Marvel Studios have certainly cemented their success in a foundation built on taking individual characters, building franchises out of them and then, once every few years, teaming them up. We are just entering into Phase 2 of their plans which will include last May's Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy and culminate in 2015 with the team-up flick, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Thank you, Marvel Studios creative team, for adding subtitles to your movies and getting away from numbering.
As a movie-making studio, Marvel absolutely has a successful template in front of them and, in all certainty, will see it succeed again with Phase 2. The question is, with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor all fully established as franchises and the Avengers team-up poised for at least two more sequels, where do they go from here? Which is the way that's clear?
Recently Kevin Feige, godfather of the MCU, mentioned that Marvel had plans for their films until 2021. We, as a fan base, know we will see Ant-Man, the first Phase 3 film, November 6, 2015 and future, yet untitled films, on each of the following dates: May 6, 2016, July 8, 2016 and May 5, 2017. Quick deductions indicate that sometime in 2018 we will see another team up event followed by some Phase 4 films and another team up event in 2021. Will Marvel give us 4 Avengers movies or are there some other team up films in the works?
Marvel would be foolish not to continue to cash in on the Avengers, and we know they will as Feige has said messing with the Avengers roster is part of the fun, but they would be equally foolish to ignore a successful template, established by them, and not begin to introduce some of their other teams into the MCU. Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy fits that bill to an extent and I've voiced my opinion before that Marvel is going to go hard at building their Cosmic universe. They will continue to build the Avengers brand as well but what about a third, parallel path? I'm talking about establishing characters in solo outings and then putting them together in a team up, as they did in Phase 1 and with the news that Doctor Strange will fill one of those Phase 3 dates I listed above and that the good folks at Marvel mean for Strange to be their cinematic centerpiece, one team jumps out and slaps me: The Defenders.
As a kid, in the 80s, I had a wide range of comic favorites. I loved The Uncanny X-Men, Spider-Man and The Avengers books but one book that I would pick up from time to time and really loved was The Defenders. Some of the stories were so out there and the cast of characters so different and so anti-team that I read out of curiosity.
The Defenders existed to defend the Earth against the supernatural and Doctor Strange, naturally as the Sorcerer Supreme, had a central role in the books and his crib, the Sanctum Sanctorum, a hot spot for other worldly energies, was a meeting place and occasional headquarters for the team.
The roster, as with the Avengers and all of Marvel's teams, was constantly in flux but if you were to pick a core most would agree on Strange, Hulk and Namor, the Sub-Mariner, who also happen to be the founders of the group.
Hulk is already an established part of the MCU and Mark Ruffalo is signed on for multiple films. Doctor Strange is about to be on the scene. Namor has yet to be seen in the MCU though his company, Oracle, has been dropped in here and there and Iron Man 2 featured a small, Namor Easter Egg as well. The brooding, arrogant and ambiguous nature of Namor will make for a great addition to the MCU, though I imagine there is much hesitation to give him a solo film. Marvel's Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada, has said that Namor's film rights are in the hands of Marvel despite him being associated with the Fantastic Four so who knows when we may see the Prince of Atlantis make an appearance. If true, you have everything you need to build a strong foundation for a Defenders film.
The Avengers was about the core four, Hulk, Thor, Captain America and Iron Man and a little Black Widow and Hawkeye sprinkled in. The three names above could combine with any number heroes for whom Marvel owns film rights. Take your pick from: Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist (there's an entirely different movie right there) Ant-Man, etc...enough to fill out a roster.
Marvel has said they are interested in making super hero movies that aren't just super hero movies...they want to expand into other genres. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is said to be a tense political thriller in addition to being a super hero flick. They are going into space with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Doctor Strange will be the gateway to another side of the Marvel universe and another genre of movie: supernatural thrillers, maybe even quasi-horror movies.
In the same way that Iron Man had to work in order for there to be an Avengers, Doctor Strange will have to work for thereto be a Defenders. Marvel knows this and is going to choose quite carefully for the role of Stephen Strange and, if rumors are to be believed, I think Joseph Gordon Levitt is a wonderful choice. Don't be surprised for Dormammu, the likely big bad of the Doctor Strange movie, comes back to attack Earth with a vengeance so strong that Strange has no choice but to reach out for help.
This, like everything on here, is basically a collection of the ramblings going on in my head. I have no idea if it'll turn out but the supernatural and magical aspects will draw a different crowd outside of hardcore fanboys and, if the Strange solo flick works out, people will go see anything with Strange in it just as they did with Iron Man. At this point Marvel has the ability to take a chance or two, they are with Guardians of the Galaxy, because they know they can come back to their Avengers and be safe. If they try and succeed, and start building multiple parallel paths within their cinematic universe, the possibilities down the road are endless! See if they roll the Defenders dice.