He may not look like a team player but the Hulk is putting his anger to good work in superhero squad The Avengers. Michele Manelis reports.

Early in The Avengers, head superhero Tony Stark/Iron Man is chatting with head supervillain, Loki.

"I have an army," menaces the Norse god with designs on taking over the world with his many hench-creatures.

"We ... ," smiles Stark in reply, "have a Hulk."

As a movie, The Avengers might mark quite a moment in the Marvel comic-to-film universe. It's the franchise intersection between two Iron Man movies, which has made an action star of Robert Downey jnr, as well as second screen outings for relative superhero newbies Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth).


Also making the poster are Russian superspy Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, reprising her role from Iron Man 2) Jeremy Renner as uncanny archer Hawkeye, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury - the man from S.H.I.E.L.D (that's Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) attempting to co-ordinate all those skill sets.

But The Avengers also marks the return of the Hulk, this time played by Mark Ruffalo, an actor who, like Downey before Iron Man, had been largely immune to action blockbusters.

He's also the third actor in a decade to play the double act of Bruce Banner and the angry green behemoth after Eric Bana and Edward Norton each had a go, in 2003 and 2008, to mixed results.

But Ruffalo says his Hulk harks back to the 70s, early 80s television show starring Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby.

"I watched the entire TV series with my 10-year-old son, and after the third episode, he turned to me and said, 'Papa, he's so misunderstood'," laughs Ruffalo.

Ruffalo admits joining a team of established onscreen heroes, and facing the diehard opinions of superhero and comic fans was terrifying. "I'm in awe of all of these actors, but I made the mistake of going online and reading some of the fan-boy responses to the announcement that I was playing the next version of Bruce Banner," he laughs. "That was a huge mistake. I will never do that again."

Unlike his fellow costumed characters, Ruffalo had to wear a body suit that allowed his performance be a guide for the animated Hulk - and it isn't easy being green in front of a green screen.

"It was tough, and I just wish that I had a cool costume to wear the entire time, instead of a leotard that was painted like a Chinese checkerboard."


Despite his trepidations, it seems that Ruffalo is the crowd favourite on The Avengers team. During the premiere screening, each time the Hulk appeared onscreen, he was met with thunderous applause.

"I don't know what it is about the Hulk. He captures that part of us that wants to jump and scream. We are all so well-behaved and we finally get to see the explosion of all of our feelings in all of its green glory."

Meanwhile, for Downey jnr The Avengers means he can relax a little after carrying the first two Iron Man movies on his metallic shoulders.

"Just being a worker among workers is kind of where I started out. It was nice to not have to carry a movie. I think everyone is really equal in this venture. It's great."

And the film should keep the superhero fan base - a traditionally tough crowd - happy.

The Avengers is based on the Marvel comic book first created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and was made with a supposed budget of US$220 million ($270 million).

Essentially, The Avengers is a superhero war movie, its makers likening it to the classic 1967 film, The Dirty Dozen as well as Black Hawk Down, with Fury assembling the superbeings to fight Loki - Thor's evil brother - and that army.

But with Tony Stark ready with the wisecracks - "Dr Banner your work is unparalleled and I am a huge fan of how you lose control and turn into a huge green rage monster" - it's a movie armed with plenty of humour as the characters bicker and compete like a dysfunctional family.

"Well, look," says director Joss Whedon, "it's such a ridiculous idea, if you don't admit it and don't have fun with it, it wouldn't work. You certainly don't want to be ponderous for two hours. What distinguishes The Avengers, to an extent, is all the different colours in the palette."

Especially that prominent shade of green belonging to its biggest team member.

Watch the trailer for The Avengers: