"'The Avengers' challenge was just not so much the scope of it," Downey said. "It's funny to think about a superhero movie as being complex, but I think it was a little bit daunting imagining how you get the balance of all of these intersecting stories. ...
"It was a bit of a welcome relief in a certain sense in that 'Avengers,' once it took shape, was a very, very smartly executed and controlled venture."
Whether alone or together, much of the gang will be back. Downey's about to start shooting "Iron Man 3," Hemsworth and Evans have "Thor" and "Captain America" sequels coming and there's talk of solo spinoffs for some of the other Avengers.
Unlike "Avengers" and "Amazing Spider-Man," ''Dark Knight Rises" will not be playing in 3-D. Director Nolan just isn't a fan. Nolan does like shooting for the huge-screen IMAX format, so fans can count on a visual spectacle in those theaters.
"On 3-D, I don't know if that was ever even a debate," said Gary Oldman, who returns as Batman's police commissioner ally, Jim Gordon. "It's IMAX. That's as big and bold as it gets, so there's plenty of that."
Anne Hathaway signs on as Catwoman, while Nolan's "Inception" co-stars Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy join returning Batman cast members Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine.
Nolan and his cast have kept details secret, but the film could spell a dark end for Bale's Dark Knight: Hardy plays the villain Bane, the brawny brute who broke Batman's back in the comic books.
Hardy has a tough act to follow. The late Heath Ledger won an Academy Award as Batman's last foe, the Joker, in "The Dark Knight."
"I find it interesting that he picked Bane as a villain, and he was not tempted to use the Riddler or the Penguin, the more obvious choices," Oldman said. "It suits the story better. It's a great read, it's a great piece. And there we are. There's the end of it."
Here's a look at other summer highlights:
— "Battleship": Taylor Kitsch and Liam Neeson are in the Navy now as sailors take on inhuman invaders in an action tale inspired by the game.
— "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel": Those classy Brits put some sophistication into summer with a tale of UK retirees in India. With Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Tom Wilkinson.
— "Chernobyl Diaries": Six rookie tourists mistakenly visit the site of the nuclear disaster and find unexpected horrors in the abandoned place.
— "Dark Shadows": We bet the latest reunion of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton will bring some fresh bite to vampires as they adapt the creepy TV soap opera featuring a 200-year-old blood-sucker.
— "The Dictator": Sacha Baron Cohen outdoes Castro with his wild beard in this comedy about a tyrant battling for untruth, injustice and the totalitarian way.
— "Men in Black 3": Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones return to fight aliens in a time-traveling action comedy that adds Josh Brolin as the young version of Jones' Agent K. Nice casting.
— "What to Expect When You're Expecting": Everyone's in a family way with an ensemble tale about pending parenthood that features Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks and Dennis Quaid.
— "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter": Can't wait for Steven Spielberg's upcoming biopic "Lincoln"? Then catch the 16th president (Benjamin Walker) as he emancipates the land from blood-suckers.
— "Brave": A Scottish lass (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) must undo the chaos her defiance has unleashed on her kingdom in the latest from the animation maestros at Pixar.
— "G.I. Joe: Retaliation": The toy soldiers inspire another live-action firefight featuring Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson.
— "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted": The zoo animals are still on tour as voice stars Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith return.