UPDATE: In the past week it was announced that Marvel will be releasing two Phase Three movies in 2016, with one arriving on May 5 and the other on July 6. In anticipation of finding out which movies they are (most likely at this year's Comic-Con next month), we're reposting our Marvel expert John Gholson's thoughts on Phase Three from late May. Original post below...
We talk a lot in this column about Marvel’s “phases,” a word that Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige uses to denote the TV season-like structure of their release slate. Phase One consisted of Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America and ended with The Avengers. Phase Two just began with the smash success of Iron Man 3 and will be followed by Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and cap off with The Avengers 2. And then what?
Well, that’s a question Marvel is trying to answer for itself right now, as all of the films in Phase Two, with the exception of Avengers 2, are currently in production. Marvel is also facing a future in which it may not want to pay any of the Avengers cast their deserved increased salaries for solo films, despite the Marvel movies making enough money to choke Galactus.
Hollywood Reporter has a breakdown on the financial side of the situation, but more interesting to me, as a fan, are the properties that Marvel is eyeballing for its Phase Three plans (which may or may not include Iron Man 4). The powers that be made some announcements already, like Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) on Ant-Man, and behind closed doors they’ve been soliciting scripts, looking for the next characters to bring into the cinematic Marvel U to bridge the gap to Avengers 3 -- a film which will likely serve as a kind of “end of an era” to the plan that began in 2008.
Red Hot: Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, Captain America 3, Thor 3
Of course Ant-Man is red hot; it’s the only definite on this list. Edgar Wright has teased this for a while, and Hank Pym, Ant-Man’s scientist alter ego, is a major player in the world of the Avengers. Though no one is currently attached to Dr. Strange, Marvel wants the Master of the Mystic Arts in its Phase Three, and it’s just a matter of time before things start happening with this property. Rumored casting for the doctor has included Viggo Mortensen (debunked) and Justin Theroux (still possible, I guess), so there’s some very real buzz going on with this potential film. Captain America 3 and Thor 3 both seem incredibly likely in a Phase Three, but Marvel will need to work out the paydays in a way that makes everyone happy.
Warm: Black Panther, Hulk, The Inhumans, The Runaways
It certainly seems like fans want Black Panther more than Marvel wants Black Panther. I marked this one as warm because of sheer fan interest, despite the fact that the film has languished for the better part of a decade (with director Jon Singleton eyeing Chiwetel Ejiofor back in 2007) with no real movement. Eventually, we’ll get T’Challa on the big screen; it’s just a matter of when and how -- in a solo film first or introduced as a supporting character in an ensemble?
Feige appreciates the renewed interest in the Hulk but after two disappointing outings, the studio has cold feet getting back into the Hulk solo-film business. The studio has denied plans of a Planet Hulk adaptation, because of how little screen time it would give actor Mark Ruffalo (it’s a tale that’s almost 100% Hulk, no Bruce Banner), but it is keen to get the Hulk involved with something, in some way, before Avengers 3.
Slightly cooler on this list are The Inhumans and The Runaways. Neither are particularly well-known commodities, but Marvel will be looking to expand its space-faring adventures after Guardians and the Inhumans, the story of a new race of super beings created by alien experimentation on humans, seems to fit the bill. The Runaways, the critically acclaimed cult comic about the estranged children of a secret cabal of super villains, was once written by Joss Whedon, and with Whedon as Marvel’s golden boy, it makes sense that Marvel would be entertaining this property for film. Its unique premise sets it apart as well.
Cold: Blade, Iron Fist, Ms. Marvel, War Machine, Falcon
Blade’s a proven property, but a cold one. Marvel understands the value in the brand name, hence the interest in a new script, but the timing doesn’t feel right due to vampire fatigue and a general lack of interest in Marvel’s supernatural characters (on the film side and the publication side). Iron Fist has been talked about as a Ray Park vehicle for the better part of a decade now, but has never seemed to gain any traction beyond the script stage. It’s not that I don’t think they’ll ever make an Iron Fist film; it’s just that I’ve been hearing about this one for so long that I’ll believe it when I see it.
Ms. Marvel needs to happen and probably will happen, but I have a hunch that she won’t debut in a solo film (and certainly not in one titled “Ms. Marvel”). Carol Danvers’ monthly book is titled Captain Marvel, and chronicles the adventures of a fighter pilot imbued with powers from an accident involving contact with the alien species known as the Kree. Danvers is one of Marvel’s more visually recognizable female characters, and fans want a female-led Marvel superhero film, but I think Marvel will test the waters with a known commodity like Black Widow before they give Danvers her solo shot. On top of that, Danvers’ origin requires that a lot of Marvel Universe pieces be set up, and it’s something better suited for episodic television, say, on Marvel’s new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show?
The folks at Marvel have flat-out said that they’re not considering solo films based on War Machine or Falcon, a character who appears as Captain America’s sidekick in the upcoming sequel Winter Soldier. I wouldn’t ever expect a Falcon solo film, and the character is just not popular enough to even warrant his own comic book series. It’s not even a matter of race; it’s that not every superhero is destined for their own movie and Falcon has always been a supporting character -- not the star. War Machine (or is he Iron Patriot?) probably could carry his own film. He’s carried his own comic off and on over the years, but my feeling is that Marvel sees a solo Rhodey film as a dilution of the Iron Man brand.
Which of these properties would you like to see as part of Marvel’s Phase Three?