Marvel shared universe architect Joss Whedon has a busy three years ahead of him. In addition to coordinating tie-ins with other upcoming Marvel properties - Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy - the fan-favorite filmmaker is tasked with launching a successful S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series spin-off for ABC while also writing and directing a follow-up to the biggest box office success of all time.
Understandably, expectations for The Avengers 2 are already very high - especially considering the film could go see competition from DC's Justice League movie at the 2015 summer box office. Nevertheless, with 2.5 full years of development still to go, Whedon claims he's nearing completion of his Avengers 2 script - and maintains that fans can look forward to deeper insight into the superhero team.
Speaking with MTV, Whedon confirmed that he's nearly finished writing:
"I've done the outline, I'm writing the script now and so the script should be done in a couple of months. I'm pretty excited about it, I have to say."
Part of his excitement comes from being able to cause trouble for his previously assembled Avengers - as the director claims that we shouldn't expect a "bigger" film but we'll get to see a "deeper" character piece.
"Don't go bigger; go deeper. All of these people have met, so you have that out of the way. Now you can spend your time just digging in - and by digging in, I mean with a scalpel, to cause pain."
We don't yet know exactly how Whedon intends to complicate the established character dynamics - given that certain moments of Avengers-infighting were criticized for being a bit too heavy-handed (most notably the lab argument scene). That said, it's easy to imagine that fallout from the various Phase Two movies along with fresh faces (most notably a group of Guardians of the Galaxy) could help stir things up.
Regardless of Whedon's methods, it's hard to imagine that the painful scalpel treatment won't also equal higher stakes (and subsequently bigger set pieces) in part two. Especially considering the heroes are expected to face-off against formidable super villain Thanos - in place of a generic (albeit vast) army of Chitauri soldiers/superhero-fodder.
Still, Whedon is clearly aware that he raised the superhero action bar - a point that comes up when he talks about the need for "spectacle" in the more grounded (i.e. not-so-superhuman) S.H.I.E.L.D. series:
"You've got to bring a little bit of spectacle to it. It's got to be bigger than your average cop show. But at the end of the day it's about the peripheral people. It's about the people on the edges of the grand adventures. The whole point of this show is that even with all these big things, the little things matter. So it's about people who don't have super powers. There will be some people with powers, there will be effects, the spectacle of science fiction story telling, but all played on a very human/small level."
Tied to the record-breaking success of The Avengers (along with the growing shared movie universe), S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't likely to be a tough sell and could cull an enormous pilot viewership. That said, Whedon and ABC have a tricky road ahead of them - given that balancing grounded human stories in a superhero universe (on a television budget) will be challenging. Similar shows like Heroes and Smallville started off strong but struggled to find a good balance between characters and the "spectacle" Whedon mentioned. DC's recent Arrow took a different route and has yet to introduce any "powered" cast members - to its credit. As a result, S.H.I.E.L.D., which occupies a human-focused story in a super-human world, is in somewhat uncharted territory.
As for what comic book movie lovers can expect from the rest of Marvel's lineup, Whedon didn't offer any specifics but was happy to report that all of the phase two Avengers tie-in projects are coming together - and that he hasn't had to step in and do any major restructuring:
"It's been pretty equal. I read all the scripts and I give notes on everything. I'll look at cuts when they're ready to show me. I'll talk to directors if they want to. I try to make myself useful without being intrusive. I've gotten to be a part of all of them. That's a dream job for a kid like me."
Whedon's point about being "useful without being intrusive" should come as a relief to readers who are still bitter about Jon Favreu's experience working with Marvel on Iron Man 2 - which is considered to have suffered from all of the shoehorned pre-Avengers material. Based on Whedon's comments it sounds as though the collected roster of Marvel directors have a lot of creative freedom (as much as you can have when you're movie is instrumental in a multi-billion dollar shared universe).
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on The Avengers 2 and S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.
Iron Man 3 releases May 3rd, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8th, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4th, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1st, 2015 and Ant-Man on November 6th, 2015.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show is tentatively aiming for a Fall 2013 premiere.