Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe has all but taken over the the global box office, much like the crypto-fascist team the “Avengers” at its centre (just kidding). The decade-spanning, 18-film franchise owes plenty to its well-defined (sometimes, to a fault) house style and management under Kevin Feige, as well as the superstar actors, actresses and crew that have signed on over time. But outside of this, many of the pillars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are built on the backs of The Chrises – a league of muscular white dudes leading different franchises, a couple rocketing to fame in the wake of their Marvel debut. But which is Marvel’s best Chris? Since I myself love all Chrises equally, the answer to the question is left to a few of our writers here at ORWAV.
Chris Hemsworth – Carmen Paddock
Chris Hemsworth’s solo outings as Thor, the god of thunder, may be some of the most uneven of the MCU franchise due to disparate directorial voices and last-minute script edits. However, the charm, earnestness, and sheer fun pervading these instalments – while aided by fantastical world design – is largely down to Thor’s character.
Hemsworth makes Thor infinitely lovable, embodying his slightly naive, extremely kind-hearted, and effortlessly heroic qualities naturally. He is more out of place than he knows on Earth, and his fractured family is Shakespearian in its dysfunction, but Hemsworth-as-Thor makes every heightened scenario land through the immediacy and relatability of his actions. When hijinks ensue from Thor’s lack of earthly decorum, the goofiness is both balanced and elevated by his sincerity.
There is no Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)-style angst as a man out of time, only love and concern for those left behind on Earth or Asgard. Equally, in contrast to Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) search for a father, Thor’s struggle to prove himself worthy to a demanding patriarch – and the crushing weight when this fails – is tangibly, poignantly conveyed. The Thor films may seem slight, but Hemsworth injects the humanity.
While Hemsworth is undisputedly a buff, beautiful man, this is not a unique selling point; Hollywood is rife with hunks, many of whom are Chrises. His willingness to spoof his god-like physique, however, is tremendous. While performing this role gamely in Vacation (2015), he perfects it in the superior Ghostbusters (2016). As the secretary/eye candy, he allows the situation’s irony to speak through his own earnestness. His mid-credits ghost boogie was one of last summer’s cinematic highlights.
Furthermore, Hemsworth has proven his range in more serious fare. The meta horror pastiche The Cabin in the Woods (2012) helped introduce him to international audiences. He worked with Ron Howard on Rush (2013) and In the Heart of the Sea (2015); the latter a solid performance in a meandering epic, the former establishing him as an actor of note and nuance. While his James Hunt initially comes across as callous and assured, insecurities and heartbreak lurk beneath the surface.
Outside of his cinematic work, Hemsworth seems a decent chap. When he is not messing around with co-stars or making his own Avengers films, he is campaigning for marriage equality in Australia, supporting Standing Rock, and raising awareness of endangered species. He has the full package: looks, talent, and heart in abundant measure, all apparent in his iconic onscreen persona. If this does not make him the Best Marvel Chris, one may have to find an actual Asgardian god. And those, sadly, do not exist.
Chris Pratt – Rory Steabler
The newest model from Marvel’s popular White Chris line of hunks is the Pratt. Introduced in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy after Evans and Hemsworth each had two solo movies and an Avengers under their respective belts, Pratt has nonetheless been quick to win over the hearts and minds of Marvel fans. Why? Chief among the reasons are his sweet dance moves:
Joking aside (who could joke in such a serious debate?), the aforementioned sweet dance moves show off Pratt’s skill as a full-body actor; the type who jumps into the role with all of his limbs (and, vitally, hips) rather than just his voice and face-parts.
This is a surprisingly rare quality, so it’s all the more satisfying to see him having a ton of fun with it. Quill – initially a loner scavenger, with serious backstory angst – could have ended up an insufferable “dark” antihero. Instead, Pratt puts in the character work to make him a complex guy: believably maladjusted but not 100% a dick, with a certain schlubby charm that keeps us rooting for him.
Pratt fans (and other people who have seen a television) will recognise Quill’s goofy physicality and lovable-doofus streak from Parks and Recreation’s Andy Dwyer. For seven seasons Pratt played a combination of a living cartoon and a human golden retriever on the NBC sitcom, rising from a bit-part in the first season to a beloved regular.
Andy’s ascendance was surely due to Pratt’s potent mix of outsized physical comedy (the obvious “Prattfall” pun has been put to good use over the years), pitch-perfect comic timing and straight-up puppy-faced adorableness. His knack for ad–libs and impressions couldn’t have hurt, either.
Outside of Guardians and Parks, Pratt still effortlessly exudes character – even when deprived of his dancing hips. In his other big hit of 2014, The LEGO Movie, Pratt’s voice work lends real emotion to a zany premise. His Emmett captures the indomitable niceness of Andy and a little of Quill’s childish pathos to round out the tiny plastic character.
Pratt’s other big leading roles may not have let him flex all those acting muscles (though our team seem to have enjoyed them, mostly), but this only means he’s sitting on a well of disco-dancing, quip-slinging potential, waiting to burst forth.
Also, he got super ripped for Guardians. I only didn’t mention it because I figure he’s outgunned in that category here. Did you see the bit with Evans and the helicopter in Civil War? Damn.
Chris Evans – Katy Moon
First things first: this article is moot. Chris Evans’ power is so great, that, after taking an online “Which Chris Are You?” quiz, Chris Pratt received the definitive answer: Chris Evans. But sure, for the appearance of fairness, let’s proceed.
It’s easy to dismiss Captain America. Routinely mischaracterised as a staid, “aw shucks”-type square, the solo outings of Chris Evans nevertheless imbue the good Captain with a scrappy attitude – and a sizeable disregard for authority. Whether he’s ignoring orders and charging behind enemy lines to save his friend Bucky, rebelling against SHIELD’s sinister Project Insight, or challenging the Sokovia Accords, it seems Cap is always defying some authority figure. This is no bad thing, considering that half of the MCU’s governing authorities contain members of an insidious Nazi organisation. Evans’ sensitive and complex portrayal gives us a hero who’s not afraid to stand up to the good guys, as well as the bad. Dumbledore would be chuffed.
However, it’s also easy to allow The Star Spangled Man with a Plan to overshadow Evans’ stellar work elsewhere. His fantastic comedic turn in Scott Pilgrim as vainglorious actor Lucas Lee threatens to steal the show in a film already chock-full of incredible performances. All gravel-toned voice and impossibly arched eyebrows, his performance indicates a comedic talent often underused in his Marvel endeavours.
For the other end of the spectrum, we need only look at Evans’ role in Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian nightmare Snowpiercer, and his devastating climactic monologue. Visibly laden with an exhaustion that isn’t solely physical, Evans’ Curtis tearfully confesses the monstrous cost he paid for his survival. It’s hard to believe the phrase “I know what people taste like” is emerging from the same man who once sheepishly proclaimed “I’ve punched Adolf Hitler over 200 times”, but Evans utterly sells the role – and, importantly, proves that there’s a lot more to him than just the man with a vibranium shield.
Nevertheless, offscreen Evans does provides us with a pretty vivid example of what Steve Rogers’ own social media platforms would look like. Vociferously tweeting support for black athletes protesting racism, women fighting harassment, or his own undisguised disgust for Nazis, the KKK, and the leader of the Free World, his Twitter feed is a beacon of light in this, the Darkest Timeline. Evans’ opinions (Racism is bad! Women are people! Trump is reprehensible!) certainly shouldn’t be lauded as revolutionary. But in an increasingly ugly world of white supremacy and Weinstein scandals, they’re a welcome reminder that there’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo – and Cap’s got our back.