With our upcoming ICONS campaign and with the upcoming Avengers movie release later this summer I've been thinking a a lot about how the movies relate to the Marvel Universe that I grew up with.
Regardless of some of the movie elements tying in more with the Marvel Ultimates line, I think that the movies, especially in a particular order, pretty well mimic the thrill of the original Marvel Universe of the Silver Age.
So how would one watch these movies best to recreate the initial excitement of the characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and other silver age creators? We'll this is what I've put together:
Captain America: The First Avenger
The obvious beginning; Jack Kirby's and Joe Shuster's 1941 star-spangled creation put the Timely/Atlas/Marvel comics on the map. A well done film which stands as a strong foundation to the marvel movie universe and introduces the super-serum which appears again in The Incredible Hulk. I suggest skipping the post credit sequence, just end it with Cap 'disappearing'.
X-Men: First Class
Though the X-Men comics began in 1964, the same month that the Avengers debuted, I felt that because a portion of this begins during WWII and concludes in the early 60's, this is the obvious second film in the series. The X-Men were always a bit off on their own so this just reinforces that aspect of the movie universe. Another good flick and sets the foundations for the Mutant heroes.
Yes. The first FF movie. After Cap and the 'death' of the super-hero during the 1950's (thanks to Prof. Wertheim) superheroes didn't make a comeback until the early 1960's. DC had the Justice League and Marvel came out with the Fantastic Four. As a movie, it has it's problems but I still liked the first one enough. We'll get to the second one in a bit.
The second super-hero book marvel put out was Hulk, so the Ang Lee movie places here. I still like this movie especially since it has the Hulk jumping around the desert in a purple spedo.
The Hulk comics only lasted 6 issues but it's canceling made way for the coming of Spider-man in Amazing Fantasy #15. Though the Spider-man series wouldn't actually begin until a few months later, Sam Raimi's first Spider-man movie shows up here.
Now, Thor actually made his debut the same month that Spider-man did but I'm going to hold off on Thor a bit until we enter the more cosmic era of the Marvel Universe timeline.
So now we come to the next hero created, Iron Man. With Robert Downey's portrait of Tony Stark and the Golden Avenger (complete with clunky original Iron Man armor) is a perfect fit for this movie series. SHIELD begins to make it's film universe appearance here.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
We begin now with the cosmic era of the Marvel Universe with the introduction of Galactus and the Silver Surfer in this, yes, sub-par flick. Sure it's a bit of a let down, what with Mr. Fantastic doing his fantasti-dance and all, but they did get the Surfer's look right, though Galactus was a huge disappointment. I swear, if you look closely at that cloud at the end you can just barely make out the head of the Big G - barely. But it's included here for continuity sake.
Okay, in full cosmic mode. Though Thor was getting cosmic a bit before the FF introduced the Silver Surfer and Galactus with the late 1965 appearance of the Destroyer and the full grandeur of Asgard I think it actually fits better after FF2. Again, SHIELD is present with hints towards the Avengers.
With the 'death' of the Green Goblin in mid-1966, Doc Ock became Spidey's main protagonist. While the rest of the Marvel Universe went cosmic, Stan Lee kept Peter Parker and Spider-man grounded in the dramas of day to day real-life. Thus Raimi's second flick places here.
The Incredible Hulk
With Ed Norton's portrail of the troubled Bruce Banner, the introduction of the Abomination and the birth of the Leader I'll place The Incredible Hulk here. An appearance by Tony Stark (and SHIELD) unifies the Universe and begins the build up to the Avengers.
Iron Man 2
We start to break a way from the early 60's chronology a bit by this point as a drunken Tony Stark doesn't really appear until the late 70's (or 80's?). But you do have Whiplash, a classic late 60's Iron Man villain and Titanium man. SHIELD's presence along with the Black Widow tie up things nicely for the debut of the Avengers.
Since the X-men and the Avengers comic series both began in September 1963, I'm placing the first X-Men movie here (for now) though I think after the release of the Avengers movie I would place X-Men after it. But until that happens I'm happy with it here.
The release date of May 2012 should give you plenty of time to view these Marvel movies in this order to 'relive' so to speak, the thrill of the birth of a comic universe that changed comics.
From here I would place
Spider-man 3 (if you can tolerate another viewing of it)