Aside from turning a talking tree into an international celebrity, one of the most surprising things that Marvel Studios did with Phase Two of their cinematic universe was seemingly bringing the stand-alone "Iron Man" series to an end.
Directed by Shane Black, "Iron Man 3" gave closure to the story of Tony Stark and removed the would-be fatal shrapnel from his heart, making his personal arc reactor unnecessary. Sure, Iron Man will be back for "Avengers 2" and "Avengers 3," but if there isn't another standalone movie for Marvel's top hero, there wouldn't be any loose emotional threads to complain about.
In 2016, Marvel will debut it's second ever "3" movie, the yet-untitled sequel to "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Since Marvel's risky move to actually end Iron Man's story paid off so well creatively, I asked Anthony and Joe Russo, the director of the second and third "Captain America" movies, whether they'd take the same path and bring closure to Steve Rogers' story.
Essentially, they explained that conclusions are necessary to satisfying storytelling, but the vastness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe allows for endings to lead to new beginnings.
"It is a hard question to answer because it gets to the specific of where the narratives are going. I will say this: yes, for satisfying storytelling, you want a beginning, middle and end," Anthony Russo said. "That's the natural arc that we all thrive off of in narrative."
According to the Russos, the way that filmmakers working with Marvel can achieve this without running franchises into the ground is to borrow a mentality from the publishing arm of the superhero house. Certain characters will get emotional and narrative closure, while others will find their worlds upended, possibly leading to more central roles.
"The great thing about the Marvel universe, just like the publishing, it's a very vast, inter-connected universe, where characters will have their rise and fall, so to speak, and hand off to other characters," Anthony Russo said. "As the cinematic universe moves forward, you may start to see the cinematic universe adopt that same pattern, as the publishing has, where there's closure with some characters and new beginnings with other characters. How those hand-offs are made is always part of the fun."
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is available for digital download and will hit Blu-ray and DVD on September 9.