Avengers: Age of Ultron may still be half a year away, but that doesn't mean we can't all already be completely obsessed with Avengers 3.
After all, we've long assumed that it would be the conclusion of the epic saga of Thanos, the Infinity Gauntlet and - if what we currently know remains true - the end of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and (assuming we see a Thor 3 in the meantime) Chris Hemsworth's current contracts.
But, what if that wasn't the case after all - and, instead of being the end of an initial, epic story arc, Avengers 3 was merely the entry point into something far larger?
Well, BadAssDigest's Devin Faraci has recently suggested that we may well be about to see just that. Responding to rumors that Avengers 3 would be split into two movies, Faraci argues that:
"Marvel isn't splitting Avengers 3 into two movies, but they are planning Avengers 3 as the springboard to... something else. And they're going to use their biggest characters in that something else, keeping them out of Avengers 3."
Now, this obviously needs to be taken with a solid pinch of salt, since Faraci doesn't actually offer any real evidence beyond sources close to the actors involved (read: agents), but it's a compelling enough concept to be worth considering all the same.
After all, the implications of the idea are potentially huge.
We Could Finally See Marvel's Civil War
After all, an additional Avengers movie would buy Marvel an extra three years of character introduction, meaning the long-rumored story-line, in which Iron Man and Captain America clash over civil liberties, could much more plausibly happen.
Add in seven or eight years of newly introduced characters, both on the big and small screens, and 2022 could easily see a pretty epic event movie - with a newly introduced hero like, say, The Black Panther, taking on the decisive Spider-Man role, one trapped between the two opposing sides.
The only problem? What to do about that whole Thanos storyline...
The Guardians of the Galaxy Could Join The Avengers
The obvious solution? Add the Guardians of the Galaxy into Avengers 3.
Faraci suggests that Robert Downey Jr.'s contract explicitly states that his next Marvel movie will be Avengers 3, which suggests he'll return - but there's more to his likely involvement than that.
In the event Marvel really do decide to risk dropping most of their major heroes for an Avengers installment, they're unlikely to eliminate Robert Downey Jr. - their most iconic and popular star - so the idea of a Stark-led new Avengers team isn't at all implausible - and there'll likely be a whole lot more wriggle-room on the newly signed up Guardians' contracts than on their Avengers counterparts'.
A team which, it just so happens, Iron Man has teamed up with recently in the comics...
So, an Intergalactic Avengers (Say, Science Bros Tony Stark and Bruce Banner) plus Guardians crossover, designed to deal with the Infinity Gauntlet plot-line, anyone? Possibly even featuring the noble, self-sacrificing (but potentially temporary) Tony Stark?
Captain America Could Pass on His Shield
This, too, would dovetail nicely with the long-speculated departure of Steve Rogers from the Marvel movies - with Captain America 3 seeming a likely opportunity for Chris Evans to take his much-mooted break from the franchise, and for (lengthily contracted) Sebastian Stan to take over as Cap for a while.
Which, assuming Rogers conveniently 'died' towards the end of his third solo movie (presumably appearing, not all that dead, during the post-credits sequence), would allow him to then re-appear whenever Marvel needed the box-office boost.
In the meantime, Stan would provide some Cap-continuity, and keep the advertising visuals firmly red, white, and blue-tinged.
In fact, that drive to bringing up heroes from the minors could well be a theme of Marvel's upcoming movie plan...
The B-Listers May Finally Get a Starring Role
After all, if Avengers 3 loses big names like Cap, Thor, and the Hulk, it may well necessarily have a far less 'epic, earth-shattering conflict' sort of feel to it - in which case, more...practical heroes could well come to the fore.
Imagine a movie in which less famous heroes such as Black Widow, Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Falcon, and a newly Captain America-ized Bucky Barnes are forced to team up to stop something more...down to earth. Say, a newly resurgent Hydra, or A.I.M.
Add in your pick of not-yet-really-announced characters like The Black Panther and Ms. Marvel, and Avengers: Age of Ultron's The Vision, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and you still have a mighty line-up, just one with a little less firepower, perhaps - and a little more of Captain America: The Winter Soldier's critically acclaimed (sort-of-)subtlety.
And, of course, there's the big one:
A Split in the Team could Mean Contract Extensions for Our Favorite Heroes
That is, after all, the recurring theme of most of the speculation (for, of course, it is largely speculation, no matter how based on actual facts) above.
While splitting the Avengers 3's cast into several different movies would certainly increase Marvel's potential revenues from the franchise, it would also allow them a lot more wriggle room when it came to contract negotiations. After all, much of Chris Evans' reported issue with re-signing with Marvel has to do with it taking up so much of his schedule. Similarly, if Robert Downey Jr. could be offered a future role as Tony Stark that featured far less of the high-octane action that the Iron Man armor implies, he might well be far more amenable to another installment of the Iron Man series.
So, that prospective breaking up of the Avengers? It could actually extend the presence of Marvel's core players far further than the current schedule.
And that would surely be a good thing...
After all, at the end of the day, more [Marvel](channel:932254), whether it's [The Avengers 3](movie:738027) or otherwise, is always good news...
What do you guys think? Will Marvel bench most of the team for Avengers 3?