It’s only been three years since Marvel Studios first teased audiences with the possibility of finally seeing The Avengers assemble on the big screen – and yesterday cameras officially started rolling on the film. Now that production is underway in Albuquerque, New Mexico,  it’s probably only a matter of time before we catch our first glimpses of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in action together.

For now, we’ll have to make do with this set photo that Marvel has just released. It’s not a particularly revealing image, but looking at it gives me the same feeling I had when I saw all of the actors take the stage together at Comic-Con last year. It helps cement the fact that The Avengers isn’t just headlines and speculation anymore – this is actually happening.

Included with the photo is a vague summary of the film’s plot, which explains that the film will center around the appearance of “an unexpected enemy that threatens global safety and security”. This of course forces S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to mobilize a team that can “pull the world back from the brink of disaster.”

I know many fans are still hoping to see the The Skrulls and The Kree make an appearance in The Avengers, but unless this portion of Marvel’s press release (coupled with a certain leaked scene from Thor) is starting to paint a different picture:

Based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series, first published in 1963, “Marvel’s The Avengers” brings together the mightiest super hero characters as they all assemble together on screen for the first time. The star studded cast of super heroes will be joined by Cobie Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother) as Agent Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as Tom Hiddleston (“Wallander”) and Stellan Skarsgård (“Angels & Demons,” “Mamma Mia!”) who will both reprise their respective roles as Loki and Professor Erik Selvig from the upcoming Marvel Studios’ feature “Thor.”

That synopsis suggests that Loki will be at the center of the trouble that faces The Avengers team – but then again, that angle still fits a rumored scenario for the film that surfaced a month ago, in which Loki will bring the Kree/Skrull war to Earth. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s truly the way things play out.

In the meantime, here’s the full-sized first set photo from The Avengers:

Captain America’s New Costume

In other Avengers news, Chris Evans recently spoke with MTV and revealed that he’ll be sporting a new version of the Captain America costume in the film. It sounds like he was hesitant to retire the original design, but the most recent permutation of the costume still wound up growing on him:

“Yeah, it’s awesome. It’s really cool. I was worried because I started to get really attached to the old one. It’s not that easy to move in, but I started really liking it. The first time I tried the new one on I was like ‘Aw, I miss the old one’, but it was early stages  … I was just in Albuquerque a couple days ago and we did a camera test with the new suit and it’s pretty rad.”

Evans also indicated that one aspect of The Avengers that he’s particularly looking forward to is the complicated relationship between Captain America and Iron Man:

“There’s friction between myself and Tony Stark. You know, they’re polar opposites. One guy is flash and spotlight and smooth and the other guy is selfless and in the shadows and kind of quiet … and they explore that and it’s pretty fun.”

J.A.R.V.I.S. Confirmed for Avengers

Speaking of Stark, it turns out his A.I. pal J.A.R.V.I.S. (voiced by Paul Bettany) will be a part of The Avengers as well. A contributor to the Superhero Hype forums attended a press conference for Bettany’s new film Priest and the actor confirmed that Whedon has been in contact with him:

“Yes, I am involved in this project. Don’t know when we will start though, usually they call me when they’re almost finished with the movie, so we will see where this goes.”

Thor Trailer Remixed

Finally, Conan O’Brien’s been having some fun dubbing the voice of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in a few trailer parodies. The most recent one aired last Thursday and it’s pretty amusing. Check it out:

The “I’m Thooooor!” line cracks me up every time I watch it. Good-natured teasing from Team Coco aside, early reviews suggest that  Thor will be a fairly solid film. However, something tells me that Conan isn’t ready to retire this bit just yet, so stay tuned.

Despite what’s starting to feel like an onslaught of films from Marvel Studios, it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of something as ambitious as The Avengers. Everyone’s anxiously waiting to see if this gamble pays off and what it might mean for future Marvel films (and comic book movies in general).  In the meantime, we’ll keep you up-to-date with the film’s production.

Thor is currently in theaters overseas and will hit U.S. theaters on May 6, 2011.

Captain America: The First Avenger will be in theaters on July 22, 2011.

The Avengers hits theaters on May 4, 2012.

Source: Marvel, MTVSuperhero Hype, and Team Coco.