Marvel’s Film Future Follows the Road to ‘The Avengers’

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I am sure most comic book movie lovers all remember the ups and downs of the “Justice League” movie Warner Bros. was trying to piece together prior to the writers’ strike that ultimately fell by the way side. As far as story details went, very little was known, but the casting of the project obviously led us to believe they were aiming to put together a young team of actors and introduce a massive world of superheroes in one singular film all at once. The idea, to many and myself included, sounded not only impossible, but ridiculous. With two separate Batman franchises, a successful Superman franchise followed by a failed attempt to reboot the character and the knowledge no one from the established franchises would be a part of the proceedings. It was a risky consideration to say the least, but it appears Marvel’s attempt to do the same thing is much more thought out and has been so since the beginning.

In talking with several online writers during Comic Con, Marvel executive Kevin Feige discussed the process of bringing the Marvel universe together in feature films with The Avengers, and how they plan on doing it on a grand scale. “I get to cheat because it’s been done before in comics. It’s not how the dots connect — we might be changing them a little bit — but it’s that experience of reading comics we’re trying to bring to movies, to people who’ve never opened a comic book before.”

“I’ve said it a million times,” he continued, “The best part about reading a comic in the Marvel universe is that any character can pop into any of the other ones. That’s not been possible [in the movies] until Iron Man, but it’s not about cramming in lots of new characters, that sort of cardinal sin of the sequel — explaining too many characters — [Iron Man 2] is totally Tony Stark’s story and Tony Stark’s story is going to weave into a character named Thor’s story and a character named Steve Rogers’s story and is already engrained in Nick Fury’s story and an organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D., which we wove into [Iron Man].”

For any of you that watched the Iron Man 2 Comic Con panel Collider.com.

When I asked about the superhero team-up and his concerns in making sure the films work as standalone features as well as work in setting up The Avengers he told me, “My only concern is that whichever character’s franchise we’re launching that it stands on its own two feet. With Iron Man being the first one out of the gate, thank goodness that’s what happened. Now everybody loves Iron Man [and] it’s our job to do the same thing with Thor and the same thing with Captain America two years from now so by the time The Avengers comes in 2012 it’s not just a team superhero movie with just a bunch of characters with powers, it’s these three people — four including the Hulk — five including Nick Fury, that you’ve seen in other movies before now coming together for the very first time.”

Photo: Marvel

Yeah, they are still looking at the Hulk following the 2008 reboot starring Edward Norton that didn’t exactly wow at the box-office, but hasn’t been abandoned by Marvel outright. I asked Feige for confirmation of Hulk’s involvement and he said, “I think he will be [in it], absolutely,” and Collider got even further details on the characters involved saying:

I think we know. It’s going to be Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Nick Fury. I think it’s safe to assume that there will be some members of the Hulk universe in the film as well. In terms of the additional, I think Black Widow for sure. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s organization for sure. And, again, what’s exciting to me about the Avengers movie are seeing those four characters together and interact with each other. Anywhere from the first issue of the Avengers to Civil War, the dynamic between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark is awesome and fascinating. It brings out sides of the others that won’t be brought out in their own franchises. Throwing Thor into the mix is a whole other thing and I think that will be cool. So to pile in another ten or fifteen… or frankly even four… I think will be too many.

Of course, the combining of these separate mythologies has worked for a longtime in the pages of comic books, but how does doing the same thing translate to the big screen? Or does it? To ask Kevin Feige he’ll tell you there is no challenge in weaving the fantasy of “Thor” with the science fiction of “Iron Man” into The Avengers.

“No, because that’s what Thor is,” Feige told us. “We’re doing the Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Walt Simonson, J. Michael Straczynski “Thor” we’re not doing the blow-the-dust-off-the-old-Norse-book-in-your-library “Thor” and in that “Thor,” the “Thor” in the Marvel universe, there’s a race called the Asgardians [fictional race of gods in the Marvel Comics] that were linked through this mystery of life and we don’t know about it. It’s real, it’s real science, we just don’t know about it yet and the Thor movie is teaching people about that.”

Robert Downey Jr., Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth

To this point we already know, should things work out as currently set up, Robert Downey Jr. will play Tony Stark in The Avengers, Samuel L. Jackson will play Nick Fury, Scarlett Johansson would play Black Widow and Chris Hemsworth would play Thor. That, of course, is in addition to several other supporting characters. As far as Edward Norton returning as The Hulk, Feige said, “I think there’s always a chance. It’s certainly our intention to use the same actors from film-to-film where we can.” However, should you be anticipating an The Incredible Hulk 2 you may be waiting a longtime, that is if it happens at all, as Feige added, “That would be post-Avengers if that happened.”

Finally, the last piece of the Avengers puzzle to be questioned during the Con was the director as a young man asked if Favreau would take on the duties during the panel and it came up again during the roundtable interviews. Obviously there is no one aboard yet, but Favreau did say it would be weird to see someone step in and take over where he has been operating for the past four years.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan in Iron Man
Photo: Paramount Pictures

“Oh yeah, sure. Oh it’s hard, it’s always hard,” when asked how he would feel. “Sometimes it’s better, but that’s a letting go. It’s strange when you have to switch those hats, because I’m not used to that, and just going from directing and creating this world to just being Happy Hogan in The Avengers would be — I’m not going to lie — it would be strange. I’ll be involved as an executive producer, but it’s a lot different being a consultant on something [compared to] being the guy calling the shots. There’s a lot of people collaborating on Iron Man, but I know at the end of the day the buck stops here. It’s fun, but it’s also a lot of pressure, but I enjoy it.”

Favreau even recalled the scene at the end of The Incredible Hulk when Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark meets with William Hurt as General Ross saying, “It’s even interesting watching The Hulk where there’s a scene with Tony Stark. I wasn’t involved with, so that was strange, but I think Kevin [Feige] has a sense of the big picture [and] where everything is going and I’ll be involved to whatever extent they see fit and works well with where my interests lie.”

As for future installments of Iron Man Favreau said, “I always felt if there was a third episode it should be The Avengers and I was even sort of joking about that when we first announced Iron Man, now it really could happen.”

The Avengers is set to hit theaters on May 4, 2012, but before that time fans will see Iron Man 2 on May 7, 2010, Thor on May 20, 2011 and The First Avenger: Captain America on July 22, 2011. If done correctly this could be one of the most entertaining movie franchises of all-time.