Marvel's latest superhero movie, The Avengers, debuts this Friday. It's the seventh film in the Avengers series, preceded by two Hulk movies, two Iron Man movies, Thor, and Captain America. (You can argue that the original Hulk isn't part of the continuity, but I say it is.)
I love superhero movies. Powers, tights, code-names, team-ups; the works. As evidenced by one of my favorite superhero movies, The Specials, the heroes don't even have to do anything to keep me interested; as long as they're in costume, they can just stand around talking about the weather and my eyes will be glued to the screen. A superhero movie has to be really, really bad for me to dislike it. I'm talking Catwoman bad.
I know I'll enjoy The Avengers. It's just a question of how much.
The Avengers promises to be outstanding. I'll credit Executive Producer Avi Arad for having the foresight to strategically introduce supporting characters in the preceding movies; we won't need to waste too much time on introductions or origin stories. Sure, half the movie will dwell on the friction between the new team members, but I expect director Joss Whedon to build an intricate web of interaction between the heroes, just as he did with a similarly large cast on Buffy: the Vampire Slayer. I trust Whedon to give proper screen time to all the heroes, not just to box-office-beauty Iron Man.
In celebration of this Friday's opening, I've created this chart to recall each Marvel live action movie released in the modern era (excepting the Blade movies, which are more supernatural than superhero). I've included data points for distributor, ticket sales, and continuity (I had to take some liberties with movies that hop around in time).
(Edit: corrected placement and continuity for The Amazing Spider-Man.)