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This week, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige was on hand at the CineEurope conference in Barcelona, and he brought a lot of goodies along with him. In addition to a reel of footage showcasing Guardians Of The Galaxy, he had some updates on six different areas of the empire that were in production. On any other day, this would be played off as a standard advertising tactic, but this is Marvel Studios we're talking about here. This is the studio who hit a massive bump in the road with Edgar Wright's departure from Ant-Man and made a lot of digital ink with critics and analysts wondering if Marvel's salad days had wilted away.
Make no mistake about it, Kevin Feige knew that this presentation needed to be nothing short of marvelous in order to restore a degree of confidence to the public. Comic readers and moviegoers alike have been scratching their heads over the fate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Feige tried to assure fans that all is well in their universe, despite some unwanted shake ups. Did he succeed or did he just dig himself a deeper hole? Well, you'll be able to judge for yourself, as we jump into six focus points the Marvel Studios bigwig hit upon in his speech.
Ant Man Is Still A Mess, But Making ProgressWith Peyton Reed and Adam McKay taking over the Ant-Man project after Edgar Wright's unfortunate departure, the public opinion on the project has been less than stellar. For a good long while, Marvel Studios seemed to have avoided conflicts of interest between itself and its creative artists, but with this incident currently in focus any movement is questioned with a heavy amount of scrutiny. Thankfully, Kevin Feige remarked on the current state of the project, and the status update is more hopeful than we'd thought, particularly with this remark about how much work Adam McKay would have ahead of him:
Adam McKay, a very good writer, is reworking parts of the script - not the entirety of the script, but some of it - and it's going to, we believe, come to life in the best version of Ant-Man that we could possibly make.
While using Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish's script as the foundation for Ant-Man might seem like a slap in the face to some, it's as good of a tribute to the long and hard road that Wright walked for so many years in trying to bring the project to the screen. With new details coming at a regular interval and the cast still in tact (despite their disappointment that they won't get to work with the British funster), Ant-Man does seem like it'll make its release date without a hitch. Provided no one else decides to quit, that is. While Ant-Man is the current face of Phase 3, Doctor Strange is the character that could be the next Iron Man of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
We'll Probably Know Who's Playing Doctor Strange By AugustThe next Phase 3 film to swing into high gear is that of the master of the mystic arts, Doctor Strange himself. With the recent news of director Scott Derrickson signing on, the project is finding its legs so to speak. With Kevin Feige expressing the importance of telling stories from the supernatural side of Marvel comics, he gave this update on just where the film is heading at this very moment:
We're about to hire a writer to redo a draft, and we think we'll be casting probably in the next month or two, and announcing an actor, and then we get into production in the spring of next year."
Considering Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch are the latest names to swirl around the casting pool, it wouldn't be a surprise if Feige announced one of the two of them being the human form of Steven Strange. Of course, seeing as this is nothing more than rumor and speculation, Marvel and Derrickson could always throw a curveball and cast a complete unknown/low recognition actor in the role. After all, it worked for Chris Hemsworth and he's not Thor about it. A lot of goodwill and fence mending is going on at the Marvel Studios camp, especially with one remark Mr. Feige made in reference to the Sony and Fox contingents of the Marvel dynasty. More on that in a bit, but first, a Guardians of the Galaxy update!
Guardians Of The Galaxy Is Definitely Franchise BaitWe all know The Avengers can't go on forever, and even if it does, there's still the matter of certain areas of Marvel's comic canon that are inaccessible through the relatively grounded approach of that series and its heroes. Naturally, Guardians Of The Galaxy is Marvel's gateway to the stars, and Kevin Feige told the audience that should this film succeed, there's plenty more where that came from. However, he did stipulate that good news with the following:
There are definitely places we can take it and we have ideas of where we'd like to go with it, but really all the energy goes into the first movie first. "
While this is a money making enterprise, it's good to know that Feige and Marvel Studios aren't rushing to print money off of the back of Guardians Of The Galaxy just yet. While they do seem optimistic about certain characters breaking out into their own films, they've been stung with set backs before (The Incredible Hulk, anyone?) and know the value of playing the wait and see game. Of course, Guardians Of The Galaxy also opens the door wide open for the proper entrance of a character that's been teased so frequently in the past couple of years: Thanos.
Thanos And The Infinity Gauntlet Are An Avengers End GameIt's been assumed ever since his appearance in the mid-credit tag for The Avengers that Thanos would be a big bad for Earth's mightiest heroes to eventually square off against. With the Tesseract's first appearance and the Aether popping up in Thor: The Dark World, fans quickly put together the pieces and surmised that a future installment of The Avengers would deal with the completion of the Infinity Gauntlet. While we didn't get a confirmation on his ultimate goal, Kevin Feige had this to say about what Thano's role would be in Guardians Of The Galaxy and beyond:
We see him again in this movie [Guardians], we learn a little bit more about him in this movie, and he - and his band of followers - is the biggest piece of connective tissue that will eventually lead us back into Avengers films in the future."
With the announcement that Josh Brolin would be stepping into the role of the power hungry tyrant who has a thing for death, Feige and Marvel Studios pretty much started setting up their throughline towards whichever future Avengers flick will deal with Thanos' end game. Odds are, this might be our Phase 3 swan song, though we do know that Guardians Of The Galaxy will definitely feed into The Avengers 3. To what extent we'll see Thanos wrecking havoc and when we'll be seeing it is at this moment, unforeseen. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is, after all, never short on possible villains – especially when the Netflix/ABC shows will be feeding into the pool as well.
The Netflix Universe Will Presumably Connect To The Films2014 was the year that Marvel Studios showed that you can have your cake and eat it too as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America: The Winter Solider overlapped with the most ambitious story in the history of both properties: the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. With both the film and the television show feeding into each others' stories, Marvel Studios showed that it's possible to make a television franchise work with a film universe. But can the Netflix shows enjoy the same connection? Feige thinks that not only is it possible, it's also a natural fit:
The most important thing for us with each film is that each film works independently and stands alone as a great movie, and then the fun part is it connecting to the other world; I think the TV group is doing the exact same thing with each series."
Considering the Daredevil series has already casted actors like Vincent D'Onofrio and Rosario Dawson to its roster, the ambitions to cross pollinate the Netflix shows with the film universe (and even possibly the ABC shows) are on the table. It seems like the days of casting two different actors to play the same character through TV and Film are almost a thing of the past, which is great for continuity and promotion.
Crossovers Aren't Off The Table (Just Really Difficult To Negotiate)The rift between Marvel Studios, Sony, and 20th Century Fox has always been a bit of a source of conflict between the three houses. However, if Kevin Feige had his way, he'd have the entirety of the Marvel canon under one umbrella, or at the very least able to cooperate enough that a crossover event would be possible without any hitches or glitches. While Feige acknowledges that Sony and Fox are doing varying degrees of well with their individual properties, thus making a wholesale buyout of the characters pretty improbable, he offered this quote about the future of the entire Marvel canon:
I wouldn't say anything's impossible, I've been at Marvel for almost 14 years now, and it's a very different company today than when it was a near bankrupt company just trying to get a foothold in movies when I started. So I always say nothing is impossible but I'm not sure that's going to happen any time soon."
Kevin Feige isn't a dumb man. While he's had a couple falling outs and missteps here and there, business ultimately breeds such things as an unfortunate side effect of pursuing a singular vision and making the bottom line a profitable one. To anyone that has any doubts on just how strong Marvel's pull is, this is going to be the one area to watch for future development. He's just offered an olive branch to the outer Marvel cinematic universe, and he's shown that he's willing to play ball to please the fans. What type of terms, conditions, and other legal hells will it require to get to that point? We don't know just yet, but considering he's willing to sit at the table with Sony and Marvel to make something work, and in the name of the company as well as the fans, it seems at least somewhat doable. Feige is making some big moves towards solidifying the universe at large and bringing even more excitement to the Marvel Universe in the (hopefully) near future.