Set Visit: The Avengers, Part 2
Upon first arriving in the New Mexican desert, we arrived at a strange oasis. Out in the middle of nowhere, a backlot that wouldn't look out of place in Hollywood. Massive soundstages, big offices and all with air conditioning (glorious air conditioning).
Inside those buildings held the secrets to the entire Marvel movie universe.
Before we get started, I'll warn that some of the scenes I watched being filming would likely contain some major spoilers for the film, so proceed with caution...
Our first tour was off some of the sets that weren't being used, including the the control deck of the Helicarrier. As you've seen in the trailer (and as we were shown via production art), the Helicarrier is huge and just this one tiny section was enormous, filling up almost an entire soundstage. There were rows and rows of seats, each hooked up with a working computer where a bunch of SHIELD extras once sat.
Just as big was a peek inside Tony Stark's apartment, specifically the landing area outside his penthouse where he lands when he's done flying around in the Iron Man suit. There were some hints on this set that, uh, things weren't all peachy keen in Tony's apartment.
Speaking of Tony and things that weren't all peachy keen, we were next taken to a stage where filming was taking place. The scene in particular was between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, both upset and bickering back and forth. Director Joss Whedon would later tell us that it is this scene that finally breaks the tension between Iron Man and Cap, brings them together and helps to assemble The Avengers.
So what's happening?
Someone has died. Neither character came out and said who it was (I later would find out who it is) but both are upset. They're mourning the death, particularly Tony, who's shaken and ready for vengeance.
It's this scene that proves THE AVENGERS is taking things up a notch and raising the stakes for the Marvel superhero movies. Joss Whedon is something notorious for killing off fan favorite characters and THE AVENGERS isn't any different. But it's not just who dies, but how that character dies that will prove to be surprising...
I hinted at the second scene we saw being filming in Part 1 of my set visit report. It highlighted Black Widow and Hawkeye doing their best to ward of the invasion of the non-Skrulls. (Sadly, Scarlett Johansson wasn't filming this particular shot when we were there so she was standing off to the side.)
We were the first to see the non-Skrull aliens - stuntmen equipped with costumes and mo-cap dots across their face. They're sporting weapons clearly fused on another world (the alien language written on them was a dead giveaway) but considered it was just a guy wearing a costume, it was hard to tell what they would look like in the movie (something we have since seen in the TV spots).
It was hot, smoky (numerous lifesize taxis and buses were flipped over and on fire and filled with greenscreen. The soundstage was designed to replicate the exterior of Grand Central Station and Hawkeye was dispatching an army of aliens with his bow and arrow. But he had no arrows. Renner was pulling air out of his quiver and faking the arrows, which would be added later with CGI. It was an intricately choreographed fight sequence and it took all the actors a few takes to pull it off (with each whiff the tension in the room rose exponentially).
Our next and final stop was a tour through the production art room. There we saw the actual scope of THE AVENGERS, which is sometimes hard to tell looking at fractured sets on a soundstage. Inside we saw a beautiful painting of Thor on top of the Chrysler Building, his hammer raised to the sky meeting with a bolt of lightning. Another piece detailed a battle between Iron Man, Thor and Captain America and hinted we'll find out what happens when Thor's hammer meets Cap's shield.
It's somewhat frustrating because there were some amazing things we saw last year that we would've loved to reveal to you at the time and sadly we're only now allowed to talk about the set visit and most of these items have been given away in the film's trailers and clips.
But one thing was definitely clear on the Albuquerque set of THE AVENGERS: this isn't your father's Marvel movie. The stakes are raised, the game has changed and the Marvel universe will never be the same.
And that's awesome.