First, right off the top, what did you think about Iron Man 3? Did it live up to the hype? How much did you love RDJ punking off that little kid? How much did you want to own Pepper Potts’ wardrobe? Were you actually kind of sad when DUM-E and Butterfingers fell into the ocean? Or any time the Mark 42 got dinged up in combat? I have always been impressed with the filmmakers’ ability to anthropomorphize the suits and Tony’s robot pals, and it paid off in that hella amazing sequence of Tony’s house plummeting into the ocean (so long, coolest movie house of all time), and the quick shot of the two robot friends trying to hold onto one another as they fell. There’s an ongoing conversation about whether or not Iron Man 3 is better than Iron Man, but I put them on the same level. Iron Man is stronger narratively and has a much better ending, but Iron Man 3 took bigger risks and had a more distinctive aesthetic thanks to director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang).
And of course, Iron Man 3 is destroying previous entries in the franchise, netting $174.1 million over its opening weekend, making it the second biggest opening weekend of all time, behind its big cousin, The Avengers. Presently IM3 has over $680 million in worldwide box office and is on pace to make AT LEAST $800 million cumulative, though I think it’s going to push closer to a billion (Edit: It made $1.2 BILLION). What does this mean? It means The Avengers was not a fluke.
Yes, Iron Man is the most popular of the—sub-franchises?—in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and yes, audiences have an extreme degree of affection for Tony Stark and Robert Downey, Jr., so IM3 gets an extra bump because it is and always has been the cornerstone of this project. But the real story of IM3’s success is not “people really love RDJ/Tony Stark”, though they do; the real story is that The Avengers worked so well the entire web of Avenger-related franchises is now standing on a higher platform. Exactly how much higher will be determined by Thor: The Dark World come November—with RDJ component removed that will be a better gauge for the long-range impact of The Avengers.
But it’s looking good. Even though Thor 2 is a bit of a mess at present (Edit: No longer messy–looks like a solid fantasy film), the early forecasters for box office predictions are strong, and they’ve gotten stronger in the wake of IM3. It’s way, way early, but looking at the benchmarks industry analysts use to make predictions, Thor 2 could be looking at a $700-800 million total take, nearly double what Thor 1 did. And that’s the post-Avengers reality: the base audience for these movies has been doubled. It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens with Guardians of the Galaxy, the first brand-new franchise entry to follow The Avengers. When Marvel announced their intent to make Iron Man starring the recently-rehabbed RDJ, the industry collectively rolled their eyes. Seven years later, the joke’s on them.