Should THE AVENGERS Assemble Again In Phase Three?
Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't officially begin until May 3rd's Iron Man 3 but lets analyze how much we know about Marvel's Phase Three. Is there room for Black Panther?
At this point, it's no secret how Marvel Studios operates. Their plan is to have a set number of films centered around specific, individual superheroes and then collect said heroes for a team-up adventure in an Avengers film. They organize these plans by phases and when Iron Man 3 premieres on May 3rd, Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will have officially begun. Phase Two ends in 2015 with The Avengers 2 but that same year, Phase Three kicks off with Edgar Wright's Ant-Man. At that time, we'll be 7 years deep into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it might be time for the film studio to tinker with their formula for stand-alone and team-up films.
By the time Phase Three starts, expect the current incarnation of the Marvel formula to be practiced by other film studios. Marvel has simply been too fiscally prosperous for other studios like Sony, Fox and Warner Bros. to not follow suit. Starting at the beginning in Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), we were presented with Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger before Earth's Mightiest Heroes assembled in Joss Whedon's Avengers. In Phase Two of the MCU, Marvel fans are getting Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy before another group outing in The Avengers 2. If you're keeping count, that's 5 stand-alone films in Phase One and 4 stand-alone films in Phase Two. With Ant-Man already securing one of the Phase Three slots and Doctor Strange strongly rumored to have another, how many other films should Marvel include in the third era of the MCU before bringing our heroes together again?
'Phase Three development is very early,' cautioned Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige in a recent interview with international media, however he did mention that fans should expect to see some familiar faces in the third round of films, going so far as to namedrop Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. That's a no-brainer really as these three are the pillars of the Marvel Universe regardless of whether the discussion is about film or comic books. But does Feige's statement indicate that one or more of the trio will receive another solo film in Phase Three? If so, filling out your Phase Three brackets just became a little easier as we have Ant-Man, Dr. Strange and one or more returning Avengers filling the solo film slots. That doesn't leave much (if any) room for characters like Black Panther, Luke Cage, Iron Fist or Ms. Marvel to make solo-film introductions, especially if you're of the mindset that 4 or 5 is the maximum number of solo adventures Marvel should produce before having all the heroes teams-up. For arguments sake, lets theorize that Phase Three shakes down as so:
20l6 Dr. Strange
2016 Thor 3
2017 Untitled Marvel Film
2017 Captain America 3
2018 The Avengers 3 (or maybe that World War Hulk rumor)
Again, this is just a presumption based on how the film slate breakdown in the previous Marvel phases but it's very likely Phase Three could look something like the schedule above. What could that Untitled Marvel Film turn into - a new Hulk film, Black Panther, or maybe even (at the outside of outside chances) a Heroes for Hire feature film? Regardless, it's practically a guarantee that we'll see some new superheroes debuting in another, more popular hero's film; just as we're seeing Falcon (Anthony Mackie) debut in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It's been vaguely hinted that the aerial S.H.I.E.L.D. agent will be on the roster when The Avengers 2 graces theater screens in 2015. But would you want the same type of introduction for Black Panther or even Namor? Fans are more accepting of Falcon's introduction because he's always been a sidekick of sorts but a more prominent hero such as Black Panther deserves to have his own feature film to mark his debut, he can't (figuratively speaking) ride on someone else's coattails. There's also a growing contingent of Ms. Marvel fans who feel the same way about Carol Danvers. So what is Marvel to do if they want to keep hardcore fans from becoming jaded and at the same time, keep the average movie-goer entertained? Something radical. And that something radical might just be to put the team-up films on the back shelf for a while. They've become an inevitable eventuality, an expected marker of where one Phase ends and another begins.
From it's inception, Marvel Studios has been all about the surprise, keeping it's hardcore comic book fans buzzing who in turn, infect the casual movie-goer with their excitement. It started with S.H.I.E.L.D. , with Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and now it's Thanos' turn. But the after credits teaser and cross-film S.H.I.E.L.D. pollination is not a surprise anymore, it's expected. When Phase Three rolls around, it will be time for some innovation. Perhaps Ant-Man will herald that change. It was a film that couldn't break into the first two Phases of the MCU but maybe the confirmation of the film's long-awaited release date heralds more than what appears at first-glance? Perhaps it signals a break from tradition and the start of something truly fresh and new. As stated above, when Ant-Man hits theaters, other film studios will be trying their hand at their own cinematic universe based on the current Marvel formula. It's classic Marvel stratagem to try something new just when their competitors are finally catching up and copying a successful idea. Maybe instead of a team-up film, they borrow a page from their comic book counterparts and adapt one of the death storylines? Imagine if Warner Bros. announced they were going to adapt the Death of Superman storyline into a feature film? The clock is already ticking on Chris Evans' Captain America. And lets not forget the huge opportunity represented by the ABC S.H.I.E.L.D. television pilot. If successful, look for more Marvel live-action television shows to spring forth and dominate prime time airwaves like the multitude of NCIS and Law & Order shows. Somewhere, Ron Howard must be shaking his head, thinking about the the studio execs who didn't believe in his plan for Stephen Kings' Dark Tower series which called for linked television and film projects. It might be just a little too soon for this next suggestion, but what if Marvel went back and remade their Phase One films but using the What If...? model where key events turn out much different in a story's traditional telling? A reboot that's not really a reboot! What if Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) doesn't save Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) in Iron Man..or Iron Man 2... or Iron Man 3? What if Bucky (Sebastian Stan) never fell off that train in Captain America: The First Avenger? The possibilities are endless and I believe the first studio to move on this idea probably has a gold mine on their hands.
In truth, it's hard to predict exactly what surprises may be in store for us in Phase 3 but it sure is fun to speculate. If you agree with any of the above or even if you vehemently disagree, sound off in the comment section below with your own theories and ideas. And if you're reading Feige, heed my advice, Black Panther needs his own film, not an introduction in another superhero's film!
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