The events in 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier reset Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Marvel universe introducing a new group of villains while putting the future of the heroes in doubt. The rumored plot of the third movie in the series would pit hero against hero, Avenger against Avenger, almost certainly becoming Marvel's most successful film and perhaps becoming the biggest box office hit of all time.
Variety is reporting that Robert Downey Jr. is set to sign on for Captain America 3 to reprise his role as billionaire Tony Stark/Iron Man. A teaming of Chris Evans' Captain America and Iron Man would be a big deal, but Marvel has found a way to make it even more of an event. Rather than pairing the two heroes who worked together to save the world in The Avengers, the film will follow the story arc set forth in the Civil War series of comic books.
That story puts Iron Man and Captain America on opposite ends of a fight over the United States government's efforts to pass the Superhero Registration Act, a law which would force anyone with superhuman abilities to reveal their identities to the U.S. government and agree to act as a police force. In the comics Stark supports the law, Steve "Captain America" Rogers, does not, as he sees it as an affront to civil liberties. This causes an identity crisis for the Captain, but more importantly it puts him (and other dissident heroes) at war with Stark/Iron Man.
Call it Captain America vs. Iron Man or Avenger vs. Avenger, but whatever title it takes, it sets up two of the biggest box office draws of all time -- characters who teamed for the third biggest drawing film ever -- for a fight.
How big are we talking?
The first Iron Man movies kicked off Marvel's amazing box office run. Though it's hard to remember now, at the time the film was announced, both the character Iron Man and the star Robert Downey Jr. were considered a bit of a gamble. Iron Man was considered a B-list superhero, a hero unfamiliar to casual fans, and Downey Jr. was an actor coming back from a long history of drug problems who was not an established box office draw.
It turned out that Downey Jr.'s own flaws, made him the perfect choice to play Stark, a man with his own demons. The public agreed and the first movie pulled in $585 million in global box office, according to Box Office Mojo. The second film in the series topped that with $623 million at the box office, and set the stage for The Avengers which was built largely around Iron Man and Captain America and scored $1.5 billion globally.
Evans was not quite $1.5 billion successful with Captain America, but the first entry in the series took in $370 million and the second grew to $714 million.
The real story, and the reason to believe that Captain America 3 has the potential to be the biggest Marvel film yet and perhaps the biggest movie of all time, is that Iron Man 3, which was released after The Avengers, brought in $1.2 billion. Bear in mind the third installment nearly doubled Iron Man 2's box office haul as a solo adventure, not a film co-starring the rest of the Avengers team. The same was true for Winter Soldier which also came after Avengers and doubled its box office take (though it did have another Avenger on board as Scarlett Johansson reprised her Black Widow character).
Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.