D23 Expo: The Avengers Footage Screened!

The pound of a hammer against shield. The crackle of lightning. The wit of Tony Stark. And the roar of Hulk. Today, in a packed arena at the D23 Expo, a frenzied audience salivating to see some of their favorite superheroes assembled felt the crushing blow of The Avengers.

At the tail-end of a lengthy Disney feature film preview, Marvel made its presence known as the studio's Kevin Feige took to the stage to show off an estimated four minutes of footage. Some of it seen in that post-credits teaser featured on prints of Captain America, but most of it fresh.

Marvel's presentation began with a frenetic intro reel piecing together clips from Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, The Incredible Hulk and Captain America. It was a montage of key scenes that best encapsulate the core of the characters and how their worlds collide. The reel culminates in a moment we're familiar with: Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury saying, "I'm here to talk about the Avengers initiative." With that, the crowd went bonkers.

Feige revealed writer-director Joss Whedon is, at the time of this writing, two weeks out from wrapping The Avengers and he had cobbled together a special preview for D23. The lights dimmed and the following played out…

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) takes his place in a prison of glass and metal. We presume he's on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Hellicarrier. Loki assesses his surroundings, but doesn't appear impressed. More amused. Nick Fury types away on a keypad nearby, threatening that if Loki even touches the glass, he'll meet a certain doom. But again, Loki isn't deterred by this. He's confident this prison won't hold him. Fury begs to differ, saying it was built to hold something powerful.

"You threaten my world with war. Steal a force you can't control. You have made me desperate," Fury says. Hinting, of course, to the Tesseract (the Cosmic Cube) seen in Captain America. Loki and Fury continue their tête-à-tête and we find that the Avengers have been assembled in another room and they're listening in. Elsewhere on the Helicarrier, we get a glimpse of Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), also monitoring the Fury/Loki encounter.

This extended scene flows well; the dialogue has a tight rhythm as these two large personalities, separated by glass, face one another. The intensity palpable. One gets the sense if Loki wants out… he'll get the hell out. But there's something else simmering in his motivations and, of course, we don't know what it is, because this scene gives way to a second teaser trailer, of sorts.

Enticing imagery that flies by furiously: A S.H.I.E.L.D. jet soars towards a city. Thor raises his hammer to the sky. Hawkeye taking aim with his bow and arrow. Loki standing on the back of a military vehicle (at least that's what it looked like, it flew by). Steve Rogers stands before a hi-tech closet. The doors pull away to reveal his revamped costume. Thor slams his hammer down on the shield of a crouching Captain America (training perhaps?). This is all inter-cut with Tony Stark, standing behind a bar making a drink, as he makes an Avengers "roll call": Two highly trained assassins, a "Demigod," an American legend… We realize he's doing this for Loki, who is standing in the room with him.

Loki responds to this with, "I have an army."

Stark quickly shoots back, "We have a Hulk."

The presentation ends with a close-up shot of Mark Ruffalo's Hulk snarling at the camera, then, The Avengers logo slams onto the screen.

The footage was terrific, however, it shies away from playing on the scope of the story. Yes, there's action. But the teaser is contained to its superheroes only, never once giving us a glimpse at some of the city-wide carnage we've been seeing in leaked spy videos (likely because that footage isn't finished yet, of course). Needless to say, a real crowd-pleaser packed with ambition and looking real sharp.

When the lights came back up, Feige returned to the stage to bring out Hiddleston, Smulders, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey, Jr. Downey took the mic – the only actor of the bunch to say anything – to rile up an already buzzing crowd. "We're happy to visit our parents here in Anaheim!" he enthused (referring to Disney). "Who wants to see that again?"

The audience cheered, the lights went down… and the preview exploded onto the screen one more time.

May 4, 2012 couldn't get here soon enough.