Marvel Movie Bracket Game: Iron Man Vs. Thor
Avengers: Age of Ultron kicks off the summer movie season today. To celebrate, we’re spending the first half of May looking at Marvel movies. The superhero genre was dominated for decades by Warner Brothers with its Batman and Superman movies. But in recent years, Marvel has become the dominant force. Not only have they taken the momentum from their distinguished competition, they have pushed superheroes into the spotlight. Nowadays, the cineplexes are overflowing with movies based on Marvel comics. Which one will rise above the rest? That’s up to you, True Believer.
In our second X-Men bracket, First Class beat out Days of Future Past. I confess, I found the result somewhat surprising given that Days of Future Past was liked better by critics and a bigger hit at the box office. But the readers have spoken. Now, First Class will face off against X-Men 2 in round two.
In today’s match, two of the most powerful Avengers face off. It’s Iron Man vs. Thor. In comics, that would make for an epic showdown. But comparing the movies, I expect the end result will be a bit more lopsided.
Iron Man is the movie that launched Marvel’s cinematic universe. It was a huge gamble that has changed the face of movies. At the time, the idea of making a movie about a C-list character like Iron Man seemed ludicrous. Iron Man was up against Batman and Indiana Jones. Expectations were that the movie would be completely overshadowed by higher profile heroes.
The movie was directed by actor John Favreau who was best known for having directed the Will Ferrell comedy, Elf. He took on a larger budget with the sci fi movie, Zathura, but that movie was a box office disappointment. There wasn’t much on his resume to suggest he was up to the task of a major franchise.
Today, Robert Downey Jr. is able to negotiate raises for himself and all of his co-stars because the perception is that he is the heart of the Avengers franchise. But the announcement that Downey had been cast as Tony Stark elicited fan outcry. Downey was better known for his personal struggles than for on screen heroics. Those who had been paying attention to his career knew he was up to the task. But pre-Iron Man, very few people were paying attention.
Against the odds, Iron Man was a hit. It remains among the best-reviewed of all Marvel movies. Only Spider-man 2 currently has a higher rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While it couldn’t compete with the Dark Knight, it exceeded anyone’s expectations and became the second-highest grossing movie of 2008.
Iron Man spawned two very successful sequels. Iron Man 2 was the third-highest grossing movie of 2010 and Iron Man 3 was the second-highest grossing movie of 2013. While not as highly regarded as the original, both sequels have received mostly positive reviews.
In 2011, Marvel was ready to branch out. In order to launch its superteam Avengers, Marvel wanted to introduce the characters in solo movies. The first up was Thor. Thor was an even more difficult character to adapt than Iron Man. He lived in Asgard which is full of magic and mythology that works on paper but could look and sound silly on screen.
Marvel’s solution was to make Thor a fish out of water comedy. We’re introduced to Thor in his home world and see just enough of it to understand what makes the character tick. Then he is stripped of his powers and sent to earth where he must prove himself. Chris Hemsworth as Thor managed to charm both Natalie Portman and audiences with his easy charisma and light comic touch.
Thor wasn’t the game changer Iron Man was. But reviews were positive and it was the 10th highest grossing movie of 2011 (two spaces ahead of Captain America: First Avenger). While Thor was more of a base hit than a home run, it did what it needed to do to set up the Avengers franchise. In 2013, it spawned a sequel, Thor: Dark World. The sequel wasn’t as well-received, but it still performed well enough to warrant a third film.
If this were a slugfest, I’d put my money on the god of thunder. But I expect the outcome of this vote to heavily favor the billionaire philanthropist playboy. Time to cast your vote.