Iron Man 2 vs. Other Superhero Sequels

  • Publish Date: May 6, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 29 user comments

Data for Iron Man 2 updated on May 9th.

Second opinions

ImageIs "2" better than one? Not this time

Iron Man was a pleasant surprise when it premiered in May 2008 by being, well, good. Make that very good: with a Metascore of 79, the Marvel adaptation is one of the best-reviewed comic book movies ever filmed. It's also one of the most successful, currently ranking as the fifth-highest-grossing superhero film of all time (and in the top 25 of all movies, regardless of genre).

While the new sequel Iron Man 2 57 is expected to meet if not surpass the first film's financial performance, it looks like our hero has encountered an even tougher villain than Whiplash: the critics. The first batch of reviews are in, and it is looking more and more like Iron Man 2 will be the only recent superhero sequel to receive worse reviews than its predecessor. Of course, it also is the only franchise that started with such a critically-acclaimed title, so it had the furthest to fall. The good news, however, is that while the reviews for new film aren't strong, they also aren't bad. But will audiences, like many critics, prefer the first movie?

Comparing the Performance of Recent Superhero Sequels (First Sequels Only)
Metascore User Score Opening Wknd. Worldwide Gross
Batman Begins 70 ↑12 ↑0.2 ↑225% ↑169%
Dark Knight 82
Spider-Man 73 ↑10 ↓0.2 ↓23% ↓5%
Spider-Man 2 83
Blade 45 ↑7 ↓0.6 ↑91% ↑18%
Blade II 52
Hellboy 72 ↑6 ↑0.7 ↑49% ↑61%
Hellboy II: The Golden Army 78
Fantastic Four 40 ↑5 ↓0.3 ↑4% ↓13%
Fantastic Four: ... Silver Surfer 45
X-Men 64 ↑4 ↑0.4 ↑57% ↑38%
X2: X-Men United 68
Iron Man 79 ↓22 ↓1.0 ↑35% ???
Iron Man 2 57

The world of superhero franchises operates a little differently than other big-budget films. Because of the mythology involved, the first film in any franchise needs to spend precious on-screen time developing the origin story and the parameters of the world that is being created. As a result, the actual story of the first movie sometimes suffers. The second film, freed of those limitations, can take the world and characters already created and run with them, focusing solely on action and plot, which can lead to a stronger movie. As a result, reviews (and Metascores) for superhero sequels are typically higher than those of the first films in each series. Assuming the first movie wasn't terrible, box office figures also tend to increase for the second film, due to the hype that has built up since the successful launch of the first film.

Below, let's look at some of these superhero franchises in greater detail, to see if these trends hold true. Again, keep in mind that we are only looking at the first two films in any series.

Iron Man vs. Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 seems certain to come close to its predecessor's box office figures ($98,618,668 opening weekend, $318,412,101 in the U.S., and $585,133,287 worldwide), and may completely surpass them. The new film has already pulled in $100 million in its first five days overseas, before it has even opened in the U.S.

Yet, unlike any of the other superhero sequels in this survey, Iron Man 2 is receiving worse reviews from critics than the first film. Among critics who have reviewed both Iron Man movies, 83% rated the first movie higher than the sequel, and among all critics, Iron Man 2 is on the cusp of falling into "mixed reviews" territory (and the yellow Metascore that comes with it). As a group, reviewers are finding the sequel to be overstuffed and dull, lacking the exhilarating fun of the original.

First Movie   Sequel
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Basic quality measures:
79 left Metascore   57
87% left Positive Reviews   50%
13%   Mixed Reviews   48%
0% left Negative Reviews   3%
8.3 left User Score   7.3
Box office performance (in millions):
$98.6   Opening Weekend right $133.6 (estimated)
Among critics who reviewed BOTH films:
80 left Average Score   59
83% left Critic Preference
(13% rated both equally)

Batman Begins vs. The Dark Knight

Perhaps the greatest sequel success story of all time, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight improved on an already-strong re-start to the Batman series by every conceivable measure. That sequel now stands as the fifth-highest-grossing film of all time worldwide, and the top earner in the U.S. not directed by James Cameron.

First Movie   Sequel
Basic quality measures:
70   Metascore right 82
73%   Positive Reviews right 85%
8.6   User Score right 8.8
Box office performance (in millions):
$48.7   Opening Weekend right $158.4
$205.3   Domestic Gross right $533.3
$372.7   Worldwide Gross right $1,001.9
Among critics who reviewed BOTH films:
76   Average Score right 80
19%   Critic Preference
(35% rated both equally)
right 46%

Hellboy vs. Hellboy II

In spite of favorable reviews, Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy actually underperformed at the box office during its 2004 release, needing its worldwide grosses to manage a slight profit. The decision to go ahead with a sequel proved correct; The Golden Army proved to be more popular with critics and fans, and made considerably more money in the process.

First Movie   Sequel
Hellboy (2004)
Basic quality measures:
72   Metascore right 78
81%   Positive Reviews right 97%
6.6   User Score right 7.3
Box office performance (in millions):
$23.2   Opening Weekend right $34.5
$59.6   Domestic Gross right $76.0
$99.3   Worldwide Gross right $160.4
Among critics who reviewed BOTH films:
74   Average Score right 77
21%   Critic Preference
(42% rated both equally)
right 37%

Fantastic Four vs. Rise of the Silver Surfer

Few critics liked Fantastic Four, and, despite the film's strong box office performance, moviegoers seemed to come away unimpressed as well. The movie's 2007 sequel received only slightly better (and still quite mediocre) reviews, and while audiences still turned up on opening weekend, they didn't return after that; it seems that all of the franchise's negative word of mouth finally caught up with Rise of the Silver Surfer, leading it to underperform the original at the box office. Critics and users are split as to which is the better film, but probably only because neither group thinks either movie is any good. Unsurprisingly, Fox is now planning to reboot the series, rather than make another sequel.

First Movie   Sequel
Basic quality measures:
40   Metascore right 45
17%   Positive Reviews right 27%
5.5 left User Score   5.2
Box office performance (in millions):
$56.1   Opening Weekend right $58.1
$154.7 left Domestic Gross   $131.9
$330.6 left Worldwide Gross   $289.0
Among critics who reviewed BOTH films:
47   Average Score right 53
29%   Critic Preference
(12% rated both equally)
right 59%

Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man 2

The Spider-Man series is another instance where moviegoers (and Metacritic users) differ from the critics. Reviewers clearly preferred the second film to the original, yet the first Spider-Man collected more money at the box office and also boasts the higher user scores.

First Movie   Sequel
Spider-Man (2002)
Basic quality measures:
73   Metascore right 83
84%   Positive Reviews right 90%
7.9 left User Score   7.7
Box office performance (in millions):
$114.8 left Opening Weekend   $88.2
$403.7 left Domestic Gross   $373.6
$821.7 left Worldwide Gross   $783.8
Among critics who reviewed BOTH films:
74   Average Score right 83
13%   Critic Preference
(17% rated both equally)
right 71%

X-Men vs. X2: X-Men United

The X-Men franchise is a textbook example of the success of the superhero sequel. X2 received better reviews, higher scores from users, and performed significantly better at the box office than the first X-Men film. (The Brett Ratner-directed third film, of course, is a textbook example of how to then ruin your successful comic book franchise.)

First Movie   Sequel
X-Men (2000)
Basic quality measures:
64   Metascore right 68
70%   Positive Reviews right 82%
7.8   User Score right 8.2
Box office performance (in millions):
$54.5   Opening Weekend right $85.6
$157.3   Domestic Gross right $214.9
$296.3   Worldwide Gross right $407.7
Among critics who reviewed BOTH films:
71   Average Score right 75
23%   Critic Preference
(46% rated both equally)
right 31%

Blade vs. Blade II

The Blade franchise wasn't exactly a critical favorite; only half of reviewers gave the sequel a positive review, and that's a definite improvement over the original film's marks. Yet Blade II performed better at the box office and with critics, with only Metacritic users preferring the first Blade film.

First Movie   Sequel
Blade (1998)
Blade II (2002)
Basic quality measures:
45   Metascore right 52
35%   Positive Reviews right 50%
8.0 left User Score   7.4
Box office performance (in millions):
$17.1   Opening Weekend right $32.5
$70.1   Domestic Gross right $82.3
$131.2   Worldwide Gross right $155.0

What do you think?

What do you think about the superhero sequels listed above? Which ones were better than the originals, and in which cases did you prefer the first movies instead? Let us know in the comments section below.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (29)

  • Pat  

    A few things. First off, Iron Man 2 was just as good as Iron Man 1. Second, The Dark Knight was an amazing film, but I actually think that Batman Begins was better. Third, the Spiderman movies are good, but they're also very stupid in the fact that if that happened in real life, EVERYONE would figure out that Peter is Spiderman. Did they totally not notice him flipping through the air in the hallway, or using spiderwebs in that cage match? Fourth, I think that the Fantastic Four movies are good in terms of dumb entertainment. Fifth, Hellboy 2 was a vast improvement from the origional. The visuals from that film are some of the best I've ever seen. Sixth, why is it so impossible for a super hero film to create a half decent film on it's third outing? Spiderman 3, X-men 3, you get the idea. Seventh. Watchmen is better then ALL these movies, so it doesn't matter anyway.

  • JoeDFan  

    Oh my god, Joe - don't leave! Please! I'm begging you! Stay and continue to contribute all the things that you contribute sometimes! I need you, Joe! You're the only reason I come here! PLEASE?!? MY HAPPINESS - NO - MY LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!!!

  • JoeD  

    Oh, how did metacritic give Spider Man 2 such a good rating? That was one of the worst superhero movies I've ever seen. This is one rating website I'm not coming back to.

  • Tom  

    @Danny and everybody else insisting Incredible Hulk 2008 is a sequel:

    The "events" referenced by the 2008 Hulk are basic Hulk backstory and in no way specific to the 2003 Hulk (like the backstory with Banner's dad, etc). The 2008 Hulk is in no way a sequel, as even the character name isn't the same as in the 2003, as the 2008 chose to go with the comic accurate Bruce Banner instead of 2003's choice to use the tv show's David Banner. Ditto goes for Punisher: Warzone, another reboot that covers the origin story via flashback.

  • Sean Wessman  

    Oh! I forgot to add... In Ironman 2 every character had something awesome to bring to the table. They couldv'e focused on 2 or 3 characters alone and made the movie terrible. Yeah! They could've done that. But no! They were smart and made sure that every character was just integral and important as the next. They could've trashed it up like what happened in X-men 3!

    I'm very happy that I saw Iron Man 2! It was the most entertaining movie I'd seen in a long while!

  • Sean Wessman  

    Ironman 2 was not a bad movie actually. I love movies with lots of brilliant action, and something awesome is always happeneing. Any movie that expects you to sit for 2 hours or more and focus mainly on the story; without anything exciting to move it along, is boring to me. Might as well read a book if that's what you want. Me, I want an exciting movie with a lot going on to keep my attention so that I can follow the movie. Now I'm no idiot, but it seems to me that if the critics want a movie with a good story, but nothing but draggingly dull cinematics... They might as well stick to reviewing literature and not cinema. Iron Man 2 was downright unbelieveable, with a nice story to match. And Yes I could tell you the plot of the movie, even with all that which was happeneing on screen.

  • justin  

    I will admit that i read critic's reviews before i see a movie. Yet I have never taken a single one seriously. I often read a very positive review, only to stay until the credits to realized the credits were the best part, because the movie was finally over( did anyone else see Shutter Island?). When you get paid to pick apart every movie you see, you kind of start to lose credibility. I don't understand why people trust critics. I don't understand why people trust these sites at all. I cannot stand Ebert, at all, one bit, no way. He does not know what he's talking about, but none of the other critics do either.

  • TheWildOneV1  

    The Dark Knight is by FAR the best super-hero movie of all time. Also, The Incredible Hulk is a sequel. The actual script even takes place after the scenes of the first movie. The novel takes places directly after. Get the picture?

  • Danny  

    First, I have a dislike for critics, since movies are all based on opinions. I, for one, really liked the first Fantastic Four and the two Blade movies.

    I really disliked Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer though, while that was the better film(says Metacritics).

    I liked the first Spider-Man movie better than second one in general, but Doc Ock was so amazingly awesome in the Spider-Man 2. Where's Hulk(2003) and The Incredible Hulk(200? I loved them both equally. While the 2003 Hulk looked like green poo, he was beast. He tore tanks apart and threw them towards moving helicopters. The 2008 barely made it out alive from a small SWAT team. Although the 2008 part had a real moving story while the 2003 one was a bit depressing.

    Where are the Superman movies? Well, they speak for themselves anyway. Superman Returns sucked and the first two movies were good.

    What about Watchmen? Well I dunno, I haven't watched that film yet...

  • Bob  

    As a person with a Critic mindset, I have to agree with the Critics. Iron Man 2 was an alright movie, but it was one of those movies that just had too much jammed into it. It was trying to have a good story, and promote the Avengers film that is 2 years away. I hate to say it, but if Thor and Captian America: The Fist Avenger is the same way, then the Avenger's film better be one damn good film to waste three perfectly good films and melt away at time for an actual story for the movies. Iron Man 2 wasn't a let down by any means, it just wasn't all that and a bag of potato chips. Watch the movie again, and actually watch it, most of you will see that the movie isn't as great as you thought it was.

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