If Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World begin laying the framework for Marvel's "Phase Two" initiative, then next year's Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy will put up the walls and introduce the paint color that will be splattered all over The Avengers 2. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige has already said that The Winter Soldier (April 4, 2014) will have a very big hand in setting up the Avengers sequel, but it's the space-set Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1, 2014) that is perhaps the most appealing for fans simply because it's the kind of film Marvel hasn't attempted yet. Here's a story that's almost entirely set on various alien planets, featuring an ensemble of weird-looking misfits that includes a large tree named Groot and a machine gun-wielding creature called Rocket Raccoon.
If Marvel is going to continue its success moving forward, much of it is going to hinge on audiences buying into Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as a character like Rocket Raccoon, who may just be the riskiest and most important character Marvel Studios has ever introduced. Once we move past Guardians, things are going to change (and get all kinds of strange), and if audiences embrace the ridiculousness of a gutsy, trigger-happy raccoon serving as the heart and soul of a big-budgeted summer movie, then it'll allow Marvel to explore other characters and stories that veer off in those more space-ified directions.
We asked Kevin Feige whether he felt Rocket Raccoon was the key to the future of the big-screen Marvel universe.
"Yeah, I'd say that's true for the whole of Guardians of the Galaxy, but certainly we believe Rocket is the linchpin to that," he said. "And what's important is that he feel like a real character, just like it was important for Gollum to feel like a real character, or Caesar to feel like a real character, or Hulk to feel like a real character. On that level it's not just the animation that is being worked on. It's the way James [Gunn] has written the character and the way Bradley Cooper is performing the character -- to hopefully make him feel as real as possible."
One thing's for certain: Marvel isn't waiting for fans and critics to accept this ever-expanding universe -- it is just going for it in a big way. "It's exciting to see exactly how different the world of the Avengers is at the beginning of The Avengers 2 than it was at the end of The Avengers, in large part because of the stories in between," Feige told us.
Those stories will continue when Thor: The Dark World hits theaters on November 8. You can check out our early review right here.
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