It seems like only yesterday I sat through the end credits of Iron Man to hear Nick Fury introduce Tony Stark to the idea of the “Avengers initiative”. The crowd cheered and fanboys like myself immediately began to ponder the possibilities of an interconnected Marvel movie universe and The Avengers on screen together. A similar moment in The Incredible Hulk didn’t pack quite the same punch but assured us that Marvel intended to deliver on its promise and that these films were all closely tied together.

Some would argue that Iron Man 2 made some sacrifices to its central narrative for the sake of teasing how cool The Avengers was going to be and it remains to be seen if The First Avenger: Captain America and Thor will do a better job of juggling those elements. What we do know is that The Avengers has evolved from a fanboy daydream to a massive production moving ahead at full speed.  On the heels of the cast assembling for the first time at this year’s Comic-Con, Superhero Hype has learned that the film will start shooting this February for its May4, 2012 release date. We’ve heard that the film would begin early next year so it’s of no surprise to anyone.

Directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers is intended to be the culmination of all the in-house Marvel movies produced thus far and will be a huge factor in the direction subsequent films take as well. At the risk of starting another angry debate, I’m going to be honest and say that I think the runaway success of Iron Man was both a blessing and a cure for Marvel… and for the fans.

On the one hand a comic book company was now directly responsible for the film adaptations of some of their most important characters. The filmmakers were rubbing shoulders with the writers and artists on a daily basis and their opinions weren’t just considered, they were valued and encouraged. It was also further proof that the closer a movie stuck to the tone and spirit of its source material, the more successful it would likely be.

In many ways, Iron Man was the antithesis of that summer’s other big comic book hit The Dark Knight. Had Iron Man tanked I think the message may have been sent that all of these films need to be dark and serious and that’s what audiences respond to. Yet, because Iron Man was lighter and fun I think the message was instead the importance of lining these properties up with a director who understands the character and brings the right sensibilities to the project.

Iron Man 2 was inevitable before the first film finished its opening weekend and for the first time Marvel was no longer in uncharted waters- they were dealing with a hit franchise and the anticipation of a hungry fan base. Many of you love that film and I respect that. The same things I can’t stand about it (the S.H.I.E.L.D. subplot, Cap’s shield, too many characters) were the same things other people really responded to.

One of the things I found most effective about Iron Man was Tony Stark’s journey and how much has changed by the end of the film. When all is said and done in Iron Man 2, things aren’t tremendously different from when the film started. There was a more compelling story for Tony buried in there somewhere, but it never had the screen time or payoff it deserved. So what does this rant have to do with The Avengers– specifically the fact that it starts shooting so soon?

I have one main concern with The Avengers. It’s not the crowded roster (despite the fact that we’ve seen that kill several other comic book films) and it’s not Joss Whedon (I actually think that’s a pretty inspired choice). It’s that when they start shooting in February, Captain America and Thor will not have been released yet. That means the bulk of production on The Avengers will be complete before those films hit theaters.

I realize Whedon surely knows what happens in those films, I’m talking about taking note of how an audience responds to them. I don’t think it’s bold to assume the success of Captain America or Thor, but I do think it’s unfortunate they won’t have an opportunity to examine what’s worked and what hasn’t before taking on The Avengers. Even worse, what if they try to incorporate feedback they receive in the middle of shooting or during post-production?

I understand this is an ambitious project and there’s a desire to get these actors locked in and make this movie while they still can. I know many of you are ready for this right now and no one wants to wait a decade for this to come together. However, what I’m saying is that I think they’re putting themselves in an unfortunate position by rushing into it like this. I think they got drunk on their early success and we’re getting too much thrown at us too quickly. I’m not entirely convinced that The Avengers wouldn’t benefit from the experience they gain and the lessons they learn from these other films.

The cast of The Avengers

For me personally, the three years between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight made me even more excited to see the latter. We’re going to get a train of these Marvel movies one right after the other and while I’m not suggesting fans are going to get sick of them, I don’t think the level of interest or enthusiasm will be quite the same as it would if there was a little bit more time to breathe between installments.

I don’t mean to imply that The Avengers is definitely going to be a disaster or that it’s absolutely necessary they slow down a little bit. I’m only saying it wouldn’t hurt.

Thor hits theaters on May 6, 2011. Captain America: The First Avenger follows on July 22, 2011. The Avengers assemble on May 4, 2012.

Source: Superhero Hype.