Where does the comic book studio go after 'The Avengers'?
Following last week's splashy world premiere of "The Avengers" in Hollywood, the film's cast,
writer-director Joss Whedon and producer Kevin Feige met with the press over the
course of several days to promote the film (our own interviews will run closer
to the release of the movie). Feige, the head of production for Marvel Studios
and the man most identified with the company's grand plan of creating a string
of superhero movies and then teaming them all up for "The Avengers," spoke with
several outlets about Marvel's future beyond the film, which opens May 4 and, in
many ways, represents a turning point for the company.
Marvel's first five movies as its own studio -- "Iron Man," "Iron Man 2," "The Incredible Hulk," "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" -- were the
stepping stones to "The Avengers," and now that the studio has successfully
achieved the team-up movie that many thought impossible (and trust us, it is
hugely successful creatively), the question is: What happens next?
The most immediate answer is that many of the heroes in the film go back to
their own franchises, which is exactly what Marvel is doing. "Iron Man 3" begins
filming a few weeks from now in Wilmington, N.C., while cameras roll on "Thor 2"
a little later in the summer. Both are due out next year. And sometime by early
2013, production will ramp up on "Captain America 2" and a fourth,
yet-to-be-revealed film, both for release in 2014.
From what Feige said in separate interviews with Collider and IO9, these adventures may reference the events of
"The Avengers" but will be stand-alone stories -- it's very unlikely that you'll
see much crossover between "Iron Man 3" and "Thor 2." Calling it a "full-on Tony
Stark-centric movie," Feige told Collider that "Iron Man 3" is "very much
inspired by the first half of 'Iron Man 1.' Metaphorically, we're not
going back to the cave -- there's nothing like that -- but we've always said
let's get Tony back to the cave, which is, he's stripped of everything, he's
backed up against a wall and he's got to use his intelligence to get out of
it. He can't call Thor, he can't call Cap, he can't call Nick Fury, and he
can't look for the Helicarrier in the sky."
While Ben Kingsley has been approached to play the
villain of "Iron Man 3," there's no word yet on who that villain is. The recent
news about the film being a co-production with China -- with shooting to be done
there -- would either lead one to believe that the Mandarin is definitely the
villain, or is definitely not: The latter seems likeliest since the Chinese
government does not have an interest in portraying a person of Chinese descent
in an evil light.
As for "Thor 2," the movie (to be helmed by regular "Game of
Thrones" director Alan Taylor) will bring the God of Thunder and his wicked
adopted brother Loki back to their home, Asgard, and Feige has hinted that some
residents of other parts of the Nine Realms will be involved in the story. He
did promise Collider that there will be "another big villain" in the movie
besides Loki (the Enchantress remains a rumored favorite) and has also said that
Thor will reunite with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), the human love interest
from the first "Thor."
"Captain America 2," meanwhile, will find Cap (Steve Rogers) continuing to
deal with life in the modern world after his rude awakening from 70 years of
sleep at the end of his first film and in "The Avengers." While there may be
flashbacks to the past -- Feige told Collider that the studio loved the first
movie's cast and "we want to see that again" -- the story will be rooted in the
present, where Cap continues to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. (this is also where you're
likeliest to see Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury show up) and try to adapt to a
world where his old-fashioned notions of good and evil, right and wrong, will
surely be tested. Who will be the villain(s)? If Marvel or Feige or star Chris
Evans know, they're not talking yet.
Finally, there's that fourth mystery movie, slotted for release in May 2014,
which Marvel has yet to announce (look for that sometime between now and
Comic-Con in July). The long-rumored candidates include "Ant Man" (for which a
script by presumptive director Edgar Wright exists), "Doctor Strange" (a script
for this has been written and presented to Marvel execs as well), "The Inhumans"
and "Guardians of the Galaxy." While "Ant Man" (who was an original Avenger in
the comics) and "Strange" are far less familiar to anyone who does not read the
comics, the latter two titles are even more obscure and represent leaps into
some pretty cosmic storytelling. Will audiences primed by "Thor" and "The
Avengers" be willing to go along? It's hard to tell.
You may notice that there's no mention of a new "Hulk" movie in there. While
the first two attempts to bring the character to the screen were not huge
successes, "The Avengers" really nails the big green guy and his alter ego,
Bruce Banner, for the first time -- many, in fact, are saying that the Hulk
(Mark Ruffalo) steals the movie. But Feige told The Huffington Post that, at least for now, "The
Avengers" will have to serve for fans interested in seeing "Hulk 3." He
explained, "This was the third appearance of Hulk, and everything that we had
and were going for, we put into Hulk's appearance in 'Avengers.' So, I love that
people are saying that and are feeling that way about Hulk, but mission
accomplished at this point."
So you shouldn't hold your breath for another solo "Hulk" movie anytime soon,
but that's OK: With four movies coming out in 2013 and 2014 -- and more beyond
that, including the almost inevitable "Avengers 2" -- it seems Marvel's universe
is only going to get bigger.