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Sunday March 3rd 2024

The Avengers (Avengers Assemble) | 2012

The Avengers location: 9th Street at Euclid Avenue, Cleveland
The Avengers location: Captain America takes charge of the battle against the Chitauri: 9th Street at Euclid Avenue, Cleveland

The Avengers (Avengers Assemble) poster

The idea of bringing together a whole bunch of superheroes risked ending up as an over-egged mess, yet the characters were so well cast and established in the previous films, and the script witty enough, for Joss Whedon to pull off a satisfying epic.

▶ The studio filming was at the Albuquerque Studios, 5650 University Boulevard SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is where most of the interiors were built, including that of the helicarrier, S.H.I.E.L.D’s spectacular flying aircraft carrier.

Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) is called to the ‘Joint Dark Energy Mission’ laboratory, where Professor Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) is working on the Tesseract – that staple of 21st century cinema, a source of clean energy.

Unfortunately, it’s all going a bit wonky and is soon opening up that staple of 20th century sci-fi movies, a portal, the means by which one character can transport magically from one movie to another, allowing the villainous Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to flounce in from Thor.

▶ The exterior of the secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility is Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, 10800 Dennis Chavez Boulevard SW, southwest of Albuquerque, augmented with plenty of suitably hi-tech dressing, including a full-scale helicopter pad smack in the middle of the school’s quad.

Apart from New Mexico, the film was shot around Cleveland, Ohio, and the vast laboratory itself is the122-feet high aluminium vacuum chamber of NASA’s Space Power facility, Plum Brook Station, in Sandusky, about 65 miles west of Cleveland.

As Loki makes off with the mighty hypercube, the underground passages through which he makes his escape with Prof Selvig and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are the 150 miles of abandoned limestone tunnels 300 feet beneath the ground at Creekside Mushroom Farm, Moonlight Drive, in Worthington, east of Cleveland over the border in Pennsylvania. It’s reputedly the largest mushroom farm in the world – and who’s going to argue?

▶ Still in Ohio, the ‘Russian’ warehouse alongside the railroad tracks where Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is being interrogated until she gets an important phone call, is an old refrigerator warehouse on Ashland Road at Cedar Avenue, east of downtown Cleveland.

▶ She’s soon off to seek out the retiring Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in ‘Calcutta’, which is actually the old Santa Fe Railyard, 2nd Street SW in the Barelas neighbourhood of Albuquerque, tricked out with three containers of set dressing shipped from India. The same railyard was previously featured in Michael Bay’s Transformers.

‘Stark Tower’, the headquarters of Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr) empire is, of course, added digitally to central Manhattan, replacing the MetLife Building to tower over Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building.

The Avengers (Avengers Assemble) film location: Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Cleveland
The Avengers location: Loki appears at the gala evening in ‘Stuttgart’: Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Cleveland | Photograph: Stan Hughes

▶ In ‘Stuttgart, Germany’, Loki drives the terrified party-goers from a black-tie gala out onto the street. The venue for the formal do isn't in Germany at all. The interior is that of the Cuyahoga County Court House, 1 West Lakeside Avenue, Downtown Cleveland. If you're planning a big splash, you can hire the Beaux Arts-style building, built in 1912 and now referred to as the Old Courthouse, for your wedding – multi-dimensional beings permitting.

The Avengers (Avengers Assemble) film location: Public Square, Cleveland
The Avengers location: Loki demands the crowd kneel before him in ‘Stuttgart’: Public Square, Cleveland

▶ Don’t be fooled by the German signs and bierkellers – the exterior of the benefit venue is Terminal Tower, overlooking the ‘Stuttgart’ square where Loki forces the crowd to kneel to him, which is Public Square, Cleveland. The Tower complex was built in 1930 (and for a brief while it was the second-tallest building in the world) as the Cleveland Union Terminal, the city's answer to New York's Grand Central. A new Amtrak station was constructed in the Seventies and CUT ceased to be a rail station altogether in 1977.

This same block also used to house Higbee's, the department store where Ralphie first sees the much-desired Red Ryder BB Gun in 1983 seasonal favourite A Christmas Story.

After a short battle with Captain America and Iron Man in Public Square, Loki is captured suspiciously easily, and imprisoned aboard the helicarrier. For the tarmac scenes on the helicarrier, about 100 feet and one-story of the conning tower of the ship were built on an old landing strip at Albuquerque airport (the rest being added digitally).

Staying in New Mexico, the warehouse into which Bruce Banner plummets, in front of a barely discomfited security guard (Harry Dean Stanton), is back at the Santa Fe Railyard.

Loki’s plan involves taking his battle to take over Earth to the centre of Manhattan where he opens up another one of those portals above ‘Stark Tower’, enabling an army of his allies, the Chitauri, to descend on the city.

The Avengers location: Park Avenue at 42nd Street, Manhattan
The Avengers location: the final battle with the Chitauri: Park Avenue at 42nd Street, Manhattan

▶ The battle appears to be on the viaduct above Park Avenue in front of Grand Central Station at 42nd Street. To film a major battle at such a busy intersection would have been impossible, so three blocks of the roadway were recreated on stage in Albuquerque, surrounded by green screen to allow the avenue and the terminal to be added later.

The Avengers location: 9th Street at Euclid Avenue, Cleveland
The Avengers location: the Avengers team battle the Chitauri in ‘Manhattan’: 9th Street at Euclid Avenue, Cleveland

▶ Much of the ‘Manhattan’ battle was filmed on East 9th Street, at Euclid Avenue, in downtown Cleveland, dressed as New York – and pretty much the same area around which the Sand Man rampaged in Spider-Man 3.

▶ It’s in front of the 1900 terra-cotta Rose Building, 2060 East 9th Street., that Captain America and Thor stand together to face the alien army.

The Avengers location: 9th Street at Euclid Avenue, Cleveland
The Avengers location:Iron Man crashes to earth alongside the shawarma joint: East 9th Street at Euclid Avenue, Cleveland

▶ Just to the north of Euclid Avenue, the fictitious ‘Shawarma Palace’, alongside which Iron Man crashes to earth after tearing through the Chitauri’s mechanical creature, was added to the eastern side of East 9th Street.

The Avengers location: 9th Street at Barn Court, Cleveland
The Avengers location: the ‘New York’ subway station entrance: 9th Street at Barn Court, Cleveland

▶ Opposite the Rose Building, the entrance to the 29-story Cleveland Trust Tower, 900 9th Street at the corner of Barn Court, was transformed into ‘Grand Central-42nd Street’ subway station. Coincidentally, the Cleveland Trust Tower was built in 1971 by architect Marcel Breuer after his plan to build a similar skyscraper atop the real Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan fell through.

The Avengers location: Cleveland Trust Building, East 9th Street, Cleveland
The Avengers location: captain America rescues the trapped civilians from the bank: Cleveland Trust Building, East 9th Street, Cleveland

▶ Alongside the tower, the glass-domed Rotunda of the currently disused 1905 Cleveland Trust Building itself, at the southeast corner of East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue, stands in for the bank at ‘42nd past Madison’, where Captain America rescues the cornered civilians.

The Avengers location: 101 Park Avenue, Manhattan
The Avengers location: Hawkeye and Black Widow crashland in New York: 101 Park Avenue, Manhattan

▶ Hawkeye, Black Widow and Captain America crash their ship in the real New York, onto the plaza in front of 101 Park Avenue, a skyscraper often at the centre of action – remember it as ‘Clamp Tower’ in Gremlins II, from Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King or Woody Allen's Alice?

▶ And with the battle over, it’s at the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, New York, that Thor finally takes his wayward brother Loki into intergalactic custody.

• Many thanks to Stan Hughes for help with this section.