Marvel Studios in Hall H on Saturday night is arguably the best memory of my trip in 2010. What was already a fantastic panel introducing the following year’s Thor and Captain America movies ended with the first time the star-studded cast of the Avengers (including Mark Ruffalo, fresh after inking his deal) appeared together in public, earning themselves a standing ovation from Hall H. This year, while things perhaps weren’t quite as audacious, Marvel Studios nonetheless still managed to create an equally excruciating anticipation from the fans with details of their upcoming movie slate.
So which of the 5 announced movies should we be most excited about? In ascending order: Ant-Man, the Thor sequel, Iron Man 3, the Captain America sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy.
We’d heard rumours about this movie for years and even got a hopeful but non-commital answer to when we asked director Edgar Wright about it while getting his autograph in 2010. Then, in Thor, a throwaway reference by Stellan Sarsgaard’s Eric Selvig alluded to Ant-Man, but it just wasn’t concrete enough. This year, though production hasn’t started yet and no release date has been set, clearly there’s some renewed confidence in the character, enough to warrant a test screening and a title card. While I’m definitely hoping for this movie to lead into Ant-Man’s appearance in the Avengers sequel, Wright already has a new movie The World’s End, the last of the “trilogy” that began with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, just greenlit by Universal, so that’s going to keep him busy for a while. Still, with the sequel not expected till 2015 (at least), it’s anyone’s guess if an Ant-Man movie will finally be made.
While I saw last year’s Thor as the most anticipated geek movie of 2011, and still believe that it is one of the best from Marvel Studios, I find myself being more harsh with any news of the sequel. While most of the movie’s cast will be returning, with the notable exception of Josh Dallas, who will be replaced as Fandral by the studio’s original choice Zachary Levi, the announced subtitle The Dark World confirms that the movie will probably focus very little on Midgard and instead of Asgard and Jotunheim, will now explore another of the Nine Worlds, most likely Niffleheim (aka the Dark World) or Hel (aka Land of the Dead). While understandable that a movie about Thor would focus more on Norse mythology, I believe it still needs to be grounded in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and to Midgard if it is to resonate with audiences.
The hype about Iron Man 3, expected in less than a year on May 3rd, more or less dominated the Marvel presence at SDCC 2012, and while this is third on the list, rest assured that this movie is definitely already among the most anticipated movies of 2013. While screening footage from the movie, which included a depiction of the new Extremis armour, fans cheered when the movie’s long-rumoured main villain, played by Ben Kingsley, was finally revealed and confirmed to be The Mandarin – arguably the Armoured Avenger’s greatest and most dangerous foe. With this movie kicking off what is being labelled “Phase 2” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you can bet that the studio is pulling out all the stops and ensuring this movie starts the ball rolling with a huge bang.
For this die-hard Cap fan, the revelation of the sequel’s subtitle elicited mixed feelings. On one hand, of course I was excited. The Winter Soldier character, created by the genius of Ed Brubaker, not only gave the resurrection of long-dead character Bucky Barnes substance and depth, but also redefined the story of Cap for a new generation. On the other hand, Brubaker’s genius also utilised the comic book medium to a powerful extent, pacing the return of Bucky across two years of storyline, culminating in a powerful climatic scene which saw Steve Rogers tell the Winter Soldier “Remember who you are”, a storyline that I imagine being severely watered down as a motion picture. Still, I am excited to see Sebastian Stan, who played Bucky in the first movie and has signed on to return for this expanded role, one that would hopefully define his career in a good way.
5) Guardians of the Galaxy
Last, but definitely not least, the very surprising return of the relatively new Guardians of the Galaxy team to mainstream conciousness – a steady buildup over the past 4 years or so in comics, before their television appearance in May on Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and a month later, in the comic series Avengers Assemble. Put together by talented scribes Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the team of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Mantis, Groot and Drax are perhaps unlikely successors to the Avengers hype, but clearly, they are rising stars in the Marvel Universe. Under the right creative team, Guardians of the Galaxy could very well become a space opera rivalling the likes of Avatar in scope and box office takings. The announced release date of August 1, 2014 means that it comes after the three sequels, but it’s anyone’s guess if it’ll tie into the Avengers sequel, though if the Avengers Assemble comic book series is anything to go by – it’ll be this movie that sets up the sequel.
Marvel Studios has been riding a huge wave of mainstream popularity that crested with this year’s Avengers movie. I’m happy to see that they are not relying solely on sequels to maintain this wave, but are looking at new characters to keep challenging the status quo. Here’s hoping the gamble will pay off – there’s just so much raw material in the comic books just waiting for their silver screen treatment and it all depends on the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy to succeed. 2014 can’t come fast enough.