Thor: The Dark World bows in UK theaters this week, but we've already started to look ahead further down the road that leads to The Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015. Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige has dropped big hints about how "Phase 2" Marvel films like the Thor sequel and next year's Guardians of the Galaxy will also lay the foundation for a storyline where Thanos - last seen showing off his impressive dental work in the Avengers mid-credits scene - becomes the main adversary, when Avengers 3 arrives in 2018.
Iron Man 3 brought us up on to speed on Tony Stark following his near-death in Avengers, while Thor: The Dark World and next spring's Captain America: The Winter Soldier will shed light on how, respectively, the God of Thunder, Steve Rogers and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (no, not those ones) have been spending their time since they stopped an extraterrestrial army from conquering Earth. What, then about Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk - besides him being forced to play therapist for Tony, that is?
Feige has spoken with many a news outlet (us included), while promoting Thor: The Dark World these past few weeks. When he spoke to the French site Reviewer. fr, Feige offered the following response, when asked if another Hulk movie was part of Marvel's current plans (which extend to the conclusion of "Phase 4" of the studio's Cinematic Universe in 2021):
We have been discussing after Avengers what that would be, what that would look like. It’s really Mark [Ruffalo's] portrayal of Bruce Banner, in the way Joss Whedon brought him to life in Avengers that worked. It’s even why you ask me that question. Which is good, we wanted that to happen, we wanted people to come out of Avengers saying The Hulk was their favorite character or at least one of their favorite. The fact that it did happen was awesome. So, you know, all of the effort related to Hulk right know is going to Age of Ultron. It’s exciting, because he hasn’t been in any other film, so you can expect to have a lot of Bruce Banner and Hulk in Age of Ultron. Where we go after that ? We’ll see. It will be a little while before we figure that out but, we do think there’s plenty of opportunities with the Ruffalo Banner.
There were once rumors that pointed to Avengers: Age of Ultron concluding on a note that would setup a solo Hulk movie based around either the famous "World War Hulk" and/or "Planet Hulk" comic book storylines (with Hulk winding up in space), but Joss Whedon has denied that such a development will take place in "Phase 3" of the MCU - and, at this stage, there's little reason to think there's room for that, anyway. Regardless, part of the appeal of Hulk in Avengers was not just Ruffalo's performance (and Whendon's interpretation of the character), but how starting anew gave the director more freedom to leave his stamp on the character - and distinguish his Banner from previous versions.
Filmmakers James Gunn (Super) and Edgar Wright (The World's End) get to enjoy a similar freedom with their upcoming new additions to the MCU, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, respectively. Feige spoke to Reviewer.fr in particular about Guardians, which carries the risk of being based on a more niche and lesser-known Marvel comic property - as far as the potential box office reception is concerned - but Feige says has been all the more refreshing to make, because it's not saddled by pre-set expectations (unlike the other "Phase 2" movies).
Here is what the Marvel boss offered, on that subject:
Guardians of the Galaxy, we just finished filming that like a week ago. It is really a very special movie for us at Marvel. We love those characters, we believe in that storyline. Nobody’s ever heard of it, which is in some ways liberating. The way many people had never heard of Iron Man before the first Iron Man movie. So we’re excited to find ourselves sort in the same creative state of mind we were on Iron Man 1. Which is to say : ‘How do we best introduce those characters that most people don’t know, and bring them to a big audience ?’ What James Gunn has done, both in his script and directing the cast... The cast that has been assembled is one that we’re very proud of.
MILD SPOILER AHEAD!
Feige also mentioned (re: Guardians of the Galaxy):
The footage looks incredible. People who stay after the credits in Thor : The Dark World will see the initial glimpse of that world.
Thor: The Dark World opens in U.S. theaters on November 8th, 2013, followed thereafter by Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4th, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1st, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31st, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6th, 2016, July 8th, 2016 and May 5th, 2017.