In 2008, Marvel Studios famously opened its Phase One roll-out with their first-ever attempt at bringing their comic book characters to the Silver Screen – a very successful attempt, by-the-way. The post-credits scene of that movie featured what would have been a quiet living area in an expansive sea-side manor – dark and empty, other than the alarm that was ringing throughout the house. A recently “outed” superhero enters and queries his house monitor, J.A.R.V.I.S., who shuts off the annoying TWEET-TWEET-TWEETing…
Looking around, the new hero observes a dangerous, shadowy figure standing beyond his huge, luxurious sofa looking out his wall of glass onto what appears to be the ocean.
Thus began “Phase One”.
Next up, a dejected General Ross is sitting in a bar ruing his inability to bring down his big, green nemesis as a certain genius billionaire playboy philanthropist enters the bar and approaches. Phase One continues – even in a movie Marvel Studios didn’t make! Edward Norton’s version of “The Incredible Hulk” was made by Universal Studios (who still own the rights to any stand-alone Hulk movie, apparently). But, the Universal and Marvel Studiosos were plotting and planning something much greater than either studio had ever tried before.
William Hurt, Universal’s General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross, is even scheduled to return to the MCU in next year’s “Captain America: Civil War” – a movie not being made by Universal Studios. It’s all a part of “The Plan” Marvel and Disney have cooked up to create this universe in which all of their characters can play without, necessarily, bumping into each other. Fox Studios (X-Men & The Fantastic Four) and Sony (Spiderman, Ghost Rider and Punisher) chose to build out their own sand boxes and not play in Marvel/Universal’s to the great dismay of all of Marveldom.
Ghost Rider and Punisher have since reverted to Marvel and will be integrated into "The Plan" designed by Marvel Studio's. And, Sony and Marvel have since reached agreement(s) to share Spiderman similar to the way Marvel and Universal share the Hulk. It's all coming together!
It's (almost) all connected!
PHASES: The Plan
Studios have built multi-feature movies before: "Star Wars" went a full six features and now continues with “Episode VII”. The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy expanded across three feature films and “The Hobbit or There and Back Again” - the little book that was a prequel to the "Lord of the Rings" - spanned three films all by itself.
The highly imaginative “Back to the Future” series, we thought, was going to keep re-imagining the time stream for generations – until it finished with “III”.
"Star Trek" brought us six movies featuring the Original, 1960s cast, another featuring The Next Generation cast accepting the story from the Original Series cast then three more carrying on the story of The Next Generation of space adventurers before it was rebooted to a new time line with new actors reverting to the Original Series characters. The reboot is now on its third iteration.
But, all of these were clear sequels (or prequels or reboots) to/for the previous (or original) movie. All of these offerings existed within the same genre with all of the same characters (or their successors or predecessors) and all continued (or lead into) the existing story line.
Marvel had something different in mind.
Marvel would build an entirely new “universe” and within their universe, they would have stories that featured their characters existing and operating within environments (genres) that fit their characters.
Like our universe, there would be historic war movies ("Captain America: The First Avenger") and period spy dramas ("Marvel’s Agent Carter" on ABC); action/thrillers (the "Iron Man" series, "The Incredible Hulk"); mythic gods and demons ("Thor", "Thor: The Dark World"); spy/thrillers ("Captain America: The Winter Soldier", "Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC); space opera westerns ("Guardians of the Galaxy"); social commentary ("The Inhumans", "Captain America: Civil War", "Captain Marvel"); mystical horror and suspense ("Doctor Strange", "Iron Fist" on Netflix); suspense/thrillers ("Daredevil", "Jessica Jones" and "Luke Cage: Power Man" all on Netflix); and, even some political intrigue ("Black Panther"). Light-hearted action comedies ("Ant-Man", "Damage Control" on ABC) would even be available (who really wants to be a tiny superhero, anyway?)
Every existing genre would be explored within the context of this bold, new universe and Marvel would not be afraid to cross genre lines and mix things up a bit – so long as they fit within the story and plot of the character(s).
And, at the end of each Phase, everybody would get together and we would have an action-packed party-of-the-decade ("Marvel’s Avengers", "Avengers: Age of Ultron", "Avengers: Infinity Wars, Parts I & II"). Everyone would be invited (at least, those who would have come into existence in the universe by the time the party was set)!
The Schedule Got Unwieldy
Then, one day, Marvel rolled out of its bed in its Spiderman pajamas and realized it had a movie it couldn’t get done before that Phase’s Great Party was to be thrown. "Ant-Man" had witnessed a tantrum by its creator, developer and paternal guardian (Edgar Wright) who bristled at the thought that his movie had to fit within the confining restraints of any overarching story line (Marvel’s universe). He pouted, he ranted, he raved…! Then, he bailed.
Hmmm… it took a while, but Marvel finally found a new director who, along with the lead actor, Paul Rudd, would serve as adoptive parents and take Edgar’s brain-child, nurture it, coddle it, feed it and bring it to fruition.
But, that would take a while – and the party was already scheduled.
No big deal: "Ant-Man" wouldn’t be invited to the party. Marvel would just tag it on at the end of the Phase – kind of like a post-credits scene, only this would be a post-party entire movie.
It would work.
And, it did work.
Ant-Man Scored Big
Critics and fans alike loved the light-hearted tone of the movie and the irreverent uses of children’s’ toys as a combat zone. It was great!
But… it… really… didn’t tie into the Phase the way the other movies did. "Ant-Man" would not be in the Avengers’ Phase Two finale so there really wasn’t the connection with Rudd’s movie like there was with Downey’s, Chris, Chris & Chris’ and all the rest.
People went to see "Ant-Man" just because…
- Because it was funny.
- Because it was well-made and imaginative.
- Because they just liked a good movie.
Granted, it didn’t pull the audiences that the "Iron Man" movies had pulled. It certainly didn’t pull the audiences the "Avengers" movies had pulled.
But, it had done well – even without the tie-in to the Great Party that caused rabid Marvelites to swarm theaters to see Thor, Captain America and Iron Man’s newest offerings. But, it did well enough to get a sequel now scheduled for July 6, 2018.
July 6, 2018...
That was the date they had reserved for "Black Panther". They had moved "Captain Marvel" to 2019 to make room for T’Challa’s movie after they had moved it to make room for the now-welcomed-into-the-universe, "Spiderman"!
So, Marvel took their "Black Panther" and kicked it forward 3½ months – from July up to February of that same year. "Captain Marvel" got kicked back – again. This “Phase” thing is getting in the way. Now, the big, two-house super party scheduled to end the Phase would now have it’s own post-party movies coming out. A couple ("Ant-Man & The Wasp" and "Captain Marvel") would even come out in between the "Infinity Wars" Parties.
Oh, and, with the inclusion of "Ant-Man & The Wasp" into the timeline? Marvel also announced they had three more dates they wanted to reserve. They had movies to make and they wanted to be the first to declare their dates.
They didn’t say what those movies were, but they have the dates – all in 2020.
- May 1, 2020
- July 10, 2020
- November 6, 2020
“Computer! Analysis!” (to borrow a Star Trek reference).
Marvel already has their “Great, Female-Led, gods-testing” "Captain Marvel" movie coming out between "Avengers: Infinity Wars, Part I" and "Part II" as well as their great comedy, "Ant-Man & The Wasp". Their “how can we properly integrate different races into a single, cohesive society” social-commentary movie, "The Inhumans", has been kicked back (the same way "Ant-Man" had) to the Post-Party hangover zone and now they put three more movies “out there”?
It doesn’t make sense. How would Marvel be able to tie it all… hmmmm…
Marvel Isn’t Trying to Tie Their Movies
Into Phases, Anymore…
Why, after all, does Marvel need the constraints of “Phases”?
- "Ant-Man" did well enough.
- The other Avengers are well-established.
- "Captain Marvel" & "Black Panther" will both buck stereotypes so should draw on their own merits.
- And, Marvel has all these characters they need to get to the screen!!!
- Plus, as a bonus, "Daredevil" was a massive, Grand Slam Home Run on Netflix and "Jessica Jones" expects to be the same. (Now, if they could just figure out how to get that pesky "Iron Fist" developed for their “Defenders” post-series big party scheduled to end the Netflix serae!)
- And, get this: "Daredevil" already has a Second Season scheduled to post before the final two offerings in the group, "Luke Cage" and "Iron Fist", are even filmed! Before the big party (“Defenders”) can be thrown to celebrate the conclusion of the multi-series collection, Daredevil will already have seen two seasons!
Marvel can throw a party, anytime – and people will come. Plus, their movies and shows aren’t just “superhero” movies and shows the way DC’s movies and shows had always been – they are stories told within and across multiple genres with tones befitting those genres (dark, light, fun, thrilling, mystic, mythic, horrific…) all within the same universe. It’s kind of like “The King’s Speech”, “American Graffiti” & “Silence of the Lambs” can all exist within the context of the real life universe – each with its own multitude of different fans – now, Marvel is doing the same thing.
Besides, the TV Guys Are Running Amok
Jeph Loeb and his Marvel Television Division aren't playing by Kevin Feige's rules, anymore. They have expanded the Marvel Universe much further than Feige had anticipated they would and much earlier than Feige had anticipated would happen. And, they haven't futzed it up!
The Inhumans (one of Feige's pet projects) are taking over ABC... God only knows what is going to happen on Netflix when Daredevil gets his Season 2 dropped online. And, then there's Jessica Jones... ? Her world is going to be practically X-Rated! Well... not X... can't use X - Fox has that all tied up. But, it's going to explore some things Feige can't even begin to touch.
This huge new world of Marvel's is spinning onward and outward - and, Feige can't contain it. So, why even try?
Marvel has their Universe.
It is built – it is extensive – it is multi-faceted – and, it has become more than can be contained into well-defined release dates.
It is now time to just go make movies.
People will come