The billion-dollar success of Iron Man 3 has catapulted screenwriter Drew Pearce up higher on the list of go-to scribes for Hollywood blockbusters, as he's now working on Mission: Impossible 5 and was previously tapped to script Sherlock Holmes 3 (despite the latter moving forward much slower than anticipated). Yet, despite that, Pearce's journey from writing for television to film started on a sour note, after his script for Marvel Studio's Runaways movie was put into turnaround (read: fell into development limbo).
Runaways, for those not familiar, is a comic book series that was created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona back in 2003. The original premise involved a diverse group of six teenagers - four female, two male - discovering that not only are their parents all super-villains (mobsters, dark wizards, dangerous aliens, etc.), but that each of them has either inherited super-powers (like magic), possesses unique traits (like super-intelligence), and/or has access to powerful equipment - allowing them to atone for their parents' criminal behavior and fight together as a band of superheroes.
It's no secret that the Runaways film adaptation, which also had director Peter Sollett (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) lined up to take the helm, lost all of its momentum after one of filmmaker Joss Whedon's indie projects (... ahem...), The Avengers, picked up speed - and, in the process, inspired Marvel to reassess how to best go about constructing a shared cinematic universe from thereon out. Pearce talked a bit more about that recently, during a recorded Q&A that followed a screening of Iron Man 3 at the Los Angeles Film School.
To quote (via THR):
"We were really close to being made, and then this movie started to happen called The Avengers," explained Pearce, whose screenplay for the project was his first work for Marvel. "Oddly, it pulled focus from the unheard-of brand Runaways, and it really did kind of consume the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's there, maybe it'll be a Phase Three movie, I really hope so, I'm really proud of it and I think it'll be a brilliant film, but I think it all depends what Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel, what his master plan is."
Avengers has established that the super-powered individual team-up sub-genre is both artistically and commercially viable; as such, Whedon's film has opened the floodgates for developing comic book team-up projects, even from studios other than Marvel (see: Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past, WB/DC's Batman vs. Superman/Man of Steel 2 and Sony's rough plans for a Sinister Six/Amazing Spider-Man movie). However, while that means that the ground is fertile for a Runaways movie, there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration - as Pearce's Iron Man 3 co-writer/director Shane Black pointed out at the aforementioned Q&A:
Iron Man 3 director Shane Black called Pearce's ['Runaways'] screenplay "one of the better screenplays that's sitting on a shelf somewhere," but warned that anyone waiting for a Runaways Phase Three movie will be waiting for awhile. "They make two [movies] a year, but that's still at least three years down the line [until they run out of films already in progress]."
Kevin Feige has said that Marvel Studio has its movie release slate tentatively planned out through to 2021, when Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is expected to conclude with The Avengers 4 (or some equally-massive team-up feature). Thing is, though, as Black indicated, Phase 3 is unlikely to be a launching pad for a Runaways movie - not least of all, because other projects like Doctor Strange and Inhumans are being groomed to launch during that frame, along with potential new installments in the Thor and Captain America solo film continuities, as well as Ant-Man (which is the sole confirmed non-Avengers Phase 3 movie to date).
Does that mean there's no way for Runaways to come to fruition before Phase 4 begins in 2018 (assuming it's even on the docket for Marvel Studios leading up to 2021)? Well, not necessarily, as there are alternative options like a television show - something we suggested back before Marvel confirmed that Whedon's new MCU-related TV series is Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. Not to mention, a Runaways show would benefit from Pearce's involvement, as he's written and/or produced small-screen programs like Damage Control and No Heroics in the past. Plus, the screenwriter's already revealed that he's been talking to Marvel about what they can work on together next.
Marvel is branching out in terms of niche properties, genres (see: more cosmic and magic-based superheroes), and the diversity of its primary character roster (read: more non-white and/or male leads), with plans to develop an Agent Carter TV series - centered around Hayley Atwell's Captain America character - and even a female superhero film in the foreseeable future... however, the studio's not there just yet. The short of it is: everyone who's interested in seeing Runaways on either the big or small screen, you'll have to keep on being patient for now.
Thor: The Dark World opens in U.S. theaters on November 8th, 2013, followed 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 on May 6th, 2016, July 8th, 2016 and May 5th, 2017.