The god of thunder is coming to a theater near you. Are you ready?
A jaunt to the local multiplex for a press screening of Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) subsidiary Marvel's next superhero epic revealed or reinforced a few simple truths:
- Thor may not be as popular as Spidey or Iron Man, but he's easily good enough to power a summer blockbuster on his own. The lines for my screening rivaled those of Facebook drama The Social Network, and the film is already an $83 million hit in its international debut.
- Gaudy special effects and a story ripped from the pages of a comic book never posed a challenge for Best Script or Best Picture awards, but do that with a reckless, cheeky abandon like Kenneth Branagh does in Thor, and you get two hours of good, clean fun.
- Since taking the reins of its movie projects with gusto and borrowed money, Marvel really hasn't failed to deliver top-notch entertainment at every turn. Thor is no exception. Other than Mousey sister Pixar, I can't come up with another movie studio with the clockwork hitmaking power of Marvel. This was $4 billion well spent.
- Being a 6'5" Swede, I should talk like Thor when he first lands on Earth: "This mortal form has grown weak. I need sustenance!"
Odin's son meets a stiff challenge from Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) Universal Studios. The fifth installment of the Fast and the Furious street-racing franchise is putting up a stiff fight in some overseas markets, and that includes beating Thor when both movies opened on the same day in Australia.
The duel continues in the U.S., where Fast Five sprung a week early and currently rules the box office. The two films compete for the same action-thirsty demographic and for screen time in IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX ) theaters.
Marvel needs this movie to be at least a minor hometown hit. It's not all about recouping production costs and turning a profit this time, because Thor is meant to pave the way for Captain America in July, leading into The Avengers next year. Tony Stark has already done much of the heavy lifting, but franchise-building needs more than just one column of solid support.
If Thor flops here -- meaning an opening weekend significantly below the $100 million blockbuster level -- the whole Avengers project turns iffy. But at least Swedish acting legend Stellan Skarsgard got to pound some boilermakers with the Viking god who once drank the oceans on a bet. That's gotta be worth something.
Are you curious how Marvel's epic Avengers franchise will unfold to help or hurt Disney? Then add Walt Disney to your Foolish watchlist and drink in all the news as it becomes available. Your research requires sustenance!