Here’s the thing about 2012’s summer blockbuster The Avengers: aside from making over $600 million dollars at the box office and nearly clearing its 220 million dollar budget on opening weekend alone, it made history. All of the character buildup and introductory movies beginning with 2008’s Iron Man were stellar, but having all of these beloved characters come together on screen and have it be successful is astonishing.
Alas, with great success come great strife, and looking forward to the next series of solo ventures for the Marvel heroes leading to the inevitable Avengers sequel, there appear to be mounting financial issues.
Robert Downey Jr., in his role as Iron Man, made an estimated $50-80 million dollars from the Avengers, far exceeding his celebrity cast mates including Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans. The reason for this simple: after the success of Iron Man, a frankly mid-tier superhero in terms of popularity and an overall risky venture with Downey’s checkered history of substance abuse, he renegotiated his contract to include a percentage on profits made from future films. And when The Avengers soared, so did Iron Man.
Comparatively, it appears as though Thor, The Hulk and Captain America all got the short end of the proverbial stick. Evan, Ruffalo and Hemsworth all reportedly made between 2-6 million dollars reprising their roles in the superhero mash-up, and some are fed up. Evans and Johansson in particular have made their disdain public, saying they believe they deserve more compensation.
From Marvel’s standpoint, I can understand why they are willing to shell out the overwhelming amount of cash for Iron Man. Anyone who’s seen the Avengers can see Tony Stark, the man beneath the suit, is the star. Downey’s charismatic presence and well-honed acting ability shines through. He truly is Iron Man. Everyone else, while valuable, can be replaced in Marvel’s eyes.
Take The Hulk as a prime example. If you include 2003’s Hulk (you really shouldn’t, it’s awful), the not-so-jolly-gamma-radiating giant has been played by three different actors. The Incredible Hulk, perhaps the best of the pre-avengers hero films, featured Edward Norton, a respected dramatic actor with iconic films such as Fight Club and American History X on his resume. And yet when he pushed for more influence over The Avengers script and how The Hulk should be handled, Marvel dropped him like a bad habit.
Other examples abound. Colonel James Rhodes, Iron Man’s uptight military sidekick originally played by Terrence Howard, was replaced in the sequels by Don Cheadle. If you escape the existing Avengers movie universe, moviegoers have seen two separate Spider Man film revivals in the last 11 years alone. After Tobey Maguire’s trilogy left a bad taste in the studio’s mouth, they simply green lit an entire new franchise under the dubious Amazing Spider-Man heading.
While I don’t want to see some other actor throwing Captain America’s shield or blasting baddies with the lightning of Thor, it wouldn’t be too huge of a surprise to see it, given past actions. And realistically, the average film fan who shelled out their eight bucks to see The Avengers isn’t going to care. Sure, some comic fan-boys and girls may complain on forums, but ultimately they’ll be seated, clutching their buttery popcorn and coma-inducing sodas just like everyone else.