[The Week in Geek is a weekly Tuesday column that plunges headfirst into a deep pool of genre geekiness without ever coming up for air.]
Its a long-standing Marvel tradition that when two superheroes meet up, they've gotta fight. Usually it's due to some kind of misunderstanding, then the two make peace and go on their merry way as teammates against whatever looming threat has brought them to the same place at the same time. For Captain America and Thor, it's no different, and the two heroes found themselves pitted against each other in last weekend's Super Bowl.
This week, in a fight of trailer against trailer, 'Captain America: The First Avenger' versus 'Thor,' they're going to duke it out, big Jack Kirby splash page style. The two ads will compete in the following categories for the Best Marvel Trailer at the Superbowl: Origin Clarity, Villain Reveal, Sex Appeal, Money Shots, and Iconography. Who will win? Who will fall?
Let's get ready to rumble ...
There's not a clear explanation of who Thor is in the TV spot at all. You can pick up on the fact that the government has captured him and that he wants his hammer, but there's not really any care taken to get into the thunder god's background. Contrast this to the 'Captain America' ad, which is almost entirely origin. We get to see Steve Rogers as a skinny (CG-enhanced) twerp, made into America's super solider by military science. The TV spot even ends with him using his shield for the first time.
ADVANTAGE: 'Captain America'
The Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving) is finally revealed for a second or two in
the 'Captain America' spot, and guess what? He looks exactly like the Red Skull!
I'm glad they stuck to his original comic book design instead of trying to make him more "believable" for the big screen. Honestly, I can't wait to see more of him.
The heavy in 'Thor' is his evil brother Loki, who isn't seen in the Super Bowl trailer
at all. Instead we get a glimpse at some kind of big monster, as well as The
Destroyer -- an automaton controlled by Loki. It's impressive (more on that
later), but it's not exactly a villain.
ADVANTAGE: 'Captain America'
Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans may be a draw when it comes to shirtless beefcake, but the 'Thor' ad has Hemsworth shirtless for no apparent reason, whereas Evans muscles are shown to contrast the difference between his old scrawny body and his new one. I'd say that gives 'Thor' the upper hand, strictly for being gratuitous. Also, it doesn't appear that there's any romantic subplot at all in 'Captain America,' while 'Thor' features Hemsworth and co-star Natalie Portman sharing a close-up kiss.
Just how much spectacle is conveyed in each trailer? Well, most of the big effects shots in the 'Captain America' ad are of Chris Evans slimmed way down to an appropriately wimpy size. It's a good effect, but there's very little Cap in the 'Captain America' spot. 'Thor,' however, brings the goods -- Thor smashing around with Mjolnir, menacing mythological beasties, the spires of Asgard and a couple of impressive shots of The Destroyer destroying things.
Let me preface this section by saying that I am personally more excited about 'Captain America' than 'Thor,' but as much as I loved the 'Captain America' Super Bowl spot, I have to give it to 'Thor' here. Aside from Cap's sketched out origin, there just wasn't enough of Captain America (or Red Skull or Bucky) to satisfy. You never even see him hurl his shield.
Meanwhile, aside from the absence of Loki, 'Thor' is full of comic book panels brought to life. Thor himself looks incredibly powerful, and the shots of him wielding Mjolnir should give Marvel fans the same flutter of excitement as seeing Spider-Man swing through New York City for the first time. Both Asgard and The Destroyer feel like faithful recreations of Jack Kirby's off-beat universe of Norse myth.
THE WINNER? 'Thor'
I'd love to give it to 'Captain America,' but to be fair, the 'Thor' trailer just conveys more about the upcoming film. Marvel has a tougher sell with 'Thor,' and so far, I think they've done a good job conveying both its earthly and fantasy elements, especially in this TV ad. Time will tell if the films themselves are as exciting as their well-cut Super Bowl commercials, but it's always fun to see two superheroes slug it out -- even in trailer form.