Avengers: Age of Ultron has already begun setting new box office records for Marvel Studios, ahead of the U.S. debut for Joss Whedon's Avengers sequel this Friday. However, there won't be much (any?) time for many of Age of Ultron's stars to rest once they're finished promoting Whedon's film - as production on Captain America: Civil War (the movie that will kickoff Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) begins early next month, with several members of Team Avengers confirmed as cast members.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors Anthony and Joe Russo are calling the shots on Civil War, before they move on to their third Marvel project: Avengers: Infinity War, the two-part film event that will close out Phase 3 of the MCU and bring Thanos' (Josh Brolin) ongoing quest to unite the Infinity Gems to the forefront. Chris Evans, who is reprising as Steve Rogers in Civil War (and at least one of the Infinity War movies), has now revealed just how much time has been set aside for production on the big fight between the Mad Titan and Earth's Mightiest Heroes (and probably some other heroes too).
Evans, in an interview with Esquire as part of the Age of Ultron press tour, offered the following breakdown of his work load for the next two years (or so):
"You know, you plan around the Marvel responsibilities. You have to. We start [Captain America: Civil War] in a couple weeks, and then that shoots until August or something like that. August or September. Then I've got some downtime and I can do with it as I please. I don't know if I want to take time off or go pursue another directing job or find a movie to act in or, you know, do whatever I'm creatively inclined to pursue or wait, relax, enjoy my life. And then we start the Infinity War, I think, some time in the third quarter. Fall or winter of 2016. That's going to be like nine months to shoot both movies back to back."
It sounds as though there will be some twelve to fourteen months between Civil War finishing production this year and the Infinity War movies beginning principal photography in late 2016. There's been talk about the Russos potentially directing the developing Channing Tatum Ghostbusters reboot spinoff in between their Marvel projects, but that seems unlikely now - given the Russos would be hard-pressed to fit in another effects-heavy vehicle in the same time window they'll need to partly devote to post-production and promotion of Civil War (as well as pre-production on Infinity War - Part 1 & 2).
Whedon's reason for passing on the Avengers: Infinity War event can probably best be summed as "sheer exhaustion," following his work on two Avengers movies and helping hand in co-creating Marvel/ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. The Russos aren't responsible for writing their upcoming Marvel films (unlike Whedon), but the sheer amount of time that the duo are going to have to spend making Infinity War raises concerns that they'll likewise soon hit the wall hard - and not after they've finished their Phase 3 MCU movies, either. After all, back-to-back shoots are known for pushing directors to/beyond their limits (just ask Peter Jackson), which never helps the final product.
On the other hand, Infinity War - Part 1 & 2 is being written and directed by four people total (including Winter Soldier and Civil War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) - not one person, as was true with Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. That's a key difference that shouldn't be overlooked, not least of all when it comes to a project being assembled by the increasingly efficient production machine that is Marvel Studios (and its many, many film crew members). Everyone involved is no doubt well aware of just how challenging a shoot Infinity War is going to be, at that, so they'll be preparing accordingly.
Infinity War - Part 1 and Part 2 will hit theaters a year apart, which should help to further ease the stress of the extensive post-production and visual effects processing that each movie will require. The narrative structure and visual design of the Russos' Avengers films should also be all but carved in stone by the time the cameras start rolling; which (odd it may seem) hasn't always been the case for these sorts of back-to-back studio tentpole shoots, as we saw most recently with The Hobbit going from two films to three films part-way through production.
The short of it: there's plenty that could go wrong with Infinity War, but there's also plenty that could go right too. We'll just have to wait and see if that general outlook improves, worsens, or remains the same over the course of the next year - and what noticeable effect the work-load has on everyone playing an ongoing role in the MCU, on both sides of the camera.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron will be in theaters May 1, 2015; Ant-Man on July 17, 2015; Captain America: Civil War - May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange - November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot - July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok - November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 - May 4, 2018; Black Panther - July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel - November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 - May 3, 2019; Inhumans - July 12, 2019.