The first time I met Kevin Feige was on the set of Iron Man 2. There was a long interview that was done that day, but because of some publicity issues it was never run. As far as I know none of the sites that were on the set that day ever published that Feige interview, one that was done at a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was just starting out and Thor was still in the planning stages. Something that Feige said that day has stuck with me through the years, though: he said that his vision for Marvel Studios was to create such diversity of content that they could release four films a year - one each quarter - and not have it feel like overkill. That seemed like a weird pipe dream in 2009, but five years later that vision has begun to really bear fruit. Thor: The Dark World feels very, very different from Captain America: The WInter Soldier and it looks as though Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be very, very different as well. Marvel has proven that 'superhero movie' isn't so much a genre as it is an umbrella under which many genres can co-exist.
I sat down with Feige again last week for The Winter Soldier and I brought up that old interview. As Marvel moves into Phase Three ("The Age of Miracles?") with three definite recurring franchises and plans for new series to join the family, I wondered if there was still the hope to break out of the two movies a year mold. The release of Guardians of the Galaxy in August feels like Marvel testing the waters outside of their usual summer/holidays release pattern. Could we see three films a year when Phase Three begins?
I think television is filling some of that now, in terms of bringing out more product. That’s certainly the idea with the Netflix shows. But I don’t know that we will necessarily say “Okay, we’re now moving strategically to three a year, now we’re moving to four a year.” What I think is more likely - if [knocks on wood-like table] the next group of movies work and people want to see additional stories - we’ll have too many franchises and you can’t do one of each franchise every two or three years. We’d have to move to three a year, but that would have to be a natural move if it were to occur. We’d have a [script] draft, we’d have a filmmaker, we’d have a character the audience wants to see - let’s slot in a place for a third one. Or a fourth one.
But it’s hard enough to deliver two quality, hopefully bar-raising movies a year.
What does Phase Three look like already? Here's what we know:
July 17 2015 – Ant-Man
May 6 2016 – Captain America 3
May 5 2017 - Unknown
Ant-Man had been dated for November, but got moved up to July, immediately following The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Why? If I had to guess I'd say it's because they have another film they want to slot into that position. If that's the case, we'd likely hear about it very, very soon. Could it be Thor 3? The math works out. Or it could be Doctor Strange, which feels like a very November release to me. Or it could be nothing - they could skip the rest of 2015. God knows Age of Ultron should give them enough revenue to work with for the whole year.
Avengers 3 will likely hit 2018. That May 2017 slot could be Thor 3. Or it could be Guardians 2 (which might be Planet Hulk, by the way. Yes, I believe that is on the table. It may not be a true adaptation of the comic series, but don't be shocked if Hulk and the Guardians of the Galaxy cross paths). I think whether or not Guardians of the Galaxy is a major hit we'll see some sort of return of those characters in Phase Three. With that in mind - and assuming November 2015 is fully abandoned - we only have room in Phase Three for Doctor Strange.
But I really, really think that Marvel wants to do Ms. Marvel (and I think that's the name they're going with, by the way). And I think they want to do it in Phase Three. With Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr out after The Avengers 3 (I mean, they could renegotiate, but as of now the thinking has to be that Captain America is a trilogy like Iron Man ended up being) Marvel will want more franchises for Phase Four. And they've planned through 2021, Feige has said, so they have the outline in their heads.
All of that is a long way of saying that I believe we'll see three Marvel films in a year in Phase Three. And here's my guess on what we see in Phase Three:
Captain America 3
Guardians of the Galaxy 2/Planet Hulk
Maybe even in that order. What do you think? What do you hope for?