Marvel Studios is gearing up for the home video release of their third most successful film to date in Thor: The Dark World and the timing works out well since they’re in the middle of promoting the next film on the slate, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That’s the beauty of the studio’s two-films-per-year model – there’s always something hitting theaters, something hitting video, all the while expanding into other mediums (see: Netflix Marvel TV shows).
For every film coming out, fans are looking half a dozen projects ahead. That’s the nature of the beast when expectations and hype are at a fever pitch and when all of the Marvel Studios films and TV shows are connected in one, large, growing universe, with Easter eggs and cameos hinting at more. That universe gets exponentially bigger this August when new property Guardians of the Galaxy brings moviegoers into the cosmic section of the Marvel Comics library. Guardians may arguably be the Disney and Marvel’s most ambitious and risky project yet, so does it make sense for them to plan a sequel already?
According to a source of JoBlo, that’s exactly what they’re doing. It’s no secret that to join the Marvel Studios family, talent must dedicate their future with a lengthy multi-picture deal. That’s what all of the stars of Guardians of the Galaxy did and sequels are obviously a part of the plan. If there wasn’t a future for these characters, the film wouldn’t have been greenlit in the first place. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has repeatedly said they have tentative plans dating up towards 2021 and the Guardians are a big part of that.
As for the immediate future, The Avengers: Age of Ultron closes out ‘Phase 2’ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe next May. Two months later, Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man kicks off Phase 3. After that, Disney and Marvel Studios secured three summer release dates in 2016-17 for unannounced titles that we don’t expect to learn more about until Comic-Con.
What we do know is that the plan is to use the first of each annual pair of Marvel movie release dates for an established property (a sequel) and build off the buzz to help launch a new IP in the second date. This year, Cap 2 precedes the introduction of the Guardians. Next year, Avengers 2 opens the door for Ant-Man. So the big question is, which sequels get the May 2016 and May 2017 dates?
The safest educated guess puts Thor 3 in May 2016 and Captain America 3 in May 2017, but with more and more characters on the way that doesn’t necessarily need to be the plan. Stars Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth only have so many pictures left on their contracts after The Avengers: Age of Ultron so perhaps it makes better business sense to keep them around longer and save their (or at least one of their) third solo movies until after The Avengers 3 – which is expected to debut in May 2018.
JoBlo reports that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is taking the May 2016 date – a date that recently was invaded by Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s massive Batman vs Superman project. They cite (and confirm) the recent rumors of a Guardians of the Galaxy animated series debuting fall 2015 which comes as no surprise given the attention the team has been getting in the comics ever since the film became a reality.
If true, this raises some interesting questions about what new properties Marvel and their president of production Kevin Feige plan to introduce in Phase 3. The most talked about candidates from Feige include Doctor Strange – which he unofficially confirmed as a Phase 3 film already – and The Inhumans. The latter however, we believed could double as a sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy but that doesn’t seem to be the case based on this latest report.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
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Other oft-rumored candidates for Phase 3 introduction include Black Panther and another Hulk movie (Planet Hulk?). Our insiders tell us Black Panther isn’t in the cards for a solo introduction (could come in a team-up though) but other rumors point towards The Avengers 2 possibly setting up another Hulk outing for star Mark Ruffalo. Let’s look at how Phase 3 could play out:
- July 2015 – Ant-Man
- May 2016 – Guardians of the Galaxy 2
- July 2016 – Doctor Strange
- May 2017 – Thor 3 or Captain America 3
- Second 2017 date – The Inhumans or Black Panther or Hulk
If Guardians and Doctor Strange are 2016 releases by Marvel – and it’s a big if at this point – the studio would be banking on their newest characters for a year and a half, and not to mention, properties based primarily in space or on magic. If that roadmap is accurate, does it make sense for another trip to Asgard to come in before The Avengers 3 or will another (more grounded) Captain America adventure be what the franchise needs? Is there room for both before The Avengers 3 (i.e if Avengers 3 takes the second date in 2018)?
We’re getting several levels deep into speculation based on a rumor, so let’s pull it back and talk about what a second Guardians entry so soon means for the series. If Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are back so soon, that would confirm what we’ve all been saying – that the Guardians are helping setup a big confrontation at the end of Phase 3 where they might team with Earth’s Mightiest heroes in a confrontation with Thanos in The Avengers 3. If The Avengers 3 is about Thanos (and if they’re not saving him for The Avengers 4), then that would lend more credence to the possibility of Doctor Strange and The Inhumans being crucial to Phase 3 since they can be used to introduce more Infinity Stones/Gems that Thanos will need to put together the all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet.
And if Captain America 3 – which directors Anthony and Joe Russo are already in talks for – happens to come after The Avengers 3, perhaps we’ll see The Winter Soldier wield his shield (for the right reasons this time) and take on the mantle… For now, we look forward to the first Guardians of the Galaxy trailer debuting in the near future.
How do you want to see Phase 3 of the MCU play out and what stories should The Avengers 3 and The Avengers 4 cover? Let us know in the comments!
Guardians of the Galaxy is directed by James Gunn off of his script co-written by Nicole Perlman. The film stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, Benicio del Toro, John C. Reilly, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Glenn Close.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie news!