What’s next for Marvel Studios after The Avengers

Avengers sequel, Marvel movie roundupIt’s official: The Avengers is a hit. It recorded the biggest opening weekend of all time with a staggering $207.4 million take in 3 days. Counting the international numbers, as of today, both domestically and internationally, the movie has made $702.1 million and should clear a billion dollars, probably within the next two weeks at most.  

The fans love it, the critics love it, so what’s next for the Marvel movie-verse?

Iron Man 3

With sequels to prior solo movies, the inevitable sequel to The Avengers, and a long list of new characters that could make their solo debuts, the future looks very, very bright for fans of Marvel’s rapidly growing cinematic universe. But at this point, it’s hard to discern exactly what we’ll see enter the Marvel movie canon in the coming years.

With that in mind, we’ve sifted through the rumors, reports, interviews, and innuendo to come up with our best guesses — and a few facts, thankfully — about what to expect from the Marvel movie-verse in this post-Avengers world. Beware minor Avengers spoilers!  You have been warned.

The Timeline

The next three films confirmed on the schedule for Marvel Studios are Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 in 2013, then Captain America 2 in 2014. Marvel has also booked another film for 2014 that hasn’t been identified yet, though speculation points to another Hulk movie (based on the character’s popularity in The Avengers), a solo spinoff from one of the other Avengers characters (like Hawkeye, Black Widow, or Nick Fury), or a completely new character or team, such as Dr. Strange, The Inhumans, or The Guardians of the Galaxy (which have all been mentioned by Marvel execs recently). A sequel to The Avengers would then hit after that.  

There’s also been enough talk of the long-gestating  Ant-Man movie written by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, that we can probably expect to see that project in the next few years, too.

Upcoming Marvel Movies: Doctor StrangeThe Characters

Along with the aforementioned characters, rumors point to the debut — and return — of a few other characters in the Marvel movie-verse.

Thor 2

Sir Ben Kingsley recently seemed to confirm his role as the villain of Iron Man 3, though it might not be The Mandarin as many had expected. Kingsley told SuperHeroHype that he’s still “discussing the look and the feel and the direction of the character,” but also said he’s “thrilled to be on board.” Guy Pearce has also signed on as a scientist named Aldrich Killian, which seems to suggest that the film will be at least partially based on Warren Ellis’ “Extremis” story arc, which featured an experimental drug that gave average people superhuman abilities. 

The sequel to Thor will feature the return of Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, the thunder god’s love interest in the first film who was only briefly mentioned in The Avengers. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige also hinted that Loki will return in the film, though it will be a new character in the role of lead villain.

Sam Wilson FalconAs far as Captain America’s return to the big screen, there’s talk of a new partner for Marvel’s star-spangled superhero, and rumors point to Sam “Snap” Wilson (a.k.a. The Falcon), who holds the distinction of being mainstream comics’ first African-American superhero. Director Joe Johnston (who recently confirmed that he will not be directing the sequel) also discussed the possibility of modern-day Captain America meeting up with his former friend and comrade-in-arms James “Bucky” Barnes (played by Sebastian Stan), who appeared to die in The First Avenger. But like his comics counterpart, Bucky could very well resurface as the deadly mercenary known as Winter Soldier. Stan signed on for six Marvel movies, so this seems like a real possibility.

Finally, the post-credits scene in The Avengers certainly appears to show an inclination toward making Marvel’s next mega-crossover unfold on a cosmic scale, with the alien titan Thanos making a brief cameo to confirm his role in Loki’s grand scheme. Before you bank on Thanos as the chief villain of The Avengers sequel though, keep in mind that this could only be a tease of what’s to come farther down the line, as most of the leads in the various Marvel franchises are signed for three Avengers films.

Captain AmericaThe Stories

ThanosWhile promoting The Avengers, Feige described the plot of Iron Man 3 as a “very singular story” rather than anything that plays into Marvel’s larger cinematic universe. Claiming that the idea is to “get Tony back to the cave,” the Marvel Studios chief told Collider the next film will feature Tony Stark “up against a wall” and relying on his intelligence to get out of a predicament rather than the help of Captain America, Nick Fury, or any of his fellow Avengers. However, Feige also told Hollywood Reporter that “Iron Man 3 will be the first of what we sort of refer to as phase two of this saga that will culminate, God willing, in Avengers 2.

The sequel to Thor will pick up where both the Avengers and Thor left off when it comes to the thunder god’s relationship with his father, Odin. Feige also mentioned that the relationship between Thor and Jane Foster will be addressed, and he acknowledged that in truth, it wasn’t that integral of an element in the first film — something that could change in the sequel.

After some back-and-forth regarding when to set the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, the next film will indeed be set in the modern era, with soldier-turned-superhero Steve Rogers struggling to adapt to a world that has changed in many ways since World War II. In an interview with CHUD.com, Feige said that the Captain America sequel will be the only Marvel film to stray from the isolated, singular approach, as Captain America must rely on Nicky Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. to help him understand the world. Adding fuel to the speculative fire, Feige teased, “There will be some revelations of who is still alive from his days in World War II.”

Infinity Gauntlet At this point, very little is known about the sequel to The Avengers, which doesn’t even have a target date for its release. In an interview with SFX, Director Joss Whedon stated that we would like the sequel to be “smaller. More personal. More painful. By being the next thing that should happen to these characters, and not just a rehash of what seemed to work the first time. By having a theme that is completely fresh and organic to itself.” It is still too early to know if Whedon will return for the sequel, but Marvel does have an option for Whedon to return.

The presence of Thanos in one of the film’s post-credits scenes has led many comic fans to speculate that the universe-spanning story arc “The Infinity War” could be adapted for the sequel, or possibly for a third Avengers movie. Much of this speculation comes from the presence of the Infinity Gauntlet, a powerful weapon wielded by Thanos in the comics’ story arc, making a brief appearance in Thor and turning up at Marvel’s booth during last year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Rumors also hint that both the Tesseract (known to comic fans as the Cosmic Cube) from The Avengers, and the mind-controlling orb in Loki’s staff in The Avengers, could be connected with the Infinity Gems — the six powerful stones that give the Infinity Gauntlet its power.

The Other, Even Less-Official Stuff

New rumors related to the Marvel movie-verse seem to pop up every hour, so it’s worth noting that very little is official yet regarding any of the upcoming Marvel films — even Iron Man 3, which starts filming soon.

War MachineAmong the various other rumors circulating these days is the possibility that War Machine, Iron Man’s counterpart in Iron Man 2 that’s piloted by James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), could receive his own solo movie. Other characters that have yet to be introduced to Marvel’s live-action universe but have had their names dropped by Feige and other execs are Black Panther, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Cable, Dazzler, and the pre-teen superheroes Power Pack.

The potential Ant-Man movie is also expected to feature not just Hank Pym, the original version of the character who also co-founded The Avengers in comics canon, but also the modern-era iteration of Ant-Man, former thief Scott Lang.

And… that’s about it as far as popular rumors and official reports go in the Marvel Studios movie-verse. While we’re sure there are quite a few more details — both confirmed and otherwise — this should give you a nice idea of what to expect in the years to come from Marvel Studios.

As always, feel free to leave a note in the comment section with anything we missed, or just anything you want to see from the next batch of Marvel movies.