Seconds out… welcome to the 3rd annual Superhero Showdown!
LAST TIME OUT…
Before we get underway, let’s start things off with a review of 2010’s confrontation, which saw Marvel sequel Iron Man 2 taking on DC Comics’ Jonah Hex and Mark Millar’s Icon indie Kick-Ass for big screen superhero supremacy…
Our prediction from last year’s showdown – “A no-brainer here with Iron Man 2 odds-on – nay, certain – to storm the box office this summer and likely to challenge for the highest-grossing film of the year. It should easily treble the world-wide takings of both Kick-Ass and Jonah Hex (possibly even combined) and will no doubt manage to out-perform its predeccessor. Meanwhile, despite its adult content Kick-Ass should enjoy a good run for a comfortable second place, with Jonah Hex sinking down the outhouse and struggling to recoup its budget.”
The reality – Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass may have been the better movie but Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2 did of course dominate at the box office, pulling in global receipts of $622.1m to finish up seventh in the list of the year’s highest earners. This figure was WAY more than treble the combined gross of its rivals, with Kick-Ass banking $96.2m and Jonah Hex a pitiful $10.9m, just over a fifth of its production budget. Result!
THIS TIME OUT…
Marvel characters have emerged victorious in the past two showdowns (X-Men Origins: Wolverine having fended off competition from Watchmen in 2009) and with three movies incoming it’s all but assured they’ll go on to make it three in a row…
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Jaimie Alexander, Colm Feore, Stellan Skarsgård, Joshua Dallas, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Clark Gregg and Samuel L. Jackson
The first of two entries from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to arrive this year, Thor sees Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek) as the arrogant Norse God of Thunder, who is cast from Asgard by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and exiled to Earth to live as a human. There he meets Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), a beautiful young scientist who ultimately becomes his first love, which should prove fortunate for humanity when his dastardly foster-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) decides to send the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth.
With Marvel working towards the arrival of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers next year, they must be confident that 2011 slate will turn a decent profit. Thor doesn’t carry the same kind of name recognition with the general public as the likes of Spider-Man or The Incredible Hulk, but neither did Iron Man until Favreau’s 2008 hit. From what we’ve seen of the trailers so far it looks like Branagh could deliver an entertaining blockbuster with a good mix of action and humour (but hopefully more action). Thor arrives on April 29th (UK) and May 6th (North America). Check out the first and second trailers.
X-Men: First Class
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, January Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Jason Flemyng, Lucas Till, Zoë Kravitz, Ray Wise and Oliver Platt.
The X-Men movie franchise may have made over $1.5b in box office receipts but I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t agree that the series had been losing its way a little with X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Step forward Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn, who has assembled an all-new cast for X-Men: First Class including James McAvoy (Charles Xavier) and Michael Fassbender (Magneto). A Cold War-era prequel, First Class sees Xavier and Magneto working together to prevent Armageddon only for their differing ideologies to cause a rift between the friends that leads to the formation of the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants.
For a $120m blockbuster, X-Men: First Class has a hell of a tight production schedule (it only began filming six months ago), so you have to wonder whether the race-against-time will have a detrimental effect on the film. However, the highly-anticipated first trailer seemed to calm a lot of nerves when it debuted earlier this month and it certainly looks like there’s the potential for a strong X-Men film if everything comes together in time. As it’s envisioned as the first of a new trilogy, Fox will sure be hoping that it does. X-Men: First Class is scheduled to hit cinemas on June 2nd (UK) and June 3rd (North America), and is the only superhero flick this year to opt against a 3D release.
Directed by Martin Campbell
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Mark Strong, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Angela Bassett, Tim Robins, Temuera Morrison, Taika Waititi, Jon Tenney, Mike Doyle and Jay O. Sanders
Warner Bros. are aiming to launch a new franchise this year as Casino Royale director Martin Campbell brings the DC Comics character Green Lantern to the screen with a $150m origin story. Ryan Reynolds stars in the title role as Hal Jordan, a cocky test pilot who finds himself becoming the newest recruit in the intergalactic peacekeeping force known as the Green Lantern Corps. With encouragement from fellow test pilot Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), Hal must quickly master his powers if he is to defeat Parallax, a new enemy threatening to destroy the balance of power in the universe.
Unlike their other DC properties Batman and Superman, Green Lantern isn’t exactly a house-hold name (particularly here in the UK) but with Warner Bros. harbouring intentions to follow Marvel’s Avengers route with a Justice League movie (both The Flash and Wonder Woman are in development), the studio will be hoping Ryan Reynolds has enough pulling power to make this a success. Will it work? The trailer wasn’t exactly earth-shattering (watch it here) but it’s bound to be an improvement on Jonah Hex, which isn’t really saying all that much. We’ll find out when Green Lantern lands on June 17th.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones, Richard Armitage and Samuel L. Jackson
Chris Evans swaps the black and blue of the Fantastic Four for the red, white and blue of Captain America this July with The First Avenger, director Joe Johnston’s World War II-set Avengers lead-in. Transformed from feeble G.I. to muscle-bound Sentinel of Liberty by way of a healthy dose of Super-Soldier Serum, Steve Rogers (Evans) embarks on a period of intense training and – armed with his indestructible shield – he the fight to the Nazis, the terrorist organisation HYDRA and his arch-nemesis, the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).
While a minority of fans were initially concerned about Evans swapping one Marvel character for another, seeing him in action in the brief Super Bowl spot (see it here) seemed to brush aside any concerns and it looks as if The Wolfman director Joe Johnston could end the summer season on a high. The First Avenger is sure to rake in the bucks domestically, but questions remain over how it will perform in other markets (distributors in the likes of Russia and South Korea have already decided to drop ‘Captain America’ from the title) and if Thor doesn’t perform to expectations it will only increase the pressure on Cap to deliver. Captain America: The First Avenger will be released on July 22nd (North America) and July 29th (UK).
Unlike previous years it’s hard to predict an overall winner here. Thor may not the most popular character in the Marvel universe but has the advantage of being the first superhero in cinemas this year so I’d expect it to perform well and probably exceed the $263m world-wide gross of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk. It will likely be a toss-up between Captain America and X-Men: First Class for the North American box office crown, but First Class has to be the favourite for victory on a global scale and could go on to become the highest grossing instalment in the franchise.
That just leaves poor old Green Lantern, whom I expect to be on a hiding to nothing with Warner Bros. once again struggling to recoup their outlay. Fortunately 2012 should prove a lot more fruitful for the studio with both Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and Zack Snyder’s Superman: Man of Steel set for release, although Marvel will look to counter with The Avengers and Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man (oh, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance).
Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think…