Face-Off: Iron Man vs. Captain America: The First Avenger

In our previous Face-Off, we saw 1976's TAXI DRIVER stand off against 2014's NIGHTCRAWLER. Most of you agreed with my decision to give it to Martin Scorsese's classic, but I was very glad to see some support for Dan Gilroy's excellent film. Sometimes, they still make 'em like they used to.

This week, the time has finally come, as Friday marks the release of the highly anticipated CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. The reviews so far have been outstanding (you can read ours here), with some going so far as to call it the best installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. Before Tony and Cap go toe to toe, though, let's go back to the beginning. IRON MAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER showed us how two of the original Avengers came to be, but which one did it better? Let's find out!
In one hell of a comeback, Robert Downey Jr. brings Tony Stark to life like few can. The character gave us a fresh look at superheroes in general, and RDJ imbues him with just the right balance of vanity and charm.
Chris Evans is a great Steve Rogers, both before and after his transformation. While Evans brings plenty to the role, though, Captain America is just not nearly as interesting of a character as Iron Man.
Jeff Bridges makes for a wonderfully menacing Obadiah Stane. Unfortunately, his upgrade to Iron Monger comes with a massive downgrade to his dialogue, resulting in a series of corny villain one-liners. We spend most of our time with Obadiah in the flesh, though, so he still comes out on top.
Hugo Weaving brings his trademark villainous presence to Johann Schmidt / Red Skull. While the period piece presentation of THE FIRST AVENGER allows for a character like this, Red Skull still feels out of place and too over the top, like he might be more at home in THOR or GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
Terrence Howard as James Rhodes
Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
Leslie Bibb as Christine Everhart
Shaun Toub as Yinsen
Faran Tahir as Raza
Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson
Paul Bettany as Jarvis
Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes
Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Chester Phillips
Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark
Richard Armitage as Heinz Kruger
Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine
Toby Jones as Dr. Arnim Zola
Neal McDonough as Timothy 'Dum Dum' Dugan
Present day Afghanistan, Malibu, and Los Angeles

Jon Favreau actually chose to take Tony out of the East Coast, where he primarily presides in the comics, to give IRON MAN a unique feel and separate it from so many New York-based superhero movies.
Early 1940's New York City and Nazi-occupied Europe

Marvel wisely took the opportunity of an origin story to set THE FIRST AVENGER in the past, allowing a unique, stylized period piece but also bringing Cap into present day by the time the credits roll.
"Give me a scotch. I'm starving."

"Don't waste it... don't waste your life, Stark."

"They say that the best weapon is the one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once. That's how Dad did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far. I present to you the newest in Stark Industries' Freedom line. Find an excuse to let one of these off the chain, and I personally guarantee, the bad guys won't even wanna come out of their caves."

"If you douse me again, and I'm not on fire, I'm donating you to a city college."

"Yeah, I can fly."

"Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps!"

"It's an imperfect world, but it's the only one we got. I guarantee you the day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace, I'll start making bricks and beams for baby hospitals."

"Have you ever lost an hour of sleep in your life?" "I'm prepared to lose a few with you."

"Next time, baby."

"The truth is... I am Iron Man."
"I don't want to kill anyone. I don't like bullies; I don't care where they're from."

"I know this neighborhood. I got beat up in that alley. And that parking lot. And behind that diner."

"Whatever happens tomorrow you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man."

"I thought you were dead." "I thought you were smaller."

"Arrogance may not be a uniquely American trait, but I must say, you do it better than anyone."

"My weapons contain enough destructive power to decimate every hostile capital on Earth. Quite simply, gentlemen, I have harnessed the power of the gods."

"Who are you supposed to be?" "I'm... Captain America." "I beg your pardon?"

"You know for the longest time I dreamed about coming overseas and be on the front lines. Serving my country. I finally get everything I wanted, and I'm wearing tights."

"I had some ideas about the uniform."

"I had a date."
With Jon Favreau's unique take on the superhero genre, IRON MAN is a sharp comedy, a war film, a popcorn action movie, and an arms race thriller all at once. The realist approach allows for immersion in the story (though the final battle suffers as a result as discussed in the next section).
The period piece approach may not be for everyone, but Joe Johnston uses it to great advantage. Once the world of the 1940's is established as stylized and fantastical but still a bit gritty, it opens the door not only for that suit but for a flair that would be way too much in a more realistically driven film.
For a movie that spends so much time bringing a reality and believability to the story, a finale of two CGI characters throwing cars at each other feels a little underwhelming. Of course, the real climax of the film comes in the last lines as Tony declares to the world, "I am Iron Man."
Not only is the finale here much more ambitious, with multiple set pieces and action sequences, but the subsequent ending with Cap sacrificing himself, only to wake up 70 years later and realize he missed out on a potential life with Peggy, is both fascinating and heartbreaking.
IMDB: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 94% (Audience Score: 91%)
Metacritic: 79 (User Score: 8.5)
Domestic Total Gross: $318,412,101
IMDB: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 80% (Audience Score: 74%)
Metacritic: 66 (User Score: 7.0)
Domestic Total Gross: $176,654,505
I think Marvel did an impressive job introducing these two characters in such different ways while still allowing enough common ground for them to come together seamlessly in THE AVENGERS. IRON MAN just felt like a stronger start for the character, though, while CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER felt more like a first step, especially in the eventual shadow of THE WINTER SOLDIER and, if the hype is to believed, CIVIL WAR. I'm curious to hear which is your preference and who you'll be rooting for when Iron Man and Captain America throw down this weekend!

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at [email protected].



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