There's still a long road to go until The Avengers 2 hits theaters in 2015 - but as always, loyal fans have been filling the gap with titillating (and often raucous) speculation about what Phase Two of Marvel's Movie Universe will bring. The second phase kicked off this summer with Iron Man 3; it continues this fall with Thor: The Dark World; then in spring/summer 2014 we'll see Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the already controversial Guardians of the Galaxy before Avengers 2 is up to bat.
Given Marvel Studios' history, fans (including us here on the Screen Rant staff) have long assumed that the Phase Two lineup was intentional - the natural progression of an overarching storyline (starting at the end of Avengers) that would culminate in Avengers 2. However, today we have news from Avengers 2 director (and MCU shepherd) Joss Whedon that is changing our entire perception of what Marvel Phase Two might bring. Get your geek hats on for this one.
We’re following Guardians at Shepperton [Studios, with Avengers 2] but we won’t be swapping cast members. Every movie is its own thing and has to be. Unless I take a lot of peyote and write a very different draft… and I’m not ruling that out.
Upon scrutiny, that comment is somewhat revealing in the sense that it has long been an assumption amongst fans that Thor: The Dark World would further a cosmic-based storyline that ran through Guardians of the Galaxy - which would in turn be the springboard for a cosmic threat at the center of Avengers 2. What Whedon said about "Every movie is its own thing..." somewhat upsets that entire design.
Avengers 2 - Will It Be Earth-Based?
The end of Avengers set the classic Marvel villain Thanos up as the "big baddie" for Phase Two, and Whedon himself previously confirmed Thanos would appear in both Guardians and Avengers 2; though later on, the company line did change a bit, so as to suggest that a character like Thanos could be saved for Phase Three. In my own feature article, I asked the question "Where Should 'Avengers 2' Take Place?", weighing the pros and cons of an Earth-based story (featuring, say, a rival team of villains) vs. a space-set story (featuring a villain like Thanos).
My opinion was (and still is) that a sequel featuring a rival team of villains like The Masters of Evil would definitely be a compelling scenario (very Dark Knight in its own way - yeah I said it!); not to mention, one that could easily be born out of the terrestrial storyline of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Guardians, meanwhile, would be left free to establish itself on more independent terms, while setting up a story arc not for Avengers 2, but rather the storyline to come in Phase Three. Based on what Whedon said, that could certainly be the case.