham noted to Whedon that the scene was the only one which appears in the film exactly as it was written in the director's first draft of the script.
Perhaps that's not entirely surprising, given Whedon's flare for heroines (most notably in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Whedon himself confessed that the Widow introduction is essentially "my career in microcosm," featuring a 'helpless female' tied to a chair, who turns out to be much stronger than the men around her.
2. Angel Beats Spider
Once Widow decides to put an end to the interrogation, she attacks her would-be captors while still tied to the chair. The ensuing fight scene kicks off the film (literally) with some of the most memorable choreography - credited largely to Johansson's stunt double and industry veteran, Heidi Moneymaker.
Besides offering a memorable fight, the ensuing battle finally gave Whedon the chance to film a stunt he had written almost a decade prior. Specifically, having the bound woman flip end-over-end onto her assailant, taking him out of the fight and shattering the chair in the process.
Unfortunately, Charlie's Angels (2000) featured the stunt first - with Drew Barrymore in the role - but it's a safe bet more people have seen Moneymaker's version at this point.
3. Banner's Bassinet
In one of the first scenes filmed during production, the introduction of Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has the mad scientist explaining to Natasha Romanoff that despite his wishes to keep from unleashing his alter-ego, he warns: "I don't every time get what I want."
The line had been written long before the time came to shoot, but when Joss Whedon noticed that the set decorators had included a crib (splattered with green paint) among the objects found in the improvised Calcutta setting, he realized the words would carry far more weight if Banner touched it as he uttered the line.
Ruffalo agreed, and the shot made it into the final cut of the film. It's an easy moment to miss, but for those paying close attention, the shot offers one of the only glimpses into the life Bruce Banner might have led.
4. Director's Intent (?)
It's the kind of transition that makes great directors recline with a sense of accomplishment, and makes producers give wry smiles to all involved: Following the introduction of Captain Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Colonel Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) asks the war hero for his thoughts on the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube's power. Rogers' response: "you should have left it at the bottom of the ocean."
Immediately cut to Iron Man where? The bottom of the ocean. Following the previous segue of Fury remarking to his superiors that "the world needs soldiers" followed by Captain America's introduction, one might think that Whedon had the film plotted out perfectly beat-by-beat.
In reality, it was Marvel head Kevin Feige who recommended that Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) be the last character introduced. As a result, the juxtaposition of the line and scenery was nothing more than a happy accident. Still, coincidence? We think fate was at work.
5. A Dash of Pepper
It may come as somewhat of a surprise - given how memorable the scene turned out to be - but Joss Whedon's original script didn't feature Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) at all. It was only Robert Downey, Jr.'s insistence that had Pepper included to give Tony some depth (he would later go on to insist on Pepper sharing a larger part of Iron Man 3 as well).
Whedon didn't object, claiming that the addition of Potts gave him the chance to "write three minutes of The Thin Man," referring to the quick-and-witty 1934 film starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. The film was infamous for the banter between its leading couple, and is even set to be remade with Johnny Depp in the main role.
The remake has since run into delays, but don't expect Depp to discuss it with Whedon any time soon; it was The Avengers' mammoth box office that limited Depp's last remake, Dark Shadows, to a disappointing domestic gross.