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'The Avengers' ensemble debuts to big overseas box office (+video)

'The Avengers' works thanks to the narrative of teamwork crafted by Joss Whedon. The film took in $185 million in the first weekend. The Avengers opens Friday in the US.

The Avengers actors discuss the movie at the Tribeca Film Festival debut
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 The news is grim – a team member has gone down, the worst is feared – and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) exchange pensive looks while, all around them, the agents of a super-spy agency called S.H.I.E.L.D. tend to their duties as an off-planet enemy force threatens the entire planet.

The scene, being filmed on an elevated set, was watched from a safe and ironic distance by Joss Whedon. "You know, you shouldn't worry too much," the director and co-writer of "The Avengers" reassured a visitor to the New Mexico set. "This kind of stuff happens here almost every day in the Marvel universe."

It does feel sometimes like Hollywood has become a digital factory dedicated to cosmic dangers and costumed heroes, but "The Avengers" is a special case even in this summer when Spider-Man and Batman will also be back in action on planet popcorn.

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When "The Avengers" arrives in theaters on Friday it will represent an unprecedented Hollywood experiment – can the narrative threads from four film franchises come together to form a unified tapestry in a fifth, all-star franchise? (And by throwing in a couple of newer faces, can it even launch a sixth or seventh?)

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