With Phase Two of Marvel Studio’s superhero franchises well underway with the premier Iron Man 3 last week and the remaining scheduled announced up through The Avengers 2‘s May 1, 2015 release, the studio is turning their attention towards the initial planning of Phase Three.
Right now we know two things for certain about Phase Three – It will kick of with director Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man in the fall of 2015 and that Phase Two and Three will not be used to set up some long-form adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Planet Hulk and World War Hulk storylines. That particular rumor was floated awhile back but was quickly shot down by all involved at Marvel.
A far better indicator as what Marvel has in development probably lies within a Hollywood Reporter article from earlier this week detailing how the studio has just entered into negotiations with Robert Downey Jr to reprise his work as Tony Stark for The Avengers 2 and 3 now that his initial contract with the studio has run out. Buried towards the bottom of the piece was this gem –
Marvel has a writing program it uses as a concept generator and has scripts for Blade and Ms. Marvel features, for example. Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, Black Panther and The Runaways are other projects on the horizon. The company slowly has been reacquiring licenses to characters it lost during the 1990s, snapping up Blade, Ghost Rider, Power Man and Daredevil in the past year alone.
What’s interesting, and what I haven’t seen remarked upon elsewhere, is that the “concept generator” Marvel is using to generate some of these screenplays is a writing program run through parent studio Disney and has already yielded one project that will be making its way to the big screen – Guardians Of The Galaxy whose first draft was written by Nicole Perlman. Granted James Gunn did his own pass through the screenplay when he signed on board to direct, it was still Perlman’s draft that provided the framework of a story that the studio was strong enough to move forward with.
Now, not all of what is in that paragraph is new news. The Runaways project had been in active development with a script by Iron Man 3 writer Drew Pearce and even some reported early casting sessions going on before news fell off about it. The origin story for the titular group of teens who discover that their parents are a cabal of supervillains involves a number of standard comic book conventions, though some, like time travel and magic, have yet to be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so the studio may be holding that back until it is able to lay a bit more groundwork for the film.
A Black Panther film was rumored to be in the running for a slot in Phase Two, though that ultimately went to Guardians Of The Galaxy. Might it be a frontrunner for a spot in three? It very well could be, but Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige has also been vocal recently that a film based on the character of Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange, is also in the offing for Phase Three.
It is interesting that Marvel already has a screenplay in development for the vampire hunter hero known as Blade, as it was already a successful trilogy on its own in the 90s and Feige stated when the Daredevil rights were confirmed back with the studio that “we’re not going to say “We got it back–make it!'” Is the studio looking at the character as an alternate way of expanding on the magical/mystical aspects of the Marvel Universe either as a compliment to Dr. Strange or in case that project’s screenplay doesn’t come together as expected? A Ms. Marvel project is also surprising, as the character is just not that well known. I have a suspicion that the studio is looking at possibly introducing her in another film, most likely one of the two Avengers sequels, and if the audience reaction is favorable, they’ll spin her off for a solo adventure.
It is safe to assume that not all of the possible projects mentioned will make it to the screen. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there ultimately is a Phase Three that hasn’t been mentioned at this early date. But Phase Three will be the biggest challenge facing the studio since it launched its franchises. It is very probable that while Downey Jr is returning for a pair of Avengers films, he may not be interested in any more solo Iron Man outings. That would leave them without their biggest box office heavy hitter and their could be repercussions from that.
Also, Marvel is going to have to start seeding in more new heroes to balance out the returning franchises. As Phase Three begins, Marvel will need to start introducing more original films into onto their schedule. Their contracts with the stars of Captain America and Thor will be close to expiring. It would be fairly risky to start off Phase Four with a slate of entirely new characters or new actors replacing their current franchise leads. The better plan would be to commence bringing in more new characters in Phase Three that can become the heavy hitters of what will come after Avengers 3.
If I were a betting man, I would say that Phase Three would definitely consist of a Captain America and/or a Thor film while introducing Ant-Man, Dr. Strange and Black Panther into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in their own adventures, while we won’t see Ms. Marvel until after she makes an appearance in another film, very probably one of the two Avengers sequels.
And check back sometime in 2015-2016 at the start of Phase Three to see if I’m right or not.