SAN DIEGO — A million dollars is cool. You know what’s even cooler? A billion dollars. And Marvel Studios made well more than that with “The Avengers,” the massively successful superhero flick that kicked off the summer blockbuster season earlier this year. That means Marvel is really, really cool.
So when you’re really, really, ridiculously cool like Marvel Studios, you’re in a position to make very big, very interesting decisions. Marvel has done precisely that, as evidenced by their presence at Comic-Con this year. The Disney-owned studio announced very exciting and very loaded titles for their “Thor” and “Captain America” sequels, unveiled long-awaited (and I do mean long awaited) footage from Edgar Wright’s planned “Ant-Man” adaptation, and announced that their first non-sequel in years will be an interstellar adventure starring a talking tree and a gun-toting space raccoon.
Interested yet? So am I. Here’s a closer look at all of Marvel’s major announcements made at Comic-Con.
“Guardians of the Galaxy”
There’s a saying in Hollywood: You do one for them, and you do one for you. Above all other reasons, Marvel is making a “Guardians” movie because they want to. It is a risky choice in every possible sense: Star-Lord and the “Guardians” gang are virtually unknown characters even to active comic book readers, and Disney just experienced an astonishing flop with their similarly set space opera “John Carter,” as two examples. But Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige has long expressed his desires to see a “Guardians” movie come to life. As a fan, this is what he wants. And after “The Avengers,” Feige and the rest of the Marvel team have earned the right to do one for themselves. There’s no question that “Guardians” is a risk, but it’s ambitious and unexpected and exciting in all the ways you can ever hope for from a major movie studio.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
For fans of Ed Brubaker’s run on “Cap,” this title reveal was quite possibly the most exciting news to come out of Comic-Con. In the comics, the Winter Soldier is the codename for Bucky Barnes, who resurfaces in the present day as a brainwashed assassin who must be stopped by his old friend Steve Rogers. It’s the role of a lifetime for Sebastian Stan, who will presumably reprise Bucky in the “Captain America” sequel. But equally exciting is what the title means for fans of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. It’s already confirmed that the movie involves S.H.I.E.L.D, and Widow and Winter Soldier have serious history together. With those facts in mind, “Winter Soldier” presents a great opportunity to get Widow back on the big screen ahead of “Avengers,” shining some light on some of that fabled red in her ledger. We’re calling it now: Widow will be one of the stars of “Captain America.”
“Thor: The Dark World”
The new title for the “Thor” sequel is less exciting than the implications-heavy “Winter Soldier,” but it’s intriguing in that it speaks to the scope of Marvel’s greater plans. Feige and friends have all said that the new “Thor” film would explore other worlds outside of Asgard and Earth, and the new title outright confirms their statement. Given the Thanos tease at the end of “Avengers” and the existence of “Guardians” in the very near future, “The Dark World” should play a pivotal role in further expanding the developing intergalactic theme of Marvel Phase Two.
There’s not much to say on this one, other than it’s just so damn exciting that test footage exists. Edgar Wright’s proof-of-concept went over phenomenally with Hall H attendees, wagging an appropriately giant (and totally not literal) middle finger in the faces of those who believe Ant-Man is too obscure to carry his own film. The proof is in the pudding; no one can argue that a pint-sized superhero running up the shaft of a gun and knocking out an opponent’s tooth is anything but awesome. There’s no date yet for “Ant-Man” and there likely won’t be for a while — Wright is tied up at the moment with “The World’s End,” which I’m equally excited for — but it’s relieving to see that both Marvel and Wright are still very interested in kicking ass together, one inch at a time.
“Iron Man 3″
It’s hard to make Tony Stark look uncool, but in the face of all the other major announcements that came out of Marvel’s Comic-Con presentation, the typically flashy hero had his work cut out for him if he wanted to make an impact. But by all accounts, footage from Shane Black’s threequel was an absolute hit, going so far as to reveal Sir Ben Kingsley as the elusive Mandarin. Marvel creatives have openly addressed their trepidation towards Mandarin in the past, but as Black said recently, this superhero movie is taking some risks . Mandarin, as a cinematic character in this day and age, is absolutely a risk. In fact, couple the Mandarin with the announcement of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and Marvel’s new slogan could well be “Make Mine Risky.” But the gambles that the studio is taking with the next wave of their superhero films, whether they pan out or not, are absolutely exhilarating. Even putting “The Avengers” aside completely, it has never been this exciting to be a movie fan in the Marvel Universe.
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