So now that The Avengers has set up Phase 2 of the Marvel movieverse, what say we geek out and look at some of the places the sequels could go?
We already know a fair amount of what’s coming next. And I am very stoked to see Shane Black’s Iron Man 3, because he and Downey Jr. go together like a half glass of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey and room temperature. They could be making an NC-17 docudrama about the night my grandmother lost her virginity, with Downey as grandma and an untrained hobo as the Big Bopper’s stand-up bass player, for all I care. There is no bit of story or casting news or toxic reviews that will make me not see that movie.
I also think there’s a great Captain America 2 to be made with a Winter Soldier storyline. Mix in WW2 flashbacks and an ageless Baron Zemo as an overarching villain and you’re pretty much golden. But it would be even better if you could work Hawkeye into the mix. I’ve never seen an issue featuring him, but I understand Winter Soldier to Cap’s WW2 buddy Bucky, long thought dead, returned as a villain. Also, in the comics, Cap had a longstanding mentor relationship with Hawkeye (eventually grooming the young buck to take command of the Avengers West Coast branch).
Granted, The Avengers didn’t establish that relationship at all, Renner looks older than Evans, and his performance “reads” plenty experienced and in no particular need of mentorship. But then, the movie version of Bucky was much more of a contemporary of Cap’s than the lil’ buddy from the comics, so it fits that even if movie Hawkeye is a relative equal, Winter Soldier’s return could still trigger all sorts of latent self-doubt in Cap and put an interesting strain on his new partnership.
But putting aside that I just said I’m looking forward to the next 2 Marvel solo movies on the slate, I don’t really think Marvel should do more solo movies. Of course they’re going to, because they’ll make similar boatloads of cash on each one as long as the brand stays healthy, while only having to pay one A-list salary at a time. But The Avengers blew up the universe to such a huge and satisfying degree that it’s going to be hard to shrink the heroes back to the confines of a solo adventure and not have it feel a bit deflating.
Now, some might say, the comics transitioned between the big cosmic events and smaller standalone adventures, plus all the big players maintained their own series alongside The Avengers. Doesn’t that prove there’s room for solo franchises along with team movies? Not really, because a movie is bigger than an issue of a comic. You can’t churn out a new standalone movie every month, and actors age out of roles that stay ~30 for decades at a time on the page. If it takes three years between movies, we’ve got two more with this cast. Maybe a third, if everyone stays sober and friendly, and Downey and Renner go in for some botox and crocodile hormones or whatever. There’s pressure on every movie to be huge in a way that every comic can’t be.
So I think the better option would be to just have all the Marvel movies be Avengers: Revenge Of The Subtitle from here on out. Obviously Johannson and Ruffalo and all the rest won’t be up for 2 of these flicks a year until 2020, but I just don’t have much interest in another Thor movie without any of the rest of the heroes to bounce off anymore, so rather than trying to emulate the egalitarian ensemble piece Whedon made, I’d prefer a series of more focused team-up movies. Have each focus on a particular hero, but pack as many people as scheduling permits into supporting/cameo roles. One great thing about the perfect balance of The Avengers is that its success is now bigger than any one hero (even Tony Stark), so take advantage and slap the brand on some solo features with slightly expanded scale.
My biggest concern is that they are already pushing Thanos into the mix. Don’t get me wrong, the introduction was sweet and he is in many ways the ultimate Avengers (hell, Marvel) villain. But the natural endpoint with him is to do a version of The Infinity Gauntlet, a classic Marvel crossover EVENT that many have fond memories of. I am not one of them, because while undeniably big, it is also a weird, messy, at times stupid storyline that uses its eponymous macguffin to indulge the worst tendencies of superhero storytelling and handwave away all it’s SHOCKING TWISTS and restore the status quo.
Now, if anyone is going to do an adaptation of this storyline, I would want it to be Whedon. He had comic book sensibilities evident in his TV work, but what saves it is that even when indulging in magical hand-waving to bring important characters back from the dead, he remained committed to having there be real consequences that would play out upon their return. Even if they didn’t stay dead, it always mattered that they had died. But without 12 issues or 22 episodes a year to follow through, there won’t be much time to play out any consequences if it ends with the same rewrite of reality as the comics.
That doesn’t mean they couldn’t use Thanos as a sufficiently high-powered villain without the gauntlet, saving all that junk for a return engagement and avoiding making any subsequent villain feel completely lightweight by comparison. But I think there are other options available to them, particularly if Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man movie successfully introduces him to this mythos. I don’t think there are any really original ideas here, it’s just an aggregate of classic comic storylines, suggestions from other chewers and bits of the (great) Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon, but some examples:
Have Stark and Pym create Ultron, possibly to help combat some threat by AIM or HYDRA, and have him threaten to take over the planet, SKYNET-style.
A SHIELD-centric movie exploring the relationship between Black Widow and Hawkeye. Have them investigating some AIM/HYDRA conspiracy headed by a low-level baddies like Grim Reaper or Shroud or Moonstone and throw in Mockingbird as a fellow agent and ex-wife of Hawkeye who left him in part because she wasn’t comfortable with how close he was to his partner. Gradually uncover that Skrulls have begun replacing people, and allow that to simmer in the background of a few movies.
It could also lead into a Kang movie, where he comes back from the future to stop Captain America from eventually dooming the human race, unaware that it is actually a Skrull impostor who is responsible. His time hopping abilities could also take Cap (and friends?) back to the WW2 era, and bring Neal McDonough’s fabulous moustache back to the present day where, let’s face it, it’s absence has been a major liability to these films.
A Kree invasion, introducing Captain Marvel. Super-sentries! Ronan The Accuser! Korvac! Captain Atlas! Any sort of alien craziness you can think up!
After a few of these movies, we’ve probably got a decent stable of villains built up, and we can do the Masters of Evil. Have the Leader, the Enchantress/Lokie and Red Skull vying for control of the group, with Ultron coming back and folks like Abomination, Klaw, Man-Thing rounding things out, plus maybe Wonderman, whose 3rd Act conversion to the side of the angels can turn the tide.
Speaking of going high-volume, there are more Avengers than will every be able to be squeezed into these movies. Ant-Man and Black Panther could definitely work, and maybe Vision and Wasp with some tweaking*, but I don’t think we’re ever going to see the Living Lightning (sigh) electrifying IMAX screens. But it might be a cool way to establish a villain in a later movie by opening with them slaughtering a bunch of redshirt heroes like Moon Knight, Tigra and Darkhawk. Sleepwalker is never going to make it onto the screen otherwise, so why not?
There’s also Civil War, which was apparently disappointing (never read it) but has a strong core concept. There is the issue that none of the movie Avengers actually have a secret identity to protect, but that’s easily paved over by making it about coming under the direct command of SHIELD. But it really only carries weight when you have built up a long history between the heroes to fracture, so it has to come toward the end of the Marvel movie cycle.
Anyway, once you’ve gone through a few of these ideas, then sure, go nuts with The Infinity Gauntlet to cap things off and to hell with everything. Slot Captain Marvel into Adam Warlock’s place and let him cap things off with a heroic sacrifice (since he is one of the few heroes allowed to “permanently” die), to give it some real weight and consequence, and finish off this cycle of movies in crazy, cosmic style before starting in on the inevitable reboot.
But who am I kidding, chances are we’re going to go straight into the Gaunlet and rapidly diminishing returns. Truth be told, I’ll be pretty happy if two of these basic concepts ever makes it to the screen. Hell, in case it wasn’t obvious, I’m pretty happy that we got one Avengers movie that was actually good.
*Wasp is a major character, and the team could use some more estrogen in the mix, but I don’t think her powers will survive the translation to the big screen. Flight and size manipulation are redundant of other characters’ powers, and while in a still panel you can kind of just accept that fine, chick’s got wings, she’s flying, I don’t think it will play well on screen. I don’t think having wispy fly-wings sticking out of her back will allow her to convincingly keep up with Iron Man or Thor, and it will beg the question of why they aren’t shredded every time someone she gets lightly tapped in a fight. I think giving her a totally different set of powers (or maybe combining her character with Ms Marve/Warbird) would be the best idea.