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With Iron Man 3 coming out very soon in the United States, Marvel Studios moves into new territory as it finds itself beginning Phase Two of its three-phase plan to flesh out and tie together the different comic-book hero story threads that all take place in the same fictional universe.
Audiences saw Phase One of mastermind comic-book writer Stan Lee’s popular fanboy artwork come to life when Jon Favreau’s Iron Man debuted in 2008. Since then, a cadre of Marvel films have followed suit, including The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and Marvel’s The Avengers (2012). While all of them took place in a time and setting that might not have been entirely chronological or of the same dimension, they all managed to be connected in terms of logic and character destiny.
But here we are, after a year’s pause in-between phases, treated to another series of Marvel at the movies. All of this taking place under the umbrella of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, five new films are set to grace theaters with the intention of providing more character depth, compelling stories, and spectacular entertainment.
Although Iron Man 3 may be the capper to its own series, it is just the start of a new beginning for Marvel.
Iron Man 3: May 3, 2013
The roots of Tony Stark’s success as a genius billionaire playboy are well-known to most everybody. But in this third film, we are introduced to an interesting, ambiguous villain, and a Tony Stark we are not mostly familiar with. The kind of Tony Stark who can't sleep after doing a good day's work of saving the world. In an unusual turn of events, Stark is pinned against a wall that will require his brain more so than his brawn. What transpires is more than just the prototypical good guy versus bad guy as we are treated to a battle of fists and wits where the stakes to win are at their highest.
Thor: The Dark World: November 8, 2013
Roughly six months after the release of Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World will be flooding theaters as the second film in Phase Two, and eighth film overall in the Marvel universe oeuvre. This time around, Thor faces a challenge neither he nor Odin and Asgard can tackle. With an enemy that threatens to terrorize and bring the universe back to the Dark Ages, Thor must take a personal journey and find Jane Foster, his love from Earth, in order to gather the inspiration needed to overcome this heinous evil.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: April 4, 2014
The first avenger, Captain America, will come back to the cinema in less than a year from now in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In this sequel, we follow Steve Rogers as the man who is still trying to find his place, and let go of his life in the past, in the future. The film takes place where its predecessor left off as Captain America must battle another threat while still coming to terms with his new setting.
Guardians of the Galaxy: August 1, 2014
Guardians of the Galaxy may be Marvel’s newest attempt to branch out and integrate more than just human-looking aliens—and humans—in their films and see to it that audiences are exposed to something a little different. In this, it is rumored that Thanos, AKA the “Mad Titan,” seen in the last scene of Marvel’s The Avengers, will play a role in the plot where a U.S. pilot goes on the run with futuristic ex-convicts who are involved in a conflict of sorts in space. The film is directed by James Gunn, director of Super, which might indicate this could be a hyper-violent spectacle.
The Avengers 2: May 1, 2015
Finally, The Avengers 2 will end Phase Two on May 1, 2015. Joss Whedon will return to the director’s chair for this sequel being released two years from now, and has already said this one will be less of a culminator of action that the first one was. Instead, his aim for the film to top the last will be “by being 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.”
Of all the Phase Two film sequels, only one will have the same director coming back: Joss Whedon for The Avengers 2. The rest—Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier—will be assembled from other experienced filmmaking veteran hands. So, this means either the vision each new director imprints on each of their films will be met with responses yielding one of two criticisms: refreshing or dreadful.
But from the plot synopses of each film, it seems as though the movies in this phase are touching on more personal nerves, almost philosophic in the way they seem to bring to life more of the complexities of the heroes finding a way to save the day. Even though these developments sound deeper on paper, it is too soon to tell if this phase of films will be as good, or better (or worse) than the previous phase.
Altogether, there are five films in this phase. There were six in the first one. This means this newest phase will have fewer movies in its own series than the first phase had in its own. But don’t let that deter you from thinking positive thoughts this second time around. If movies have meant anything to people, it is that bigger is not always better.