The Marvel Cinematic Universe is no stranger to clashes among titans. Allies become enemies in battle, godly siblings are pitted against one another, and former foes join forces to face some cosmic threat – sometimes all in the course of the same movie. But there’s one matchup that even the most ardent Marvel scholar could not have seen coming: The conflict between the opinions of these superheroes’ makers and those of their fanatic fans.
Marvel retains an exhaustive and official database of its characters, documenting their backstories, battles, and alliances over time. As a part of this trove of character information, Marvel maintains a rating scale of 1 to 7, assessing the degree to which each hero or villain possesses a number of valuable traits: intelligence, strength, speed, durability, energy projection, and fighting skills.
There’s a catch, however: Fans can rate each character on these criteria as well, and their opinions can often differ wildly from the official ratings. In this project, we’ll explore just how much fans confirm or reject what Marvel says about its own characters and investigate where the greatest differences lie. Ready to see where Marvel fans are calling the official ratings flawed? Let’s do this.
No One’s a Critic?
As these data points make painfully clear, fans have significantly different standards than do Marvel’s makers for their heroes – they’re far more glowing, in fact. In all but a few cases, fan scores for these characters were far higher than Marvel’s. This was particularly true for Korg, whose stock among fans was likely sent soaring by his scene-stealing appearances in “Thor: Ragnarok.” “Guardians of the Galaxy” pillars Yondu Udonta, Mantis, and Rocket Raccoon also ranked among the most overhyped heroes, although they weren’t the only superhero crew with inflated states. Fans were also far more generous than Marvel with several of the Avengers, especially Captain America and Black Widow.
On the other end of the spectrum, Vision – an android converted to heroism at the hands of the Avengers – earned the distinction as the most underrated hero by Marvel’s numbers. Perhaps fans overlooked the significance of his ability to briefly wield Thor’s hammer, a feat reserved for members of Odin’s lineage. Voters also seemed relatively realistic about the powers of Doctor Strange, whose fan numbers were only slightly higher than those assigned by Marvel. The same was true of Star-Lord. Perhaps in the eyes of fans, he’s just a tad too reliant on his suit.
Interestingly, the fans’ habit of overestimation extended to villains as well. The two evildoers who earned the most fan respect relative to their official scores were foes of Thor: the flaming demon Surtur and Hela, goddess of the dead. Perhaps rave reviews of Cate Blanchett’s performance as the spurned deity sent fan impressions skyrocketing beyond Marvel’s own. Thanks to the Avengers’ clever machinations, the two villains are eventually pitted against each other in “Thor: Ragnarok.” According to fan scores, that’s a matchup made in heaven (or, given Surtur’s fiery tactics, hell).
Some villainously inclined characters avoided fan score inflation, however. These included Dormammu and Thanos, who received relatively modest fan appraisals despite their powerful appearances in the highly regarded “Doctor Strange” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” films. Thanos will likely have an opportunity to bump his fan scores higher: According to the makers of “Avengers: Infinity War,” the villain is set to figure prominently in the next installment.
Traits Fans Overrate
Considering the range of characteristics that comprise these characters’ ratings, where did fans find Marvel’s scores most erroneous? In heroes, it seems, fans were inclined to most often overrate their intelligence and energy projection powers (these traits tied for the largest average gap between fan and Marvel scores). Durability and strength were also sources of disagreement when fans assessed the good guys – perhaps they were more impressed than Marvel by their ability to emerge victorious at the end of every film, despite the bludgeoning they received along the way.
Fans took issue with slightly different attribute ratings for villains, finding their speed far more impressive than Marvel’s own assessment. Certainly, plenty of evil characters possess remarkable agility, although they do have an inexplicable habit of slowing down to explain their devilish intentions instead of just executing their plots. Fighting skills and intelligence tied for the next most overrated villainous traits – after all, Marvel might say, there’s a reason they don’t often emerge from final battles victorious.
The Avengers – All Hype?
Taking a closer look at Marvel’s most popular team of heroes, we found that fans were decidedly more favourable than the official ratings. Black Widow and Captain America were the sources of the greatest disagreement, with fans rating them far higher than Marvel officials. Perhaps given their brief moment of intimacy and subsequent decision to remain friends, these two will be able to console each other about this reality check. However, it’s no surprise that Falcon, Captain America’s protégé, would be glowingly assessed by fans as well.
Fan ratings for Thor were far closer to the official account of his powers, as were those for siblings the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The Scarlet Witch’s eventual romance with Vision makes for a distinctly underrated pair in superhero terms, as the android was the lone Avenger whose official score proved higher than fan ratings. The Hulk was the second least overestimated member of the team, although fan respect may grow following his much-lauded return in “Thor: Ragnarok.”
Guardians of the Fallacy?
Marvel’s other superhero squad, the Guardians of the Galaxy, seemed to boast less inflated fan scores overall. In fact, averaged fan ratings for two members of that crew fell within one point of their official averages. These were Gamora and Star-Lord, whose palpable romantic attraction remains tantalisingly unconsummated. Given the snail’s pace at which their attraction has unfolded, it’s hard to fault fans who gave each character only middling marks for speed.
Other characters, however, showed a significant divergence between fan appreciation and Marvel’s assessment of their skills. Yondu Udunta, perhaps buoyed by his central role in the second “Guardians of the Galaxy” film, had average fan ratings of four points higher than those Marvel granted him. Mantis’ ratings showed a similar disparity. Perhaps this is no surprise given the comments made by the character’s creator, implying the film was unfaithful to her original conception.
Among evildoers, vast discrepancies between fan impressions and official scores were also apparent. Surtur, the fiery entity featured prominently in “Thor: Ragnarok,” was the most intensely overestimated villain, with average fan scores 5.5 points higher than the average of Marvel’s official record. Hela, the film’s other magnificent villain, was nearly as overrated by fans, followed closely by Kurse, with whom Thor reckoned in an earlier film.
For many other villains, however, fan ratings corresponded closely with Marvel’s own opinions. Indeed, a number of evildoers’ average fan ratings fell within one point of the official averages. Crossbones, the Captain America foe, had quite similar official and fan scores, as did Ronan and Iron Man nemesis Mandarin. That last character’s scores were particularly interesting, given the backlash from fans for Mandarin’s swift treatment in “Iron Man 3.”
Your Heroes, Your Choice
As our results make clear, Marvel’s universe has inspired fandoms so intense that the public’s regard for these characters’ powers often exceeds the company’s own. Perhaps there’s something glorious about fans refuting the official perception of these heroes and villains – in the collective imagination, awe for their abilities knows no bounds. Indeed, one reason these fictional landscapes are so beloved is that they permit our own fantastic impressions of alternate worlds and their inhabitants. So don’t feel bad if your view of one character or another conflicts with Marvel’s in some way. After all, of all the powers these heroes possess, their ability to inspire and excite fans is their greatest.
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We collected data from the Marvel character database. In some cases that are explicitly noted, we present official and fans scores for individual characteristics, such as intelligence, strength, speed, durability, energy projection, and fighting skills. In all other cases, our metrics represent the average of these scores for each character.
No statistical testing was performed, so the claims listed above are based on means alone. As such, this content is purely exploratory and future research should approach this topic in a more rigorous way.
Fair Use Statement
Want to weigh in on your favourite characters’ abilities? You’re welcome to use our findings and graphics in your next epic debate, so long as it’s for noncommercial purposes. Just provide a link to this page when you do so – not giving us credit would be pretty villainous.