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The Avengers - and Robert Downey Jr. - looking good

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Footage has leaked online from the Disney presentation in Anaheim a couple of days ago of the new Avengers movie - and fans are liking what they are seeing, especially Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man.

It's amazing to think that Downey Jr. is now so synonymous with his superhero alter ego. Writing about his life in my biography Robert Downey Jr.: The Fall And Rise Of The Comeback Kid, I was amazed to discover the forces working against him to be cast in the original film. He prepared for three weeks for his one-hour screen test (auditioning was not something he normally did), working out and crafting his performance. But while he knocked the test out of the park, Marvel still weren't sure. Only the intervention of director Jon Favreau, convinced he had his man, saved his bacon. The rest is history.

General movie buffs are on the fence about the new film. The Avengers' superhero line-up features characters from four different individual movies (Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America and The Hulk though the latter is played by a new actor), some of which have been great and others not so much.

Comic book readers have enjoyed Avengers stories for years, but mounting a modern franchise blockbuster is a whole other matter. Iron Man 2 was just one of the films which suffered from an overload of characters, losing the freshness, verve and simplicity of the first outing. This many heroes in one picture? Could be great and we hope so, but lots could go wrong.

One thing that's not in doubt are the actors who've been chosen. Double Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) joins Mark Ruffalo (as the new Hulk), while Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Downey Jr. reprise their previous roles.

And when the new footage was revealed, Downey Jr.'s barbed banter with baddie Loki (Brit actor Tom Hiddleston back from Thor) got the biggest cheer from the watching crowd.

The Avengers is in many ways a big gamble for film company Marvel (though publicity and sheer screen volume will guarantee a massive opening) - but if Downey Jr. can be given the chance to shine without going overboard and the rest slots into place, we may have a genuinely transformative superhero movie on our hands.