Superhero Showdown: Can The Avengers Top The Dark Knight Rises? [Op-Ed]

Two heavyweight giants meet both the silver screen and audience expectations this year, and for the sake of this article, we’re not even counting Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, which is pretty much guaranteed to rake-in your expendable income. We’re talking about the ultimate showdown – Marvel Entertainment’s The Avengers, the payoff that the company has been building up to for years, whetting our appetites for the better part of a decade with solitary efforts Iron Man, Iron Man II, Captain America, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk, versus universally-acclaimed director Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated conclusion to his Batman mythos, (successful with fans, non-fans, and critics alike) The Dark Knight Rises.

So. Which one will win our hearts this summer?

The Avengers is currently sitting comfy at the top of the box office. Foreign box-office sales are already at $178.4 million, just shy of a $200 million budget, and the critics love it (it currently holds a coveted 97% approval rating according to Rotten Tomatoes). All of that sweet success, and the film hasn’t even seen its US release yet – that happens May 4th.

The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t hit theaters until July 20th, and even though it’s pretty much a given that The Avengers will make a ton of cash, there looms its great rival, lying in wait until its opening in July. I’ve been following the development of The Dark Knight Rises, and I guarantee you this: no one, NO ONE, expects this movie to do poorly. In most circles, the question isn’t “can TDKR top The Avengers?”, it’s “can TDKR top The Dark Knight?” It’s highest competitor is its own predecessor. How’s that for perspective?

Let’s look at the spread. According to BoxOfficeMojo, The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan’s 2008 Batman flick starring the late Heath Ledger) sits comfortably on top of the highest-grossing superhero movies of all time. You may have heard that the movie raked in just over $1 billion at the box-office, making it one of the highest-grossing films of all time period. All three Spiderman movies follow under the superhero genre. Iron Man (who stars in The Avengers) doesn’t even place until 5th. Then the list drops. Thor in at 15th. Captain America in at 17th. The incredible Hulk? 24th.

This isn’t to say that Marvel hasn’t built up some impressive momentum with its stand-alone properties. Individual superhero flicks that build to an eventual team movie with almost all of the same actors? An impressive feat. The logistics of putting that together must have been a nightmare.

All it says is that unfortunately for The Avengers, Batman property is just more popular with audiences as a whole – and more familiar. Even 1989’s Batman directed by Tim Burton beat most of the Avengers’ individual joints, clocking in 8th place.

Plus, there’s marketing to consider. Ignoring the idea that most of Marvel’s stand-alone superhero films can pretty much be described as a handful of 2-hour-long commercials for the upcoming Avengers production, the characters of the film are everywhere right now – magazines, merchandise, website banners, etc. TDKR‘s campaign hasn’t even really begun yet. Thanks to Nolan’s guerilla-marketing style, we haven’t seen much of anything but whispers and shadows of TDKR, but that’s still more than enough to make it summer’s most-anticipated film.

So which film will win? Star-studded ensemble-and-explosions flick The Avengers, or the highly-anticipated, dark-and-gritty The Dark Knight Rises? The answer is simple: it doesn’t really matter. You’ve got a full summer of fantastic movies to look forward to. My opinion? Compromise. See them both.