Marvel Movie Bracket Game: Iron Man Vs. Thor

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.

Marvel Movies

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.

Le Blog


Posted on May 1, 2015, in Bracket Game, Movies, Super Heroes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. daffystardust

    This really is no contest. Iron Man is extremely well conceived both as an origin story that is motivated by character and sets up its world believably and as a star vehicle for Downey. I guess I wasn’t paying any attention to what other people were saying at the time, but when I heard he would be playing Tony Stark my reaction was completely positive. It’s hard to imagine anyone better suited to play the egomaniac playboy genius with a drinking problem. I’ve heard some people suggest that back in the late 70s Burt Reynolds may have done the character justice, but I can’t imagine him inventing anything more complicated than a smokeless ashtray. Who else was considered for the role?


    • The usual actors were attached; Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, etc. Favreau wanted a new comer originally, but then focused on Downey. Like you, I thought it was perfect casting. But most people still thought of Downey from his Brat Packier days or as a jailbird/drug addict. Pre Iron Man, he wasn’t taken seriously by most. Marvel resisted largely because of Downey’s public substance abuse issues. But Favreau eventually convinced them to roll the dice.

      Yeah, I like Thor more than most people. But its impossible to overstate the importance of Iron Man. At the time, I actually hated the character from comics. Civil War had turned him into a real prick. Even worse than usual. I had no desire to see an Iron Man movie and I actually didn’t see it until about a month into its release. Eventually, the positive word of mouth and a free movie ticket convinced me to give it a try. And I was completely won over by the movie’s very simple charms. There’s nothing complex about it. It’s just a good piece of entertainment.

      I think Thor is under-rated. I think a lot of people bristle at the movie’s fish-out-of-water comedy. It’s not a movie I am going to watch over and over again. But I have seen it 2 or 3 times and enjoyed it each time.

      Pretty much any movie I put up against Iron Man aside from Avengers, X-Men 2, Guardians of the Galaxy or Spider-man 2 was going to get trounced. That’s one of the problems with this bracket concept. There’s 3-4 movies that are operating on another level from all the others.


      • daffystardust

        Thor has always been a mixed bag as a character for me. I like having him hanging out with the Avengers. He’s visually bold and often contributes to really exciting action scenes because he can go toe-to-toe with just about any character out there on a variety of levels. On the other hand, he is a god, so it’s kind of hard to relate to him as a central character the way you can with somebody like Spider-Man or even tortured geniuses like Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark. If you want rock ’em sock ’em action, Thor is the place to go, but if you also want strong character development…not so much.

        Because of this, I was skeptical when they announced the movie. I even greeted its relative success and strong word of mouth with little more than passing interest. Once I finally saw the movie it was certainly better than it had any right to be, but I can’t say it really changed my mind. Even as a fan of Norse mythology, the Marvel version still works best for me as dramatic muscle on the Avengers team while we get to know the other characters.


        • I have read a few really good Thor solo stories. But I do prefer him as a team player. I don’t think I would make the jump that you can’t do a character-driven Thor story. But his bigger than life nature does lend itself more to epic action stories than quiet personal drama.

          The first Thor I thought was fun and charming. The second one, to me, showed the limitations of Thor as a movie lead. Hopefully the third film can up its game. But I’m worried based on what we saw in Age of Ultron, that Thor Ragnorak is going to be a lot of talking about Infinity gems which I am already sick of.


        • daffystardust

          I’m not suggesting that you can’t do a character-driven Thor story…just that they tend not to and the character doesn’t naturally fill in the gaps when they’re not trying hard. Spider-Man practically writes the emotional subtext of his stories all by himself without much effort from the writers.

          Like we discussed yesterday, comic book stories can get easily bogged down in explanations. I have my fingers crossed that the MCU does the infinity gems thing in shorthand, focusing on the characters and action that they help motivate. So far they haven’t been too heavy-handed, but they haven’t needed to, either.


        • My opinion on the Infinity stuff isn’t helped by the fact that every time they come up in comics, I go cross-eyed. I apparently never read the good Thanos story. Every Marvel space story I have ever read made me want to jump out the nearest window. But at some point, there must have been a good story which Marvel has tried repeatedly to duplicate ever since.

          Yeah, I figured that was more or less what you were getting at with regards to Thor. Of course we have to make it all about Spider-man! Spider-man fans always do. ;-P Even as someone who’s never really gotten into Spidey all that heavily, I have to admit he is easier to write than Thor.

          When comparing Batman and Superman, I often point out that part of the reason there are more decent Batman stories is that the character is much easier to write for. Much more flexible. The more powerful a character is, the less relatable they are and the harder it is to come up with a believable threat. Thor has all of those problems plus he says “thee” and “thy” all the time.


      • When I saw Thor, the fish-out-of-water elements were actually the parts I liked the best; I thought that Hemsworth, Portman & Co. played them very well, with Kat Dennings as the snarky kibitzer. The action and spectacle I found rather routine.


  2. I think the original post and the daffy/lebeau discussion pretty much covers the reasons why I voted for Iron Man (nice that I finally get to vote for a winner here). It’s not at the absolute pinnacle of superhero films for me but it’s in my top five or six. And it is very noteworthy as a career-changing role for Downey. By 2008, his substance-abuse problems, at least as I understand, were several years in the past. But while he’d been working pretty steadily, he wasn’t a big box office star, he was doing either prestige dramas or indy films. After Iron Man, and subsequently Sherlock Holmes, he’s one of the most clear-cut A-listers out there.


    • I think this one and Guardians Vs. Howard will be pretty lopsided affairs. Although Thor is getting some votes. Not sure if those are votes against Iron Man or for Thor. Maybe they are votes for a shirtless Chris Hemsworth. I have heard he has some pretty ardent fans.


  3. Iron Man is probably the best of the Avengers group of Marvel movies (not the best MCU movie, that’s Guardians). Though, Winter Soldier is right up there too.

    I definitely like Thor, especially the comic elements, but it just doesn’t stand out as anything special to me. Among MCU films I’d put it above Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2, maybe Iron Man 3 as well. But I enjoyed the rest of the movies, Thor 2 included, more.


    • I am admittedly biased by my Captain America fandom. But I’ll take Winter Soldier over the first Iron Man. I would have to think long and hard about Cap: FA vs. Iron Man. And I’d probably still give that to Cap because I’ve always liked the character and never really liked Iron Man. But I can definitely agree that Iron Man is among the best Marvel movies.

      I’m not sure I agree GotG is the best Marvel movie overall. On second viewing, I liked it a lot less than I did the first time. Winter Soldier held up better for me. Again, bias. But I’m not sure that’s entirely it.


  4. Rock the Casbah

    I strongly support Iron Man in this round. Most of the reasons to vote Iron Man have already been well covered in the post and the comment stream. To them, I’ll add that, unlike most of the other entries, Iron Man handles the origin story deftly. Lebeau pointed out that most of the first entries in these series are burdened with the weight of exposition. Iron Man, however, takes that exposition and makes it fun and exciting. And, of course, Downey is a great fit for Tony Stark. If I had to choose a handful of film comic book superheroes well matched with the actors who played them, Iron-Man Stark/Downey would definitely be on the short list. Can’t think of another actor who could better portray the quick witted, quip dispensing egomaniac genius than Downey.

    Probably a bit unfair on my part as I have not seen Thor. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I prefer comic book superheroes with origins based on something within the realm of human experience (scientific experiment, invention, etc.) rather than those based on magical powers or mysticism. I regret the word “dislike” that I used for such characters (like Thor) but I just cannot deny this preference. It’s NOT the fact that I necessarily find the origin story more technically believable. As Daffy said, it’s really pseudo-science explanations that have NO basis in scientific reality, and, as Lebeau said, the details of the origin story are less important that than the fundamental essence of the character. But, as Lebeau hinted at, characters like Thor (essentially Gods or mystical beings) are NOT as relatable to me as ones that come from the realm of human experience (a teenager granted superhuman power thru a science experiment who struggles with the implications OR a brilliant but flawed inventor who must decide how to use that invention and manage his life with it).

    So, in this round, one more vote for Iron Man.


  5. This is an interesting one for me. I’m a big vikingphile, and sometimes reader of Thor comics. I went into the cinema listing to Bathory, wearing an Amon Amarth shirt, and writing a story that combines Norse mythology with space opera. And yet I hated the movie. Asgard looked incredibly fake, Anthony Hopkins’ and Ray Stevenson’s beards looked terrible, Sif’s armour was stupid, I didn’t enjoy the bulk of the plot. The Earth stuff was entertaining, though.

    Iron Man I went into with few expectations other than an entertaining movie. I loved it! Everything was great!

    And yet I’ve watched Thor a couple of times since. It improves with rewatching. Iron Man I got bored in the first half-hour. This is a pairing I just can’t vote on either way.


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