Having changed the superhero movie game with its cross-pollinating franchises, post-credits teases, and general attention to quality, Marvel Studios capped its ambitious first Phase with the $1.5 billion-grossing The Avengers. The Disney-owned studio is hitting the ground running with Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, followed by Captain America: The First Avenger and Guardians of the Galaxy next year. They all lead up to The Avengers.
And while we'll get to Phase Three, with its Ant-Man promises and Doctor Strange shenanigans, let's address Phase Two first. Iron Man 3 is the first entry in that franchise not to directed by Jon Favreau, with Shane Black taking over as director/co-writer, and it also has the burden of being the first post-team up solo adventure. Speaking with MTV, Feige commented,
“I would say that the exercise of this film [Iron Man 3] is very much standalone, more so than any ‘Iron Man’ film since the first one. But because we are in Phase Two and we’re heading towards another ‘Avengers’ movie, there’s certainly a road that’s being paved — you just might not notice it…While you’re driving on the road, not knowing where it’s going, you might not realize that there are road signs and signals and lane changes that we’re setting up now — they might not be readily apparent the first time you see the movie…In this one, it has less to do with any sort of larger S.H.I.E.L.D. or cosmic overlay, but much more about Tony, his frame of mind, his viewpoint and the things he wants to pursue.”
Then there's the already eagerly awaited The Avengers 2, scheduled for May 1, 2015. Returning director Joss Whedon is busy writing the screenplay, though he's currently devoting a significant amount of attention to directing the pilot episode of Marvel and ABC's SHIELD television series starring Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson. Nonetheless, Feige mentioned the earliest of Whedon's outlines, saying,
“It’s still early days, but I told [Whedon] after reading the first sketch outline he delivered — and there’s a lot of work still to do, he has to sit down and turn this into a movie — but there are already seven things in there that are worth the price of admission alone.”
Now. Moving on to Phase Three. Rather than spend the remainder of 2015 rolling in money from The Avengers sequel, Marvel's also releasing Ant-Man, the inaugural movie of Phase Three. This one has been in development for literally years as Edgar Wright, the once-in-a-lifetime director behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Spaced hashes out the screenplay with Attack the Block director Joe Cornish. Marvel showed an in-progress proof of concept test reel shot by Wright at Comic-Con last year, and the film was finally scheduled for November 6, 2015.
Feige clarified Ant-Man's place in the shared cinematic Marvel universe, saying,
“‘Ant-Man’ is definitely part of Phase Three. Like ‘Iron Man 3,’ it’s certainly set in the Marvel Universe, but it’s also through the lens of Edgar Wright — which is the only reason we’re making the movie…I’ve known Edgar since our first lunch together at Comic-Con in 2004. He asked me what Marvel was doing with ‘Ant-Man’ — we weren’t even a studio then; what a difference eight years makes! It’s very much an ‘Ant-Man’ origin movie from the perspective of Edgar Wright and his co-writer Joe Cornish. It will of course be firmly planted in the MCU, but a different corner than we’ve seen before.”
Finally, that brings us to Doctor Strange, another seemingly odd project that Marvel's had in the pipeline for several years. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Dr. Stephen Strange is a gifted but arrogant surgeon humbled when a terrible accident takes away the invaluable steadiness of his hands. His search for a cure leads him into the realms of ancient mysticism, and Strange eventually becomes the unimaginably powerful Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Universe, the last line of defense against all threats extradimensional and mystic.
And the years spent slowly pulling together a Doctor Strange feature will bear fruit during Phase Three, sayeth Feige:
“Beyond that… ‘Ant-Man’ is the only one officially announced, but you probably don’t have to look too far to guess at the next list of characters we’re toying with and beginning to develop…’Doctor Strange,’ which I’ve been talking about for years, is definitely one of them. He’s a great, original character, and he checks the box off this criteria that I have: he’s totally different from anything else we have, just like ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ He’s totally different from anything we’ve done before, as is ‘Ant-Man,’ which keeps us excited.”
As Marvel Studios gets willfully weird, it's going to be very exciting to watch audiences respond to the notion of the comic book movie getting away from the tropes that have become so familiar over the last decade.
Anyways, this is yet another indication that Marvel has entirely abandoned plans for a Runaways film adapting the comic book by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphono. Before he ended up co-writing Iron Man 3, Drew Pearce tackled the script for Runaways, and Marvel was ready to go on the film, with Peter Sollett on board to direct. The project proceeded to casting and was scheduled to begin production in March of 2011, but Marvel indefinitely postponed principal photography in order to focus on The Avengers. Since then, every indication has been that Runaways has fallen by the wayside. Too bad.
But still, there are plenty of Marvel movies on the way. So rejoice, Rogues.