Marvel’s The Avengers is one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, a superhero movie so epic in scale that it has the potential to be one of the most entertaining movies of the year and to serve as a launching pad for various other spinoffs and sequels. On the same note, however, it could also be a big failure and do something almost unimaginable: it could kill Marvel’s superhero-genre films in one fell swoop. They have so many projects in development that a failure here could head a large, damaging domino effect across the entire studio division.
Let’s examine what Marvel has put out in recent years just to understand a bit here what we are dealing with.
In 2008, Marvel released Iron Man, which served as the first building block to the Avengers initiative. The film was superbly received and is personally a film I find to be among the most entertaining blockbusters in recent years; prior to the release of The Dark Knight on blu-ray, Iron Man owned the record for largest blu-ray sales with over half a million copies sold in its first week, not bad considering that 2008 was just a short while after the format war and the ensuing adoption of blu-ray.
Just one month later, The Incredible Hulk was released, starring Edward Norton as the title character, further pushing the idea that an Avengers movie could be formed in the future.
2010 saw the release of Iron Man 2 and, while not as successful as the first act, provided yet another entertaining story of playboy Tony Stark, played by the resurgent Robert Downey, Jr. In Iron Man 2, we were first formally introduced to the Avengers initiative by S.H.I.E.L.D. captain Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and it became clearer that within a couple years we would be seeing an Avengers movie come to fruition.
That brings us to 2011, in which we have seen Thor (starring Chris Hemsworth as Thor) and Captain America: The First Avenger (starring Chris Evans as Captain America), both of which served to introduce us to these characters from the Avengers and set up their individual story arcs.
So now that Nick Fury has Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Black Widow (from Iron Man 2, played by Scarlett Johannson) on board, what else is needed?
Of the other possible major characters to be in The Avengers, Ant-Man, Wolverine, and Spider-Man will not be involved. Ant-Man was written out, as he left the group early on in the comic books, and Wolverine and Spider-Man both saw their rights sold off to Sony a long time ago, so they will likely never appear in a Marvel/Disney film. However, an Ant-Man movie was announced a while back as being a possible 2014 release.
And, of course, the Hulk was introduced in Marvel’s 2008 film.
That essentially brings us to Hawkeye and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill as characters that have yet to be introduced in this most recent Marvel lineup. Hawkeye is being played by Jeremy Renner, a recent action-movie asset (he’s starring in The Bourne Legacy this summer), and Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) will be stepping into the latex as Hill.
So where are we at now, not just with The Avengers franchise itself, but each of its various spinoff franchises?
Well, for starters, The Avengers will be released on May 4 of this year, sure to be among the top-grossing movies of the year due to the successes of Marvel’s most recent films.
The Hulk was formerly played by Edward Norton in the 2008 film, but he will be played by two different people in The Avengers: Mark Ruffalo will play Bruce Banner, and Lou “The Hulk” Ferrigno (the original Hulk) will voice Bruce’s CGI alter-ego. No decisive word yet on a potential Ruffalo/Ferrigno spinoff or if the Hulk will only appear in films with the Avengers name attached. Initial discussions for a new Incredible Hulk movie, in which Mark Ruffalo would star, have begun, but whether that happens or not is still not yet confirmed.
Iron Man 3 is currently in pre-production with filming set to begin in May of this year, right around the theatrical release of The Avengers. If all goes according to plan, the third iteration of Iron Man would be released May 3, 2013.
Thor 2 and Captain America 2 seem to be the other hot movie items in development by Marvel, with the movie studio looking at a late 2013 and early 2014 release for these films, respectively. And if The Avengers and these subsequent sequels perform well, expect to see Marvel finish each out as a trilogy of its own.
Also in the works is a Nick Fury movie which would likely see the light of day in the late spring or summer of 2014. Whether Marvel would do a Hawkeye movie is still up in the air, but really, until we see how The Avengers performs both critically and financially, I think that we should see each of these properties hold off on getting underway with production. A misstep this May could lead to a tragic domino effect for Marvel.
Undoubtedly, if The Avengers does well, Marvel will do itself a financial favor and produce a sequel, even if the story isn’t fully there. It would also mean that Marvel would go in and mark each of these projects from “announced” or being in development to actually being in production or pre-production. The Avengers would be a launching pad for a lot of these properties. We would see a full lineup of Marvel movies for years to come: Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, Nick Fury, The Avengers 2, and possibly a Hawkeye movie or Hulk movie. Even a Black Widow film isn’t out of the question.
Or a Maria Hill spinoff. Alright that last part was a bit much, but a Robin Scherbatsky fan can dream, eh? Anyways, back to the issue at hand here:
What if everything goes wrong and Joss Whedon’s superhero uber-project fails?
Well, Iron Man 3 will likely be made regardless, if only to close out the Iron Man story in the much-beloved trilogy format that all studios love. But after that? If The Avengers fails, it could potentially mean the end of all of those movies in the development and pre-production stages and lead to a shutdown of almost all of Marvel’s comic book/superhero franchises.
No more Thor.
No more Captain America.
No more Nick Fury. Or Hawkeye. Or Hulk. Or any other spinoff you can think of.
No more Avengers. Period.
Now here’s to hoping that The Avengers blasts away everyone’s expectations so that doesn’t happen.
May 4, here we come.