Thursday, April 3, 2014

Marvel's Plans Continue to Expand; Avengers, Guardians Spin-offs Possible

For the second time in recent memory, a non-comic book related website managed to pry the BEST kind of goodies away from Marvel Studios' President Kevin Feige. Bloomberg Businessweek's Devin Leonard has put together a very interesting article and you can get the highlights after the jump.

Devin Leonard's piece is very enlightening and I'd certainly suggest each of you head over to read it in its entirety. It does a great job of painting a picture of how big of a business Marvel is and how Disney's gamble to buy Marvel has and will continue to pay off.

He has a special understanding of comics, fans, superheroes, and narrative. He concedes that Marvel won’t recover the film rights to Spider-Man or the X-Men anytime soon but says Marvel has something more valuable: a universe of thousands of characters it controls entirely. That means Feige can produce an unlimited number of films with interweaving story lines and characters, creating a vast audience for almost any Marvel movie. People might show up for The Avengers, meet the Black Widow, and come back for her movie, too. There’s a map of films reaching far into the next decade on the wall of Feige’s office. “It’s like looking through the Hubble telescope. You go, ‘What’s happening back there? I can sort of see it,’ ” he laughs. “They printed out a new one recently that went to 2028.”
2028. That adds an entirely different level to the already expansive plans of Marvel. Last August, put out a piece on Feige and mentioned the studio had planned its Cinematic Universe out through 2021, which was impressive. Knowing they've continued to plan tells me that, despite the ridiculous worries they'll "saturate the market" or "run out of ideas", Marvel's got their poop in a group. Having things planned through 2028, under their current model, takes them into Phase 7. It's also possible, likely even, that they could go to 3 films a year. Would that put us into Phase 8 or 9? Or would they just increase the number of films in each Phase?

As to what those films might be, your guess is as good as mine. That's at least 26 films (could be upwards of 30 if they moved to 3 a year) Marvel has outlined after Ant-Man hits the screen in 2015. We know Captain America and Thor will see third films, but after that we still know very little about what WILL BE on screen. Some names come to the forefront because we know Marvel has been developing them: Ms. Marvel, Doctor Strange, Blade, Inhumans and Black Panther (whose native Wakanda will almost certainly feature in Avengers: Age of Ultron). Some of those movies have franchise potential and could see trilogies, but as of today, none of them have been announced.  Of course at least 4 of the planned films will be some sort of mega-team up like Avengers, but that still leaves plenty of room to explore some other characters. The Hulk will no doubt see some more films, Planet Hulk very likely one of them, but's incredible to think ahead to what we might actually be getting.

One film that we do know about and that looks to be a bold step in the right direction for the studio is Guardians of the Galaxy. Due out in August, the film recently completed reshoots and is in post-production now. Leonard was lucky enough to see director James Gunn and Feige go through the process of editing bits of the film.
They’re watching a rough, animated version of the film on a big screen on the wall. It helps Gunn visualize certain critical scenes before he shoots them with actors.Gunn freezes a frame of an imposing-looking villain any serious comic book fan would recognize instantly. He sits on a rocket-powered throne. Feige sees something on the screen that he doesn’t like. The evildoer needs to be farther away in the frame so he looks more imperious, he says.
“I don’t know,” says Gunn. “I think it’s going to look cool, man.”“You just don’t want him to feel petty in that way,” Feige says. “I think it’s a fine line.”“How do you think it comes off as petty here?” Gunn says.
“He’s so damn close,” Feige says.
“Yeah,” concedes Gunn. “I think I’m going to have him floating in space.”Feige is concerned about the throne, too. He points at the base. “Those don’t need to be rockets,” he says. “Maybe gravity disks?” Feige says he’ll check back later.
In the hallway he extracts a pledge not to name the bad guy. “That could not be a bigger spoiler,” Feige says.
Say what you will about Feige being a part of the creative process, but as you read the whole article, it becomes clear that it's a good thing. The author goes on to say, in a sidenote, that Dr. Doom, MODOK and Odin all could be associated with thrones so, despite some contention by other websites to the contrary, it's safe to say it will not be MODOK. Most likely it will be Thanos who famously tools about space in just that type of throne. We even caught a glimpse of it in Avengers.

The article mentioned that, rather than go outside of its own company to find its braintrust, Marvel created it from the inside, selecting six of its own: Feige, Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, Co-President Louis D'Esposito, President of Publishing Dan Buckley, and legendary writer Brian Michael Bendis, the man most singularly responsible for the shape of the Marvel comic book universe as it currently stands.

One of their first big jobs was to decide how to introduce Captain America to the world and, apparently, it wasn't as easy as you would think; however, Feige, thankfully, had a vision and the guts to make it happen:

There were some people at Marvel who feared that setting Captain America: The First Avenger in the 1940s would alienate young audiences. They wanted half the movie to take place in today’s world. Feige argued that the first film should occur in the past so the audience could understand the psychic dislocation that Captain America experiences 70 years later in The Winter Soldier. “Kevin lobbied very hard for that,” Quesada says. “I felt strongly about it as well. It was the right thing to do. There is no way that the Steve Rogers you see in Captain America: The Winter Soldier resonates as much with an audience if you don’t see that first movie and really understand where he’s coming from.”
Interesting, though not surprising, to note that Marvel has had the Captain America sequel planned out for quite some time.

 Leonard's article goes on to describe Disney CEO Robert Iger's thought process behind buying up Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm among others: Disney wanted more long-lasting stars. This is an important piece of the puzzle, especially when put together in context with this part of the article:

Iger would like to replicate the success of The Avengers with other Marvel teams. He says Marvel could potentially spin off members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, which include Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon, in their own features. In November, Disney announced a deal with Netflix (NFLX) to create individual TV shows about Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones. They will join forces in a fifth series called The Defenders. Iger and Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, recently met with the Marvel team to talk about new heroes who will be introduced in Age of Ultron and could be spun off in their own films as well. Iger declines to name them. “The possibilities are endless,” he says.

The first part of that quote seem pretty important to me.  While the reporter goes on to list the ACTUAL members of the team, it's important to remember that he's not a comic book guy and that neither Iger nor Feige are quoted as naming those characters. While I think it's possible that we could eventually see a Star-Lord solo film and even a Rocket/Groot buddy cop film, it's also possible that some other names pop up in Guardians of the Galaxy and end up seeing their own films or franchises emerge.

One such character has been discussed here multiple times is Nova. We know from the trailer that the Nova Corps has a strong presence in the film and that we'll even visit their home world of Xandar. We know that Rhomann Dey, played by John C. Reilly, is a character directly from the pages of the comics and is responsible for coming to Earth following the destruction of Xandar and handing over the mantle of Nova to Richard Rider. While there's been nothing that leads any of us to believe this is part of the film yet, I wouldn't be surprised is we see Xandar destroyed during the search for the orb nor would a post-credit scene in which a dying Dey arrives on Earth and meets Richard Rider. Nova is a major player in the Marvel universe and it's only a matter of time before we see him on screen.

Guardians of the Galaxy is also going to feature Ronan, a Cosmic heavy-hitter that could see action in other films, Carina Walters, the daughter of the Collector, who had a HUGE role in The Korvac Saga, one of the Avengers' greatest Cosmic stories and several other characters. It's safe to say that while we can't narrow down specifically which characters may spin off from the film, Marvel WILL expand it's Cosmic universe.

So which characters introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron might get their own films? The only character other than the Maximoff twins that seems certain to join the Avengers is the Vision and I can't imagine a solo film starring the Android Avengers would play real well. That leaves the twins and while almost everyone is jumping to Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, two characters that have always been better off as part of a team than doing any type of individual work, nobody is mentioning the hotly-rumored Ms. Marvel. I understand why: as of now she's not in the movie. However, I do think Carol Danvers will make an appearance and it's almost a 100% guarantee that she gets her own film afterwards. Marvel has been developing a script for quite some time now and we've seen plenty of rumors in the past that they've had conversations with at least one actress about her availability to film this spring. There are plenty of other options on the table as well as the film has just begun filming, but Ms. Marvel is a pretty safe bet. (And no sooner did I publish this than Bad Ass Digest's Devin Faraci, who knows a WHOLE LOT more than I do, ran with this bit of "informed speculation" about a Ms. Marvel film).

The takeaway here is that Marvel is in great hands under the leadership of Feige. Despite an uncertain future when the company took its first steps, the company continues to expand its empire and strengthen its hold on the Comic Book Movie genre. Fans of the company should continue to breathe easy and look forward to at least another 14 years of successes!

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek