Road To 'The Avengers': A Cheat Sheet

From casting until its international debut, the lead-up to Marvel's latest has had fans on the edge of their seats.

After four years and five films, "The Avengers" finally arrives in theaters. It's been a long road, full of stories, rumors and surprises, and now that the film is here, it's the perfect time to review how we got here.

For your convenience, we've taken a look back at MTV News' coverage to make this helpful cheat sheet, recounting how "The Avengers" came together.

Some Assembly Required

When putting together the biggest superhero ensemble of all time, the right cast is paramount. Luckily for director Joss Whedon and company, a lot of the cast was already in place, except for a few key members.

Shortly before shooting finished on "Thor" in 2010, Jeremy Renner signed on as Clint Barton (Hawkeye), master archer. He even joined in early enough to qualify for very special cameo in "Thor," ensuring a little recognition before the big game.

Certainly the most controversial casting move, Marvel and one-time Bruce Banner, Edward Norton, parted ways weeks before the big Comic-Con unveiling of the assembled cast. Mark Ruffalo famously signed on the dotted line just before taking the stage as an official part of the cast.

One final addition came in the form of a mysterious female role. After rumors about Demi Lovato passed, "How I Met Your Mother" star Cobie Smulders enlisted as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill.

Finding the Leader

Whoever Marvel chose to direct their massive crossover film needed to have a few specific qualifications. He or she needed to work well with an ensemble, know comics and already have the geek cred to win the fanboys over. Joss Whedon was simply the perfect candidate.

The news about the former "Astonishing X-Men" writer first broke on April Fool's Day, and everyone seemed hesitant to believe it. Nearly two weeks later, we had confirmation, and the dream of a great "Avengers" movie really began.

The Invaders

Obviously, if Loki was going to take on all of the Avengers, he was going to need a little help. But, who was he going to call on?

Fans familiar with the comic pegged the Skrulls and the Kree as likely candidates for invaders, and early reports from the spy photos from Cleveland showed Captain America and Thor fighting motion-capture stand-ins.

Both Whedon and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige denied the Skrull and Kree rumors.

Reviews Are In

Soon after the world premiere of the finished film in Los Angeles, positive reviews began to pour in all over the Internet. Bloggers called it a super-satisfying conclusion, one that actually lived up to the hype.

Splash Page editor Josh Wigler concluded in his review of "Avengers" that the film "exceeded all expectations for just how great this movie can be."

Box Office

When a summer tent-pole movie comes with this much hype and brand recognition built in, it's nearly impossible for it not to succeed financially at the box office. Early tracking for "Avengers" predicted it would collect a very respectable $150 million in its opening weekend.

While there are still some questions about how high "Avengers" will fly during its U.S. debut, in the international market, where the film is already open, it has smashed records and nears the $300 million mark.

Check out everything we've got on "Marvel's The Avengers."

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