Somewhere in the middle of last decade, the creative folks behind comics giant Marvel realized they could probably make more money by producing their own films rather than licensing their property to other movie studios. After reacquiring the rights to several of their key superheroes, Marvel Studios began to unveil a series of films with overlapping continuity, shared characters, and a master plan that would lead up to a massive ensemble piece. Now that plan comes to fruition with The Avengers – the Marvel Universe collective that features such heavy hitters as Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and Captain America. With The Avengers opening in theaters in less than a week, it’s time for the Haiku Review to look back at the Marvel Universe films that have been leading up to it.

Iron Man (2008)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges & Gwyneth Paltrow
Screenplay by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway
Directed by Jon Favreau

After wealthy industrialist Tony Stark builds an armored suit to escape a life-threatening situation, he decides to perfect his design and use it to fight the forces of evil.

Downey scores as the
man behind the iron mask,
a legend reborn.

Grade: A-

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth & William Hurt
Screenplay by Zak Penn
Directed by Louis Leterrier

While on the run from the military, Dr. Bruce Banner searches for an antidote to the gamma radiation poisoning that causes him to turn into a hulking green monster.

It’s hard to shape a
film around a guy who can’t
say much more than “SMASH!”

Grade: B-

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell & Mickey Rourke
Screenplay by Justin Theroux
Directed by Jon Favreau

With his Iron Man alter ego out in the spotlight, Tony Stark must deal with threats from both the government and vengeful rivals – all of whom want a piece of his technology’s power.

Serviceable if
less shiny than the first. Like
the big picture, though.

Grade: B

Thor (2011)

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins & Idris Elba
Screenplay by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne
Directed by Kenneth Branagh

After a consequential act of defiance causes him to be stripped of his power and banished from his homeworld of Asgard, the mighty yet arrogant warrior Thor must seek the wisdom and maturity needed to be worthy of his abilities again so that he may protect his realm from dangerous forces.

This god gets grounded
Portman peruses some pecs
Go on, get hammered

Grade: B+

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci & Toby Jones
Screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Directed by Joe Johnston

During World War II, scrawny patriot Steve Rogers joins a top secret military project that turns him into brawny Captain America and pits him against Nazis and the power-hungry villain known as Red Skull.

Flag-waving Evans
makes up for the flame-out that
was Fantastic Four.

Grade: B+

So now the Haiku Review wants to know what you thought of the Marvel Universe movies. Are you excited for The Avengers? Feel free to share your comments or leave your own haiku below.

By Daniel J. Hoag
All five films are available on Blu-ray and DVD. The Avengers opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, May 4th.

Iron Man:
The Incredible Hulk:
Iron Man 2:
Captain America: The First Avenger: