This weekend sees the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the third film in Marvel's Phase 2 of movies seemingly designed to introduced an expanding roster of comic book figures into a multi-film universe for the rest of human history. Confirming this latter point, Marvel film impresaro Kevin Feige mentioned (jokingly? seriously?) in an interview published this week that his brain trust has a line-up of films planned, potentially, up to 2028. Now, whether anybody genuinely things that having that kind of long game planned out is remotely practical, if Marvel is just thinking out loud, or if they're genuinely just that hubristic, nobody can say at this point. And cannot say for 14 years. But the fact that Feige can even joke about it says that Marvel plans to be in it for the long haul.
So it's undoubtedly premature, but with CA: TWS coming in as the ninth film in the overall series, it gives us the exact right number of titles so far to run the series through the Film Experience's patented Posterized system.
Starting things off
Iron Man (2008) - $318,412,110 domestic, $266, 762,121 overseas
It was only six years ago, but it's already kind of hard to remember what a chance Marvel was taking on a mostly unknown superhero played by an actor with no meaningful box-office history. That the film did so well and helped to reignite the entire superhero genre speaks to its lightning-in-a-bottle quality; from where I stand, it's still clearly the best film in the franchise
The Incredible Hulk (2008) - $134,806,913 dom, $128,620,638 os
The closest to a flop in the whole bunch, back from the days when the audience didn't quite know where this whole thing was going.
Iron Man 2 (2010) - $312,433,331 dom, $311,500,000 os
A critical moment: even though pretty much everybody agrees it's nowhere near as good as the first, everybody still saw it. And you'll note that it was almost exactly as big overseas as in the States, the clearest sign that things had taken off and there was no going back.
Thor (2011) - $181,030,624 dom, $268,295,994 os
The numbers don't look astonishing, but at this point, Marvel was basically going out of its way to come up with characters that had never made any real impact in the non-comics world. I'm no fan of either Thor film, but I will confess to being impressed that the studio was able to make such weirdness so palatable to so many people.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) - $176,654,505 dom, $193,915,269 os
A film that delights me more than it probably should, largely on the basis of the "Star-Spangled Man" number; and redeeming the seemingly unredeemable Chris Evans with a role he fit so unexpectedly well didn't hurt. The numbers weren't great, but the character wasn't an easy sell overseas.
The Avengers (2012) - $623,357,910 dom, $895,237,000 os
And just like that, we hit the silly place: a movie that made such a titanic amount of money that it almost can't be believed, striking a chord with audiences as only happens a couple of times a decade.
Phase 2 begins
Iron Man 3 (2013) - $409,013,994 dom, $806,426,000 os
The afterglow of The Avengers is easy to see in the box office, but the film's reception was a bit mixed: mostly liked, but with one of those particularly vocal jeering sections. Myself, I though its Shane Black snark was enough to make it better than its juggernaut of an older sibling.
Thor: The Dark World (2013) - $206,314,559 dom, $438,421,000 os
The same, with a larger jeering section, and less of a financial bump over its predecessor than many were predicting. Clearly not enough to trigger the downfall of the brand, or anything like that.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) - ?
Terrific reviews and a massive first week overseas all but guarantees this one will be better-liked and more successful than Thor: TDW. But let me turn it over to you:
How many have you seen? How do you rank them? Are you, like me, more terrified than excited at the thought of another decade and half of the things?