In our proud tradition of speculating on the future of comic book movies, we’d like to present this latest string of rumors about Marvel’s “Phase Two” movie initiative – a second chapter of films that will culminate with The Avengers 2 in 2015.
There is mounting evidence (see below) pointing to The Avengers 2 taking place at least partly in space, as the team battles a threat to the universe (as opposed to just their planet). The question for fans is: does that sound good to you?
If you’re the opinionated type, feel free to vote in our poll and jump down to the comment section to share your thoughts.
Read on if you want a breakdown of the situation as we currently see it, and why “Avengers 2 In Space” may (or may not) be a good thing.
We already know that Marvel is launching a sci-fi space film (Guardians of the Galaxy) as part of their Phase Two initiative; we also have it through side-channels that Thanos (the villain glimpsed in the mid-credits sequence of The Avengers) will be featured in both GotG and Avengers 2. There has been mounting evidence of Thor 2 exploring different realms, while possibly containing a plot point about objects in Odin’s vault that would pose a cosmic-level threat. We’re even hearing that Tony Stark could be headed into the stars by the end of Iron Man 3.
All of this evidence points to Avengers 2 piggy-backing off of Guardians of the Galaxy and continuing the interstellar story that director James Gunn’s film will introduce. While to many fans this may seem like a natural evolution of what was started by the Chitauri invasion seen in The Avengers, there are just as many fans who say that going cosmic (and even more sci-fi) in Avengers 2 is too much, too soon, and that there are perfectly good villains planetside that could challenge Earth’s (keyword) Mightiest Heroes.
The Earth Option
Sure, Loki pissed off Thanos by failing to deliver the Tesseract (Cosmic Cube) and Earth proved it was ready for battle on a much bigger (read: cosmic) stage. But that doesn’t mean that battle has to take place in Phase Two.
Marvel Studios Production President Kevin Feige has already hinted at what’s to come in “Phase Three” – including those now-confirmed Doctor Strange and Ant-Man movies. He suggested that elements of the “Phase Two” storyline don’t need to be rushed, and could even carry over into Phase Three - which means that while Thanos could be a presence in films like GotG and Avengers 2, he doesn’t have to be the main antagonist. There is arguably room for a smaller story before the grand cosmic showdown.
We know Captain America: The Winter Soldier will have something to do with the resurgence of Cap’s presumed-dead parter Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan); it will involve Cap going on missions alongside S.H.I.E.L.D., and will feature heroes like Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Agent Sharon Carter and villains like Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) and Crossbones (Frank Grillo).
It’s long been presumed that Winter Soldier‘s storyline could also introduce any number of elements that could present a terrestrial threat the Avengers sequel could utilize – one of the most popular being the introduction of Cap nemesis Baron Zemo in Winter Soldier, and the formation of his team, The Masters of Evil, in Avengers 2. A game of divide and conquer culminating in a battle between two super teams? Not too shabby! It could make for a smart and exciting plotline, with the right amount of darkness, humor, and good old-fashioned hero villain fights.
Lest we forget, Iron Man 3 will also introduce organizations like tech-terrorists A.I.M., and a Machiavellian villain in the form of Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin. (We would add Ultron to that list, but with the Ant-Man movie not coming ’til Phase Three, our favorite evil robot seems to be without means for a proper origin story.)
That’s all to say: there are plenty of worldly threats to draw from that would be a natural progression of The Avengers revealing themselves to the world. Space is doesn’t necessarily have to be part of the equation.
The Space Option
As stated, the notion of Avengers 2 taking things off-planet makes a certain amount of logistical sense. After all, everything in the film continuity thus far has pointed to threats originating from the cosmos – Loki, the Tesseract, Thanos – it’s only the first two Iron Man films that have kept things (almost) completely terrestrial – and the third film may buck that trend. Even Captain America 2‘s seemingly grounded storyline has been at least rumored to include the introduction of a new Marvel Cosmic character; you can see where this is going.
Once you begin aiming for the stars, it can be an almost fatal flaw to start lowering the bar. When you’re talking about the kind of box office phenomenon that was The Avengers, needless to say, the law of sequels demands that you go bigger and better. And after going with an invading alien horde in your first film, something like the threat of a super villain team may not fill the prescription for a sequel.
Marvel Studios has a grand history of epic cosmic storylines to pull from – and many that feature presumed Avengers 2 villain Thanos. The hunt for the Cosmic Cube and Soul Gems (already in progress onscreen), “The Infinity Saga,” “Annihilation,” “The Thanos Imperative/Avengers Assemble” – using any one of these stories (or an amalgamation of of them) as the basis of the Avengers sequel would be a safe bet, sure to appease both hardcore fans and casual moviegoers.
Granted, Avengers 2 writer/director Joss Whedon has said that he isn’t interested in just “going bigger” – he wants a sequel that cuts deeper into these characters, and tests them in more serious ways than we saw in the first film. While a more character-centric film sounds intriguing from a creative standpoint, it’s doubtful that Disney has plans to favor artistic endeavor over blockbuster $pectacle – and having a superhero team-up film, in space, would definitely be setting a new bar for that kind of spectacle. In short: this deep character story would still likely get a big outer space stage to play on.
The 50/50 Option
Why should we be arguing about this when there is an obvious (and quite likely) option “C” staring us in the face? Have two concurrent storylines running through the film – one set in space, the other on Earth.
There will be so many characters to juggle – potentially double what the first film offered. Add the Guardians of the Galaxy team and auxiliary characters like War Machine, Falcon – or any other new characters we may meet by 2015; Marvel Studios will need a way to fit everybody into the big show and keep their writer/director/architect (Whedon) sane while trying to piece together this enormous puzzle. So why not approach it in two halves?
Picture this: Thor 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy establish the cosmic threat, while films like Captain America 2 and Iron Man 3 give us an idea about worldly circumstances in the post-Invasion era. Avengers 2 pulls some of our characters (like Iron Man, in his slick space armor) onto the galactic stage, while other heroes (you know, the ones not necessarily adapted for space) are back on Earth trying to aid their comrades and/or deal with some Earth-based problem that needs solving (hold off villain’s goons, locate crucial plot McGuffin, etc…).
This would clearly and cleanly compartmentalize the storylines, equalize screen time distribution, character relationships and set pieces. On the production side, it would require less time for the growing gang of actors to spend on set (shooting half a movie takes less time); it would give the filmmakers a clear, segmented blueprint for how to build the film. As an added touch, it might also balance the film better in terms of the visuals: Go nuts with your green screen work for the space segment; keep it more grounded and natural with the Earth segment.
There’s also the simple storytelling fact that there needs to be some kind of tether between all the increasingly fantastical elements of this universe, and grounded human perspective. Whatever happens when Iron Man, Thor and/or Hulk start smashing up spaceships (those would be the characters I’d send into space), it needs to be filtered through the context of Earth and humanity, in order to reflect in more relatable terms how dire (and epic) these events are – and how important these heroes are.
Plus, let’s be honest – you gotta give characters like Cap, Hawkeye, Widow and Falcon SOMETHING to do. If they already look kind of questionable trying to take on aliens in the street (compared to their mega-powered teammates), it doesn’t seem like they’d be all that effective in space. On Earth, working as a unit, is probably where those military-style characters are going to shine. Add in a bit of War Machine, and you’d have a pretty good division of labor there…
How about you – where would YOU like to see The Avengers 2 head? Into space? Around the Earth? A combination of both? Discuss with us in the comments.
The Avengers 2 will be in theaters on May 1, 2015.
All artwork is the property of Marvel Comics.