By Rebecca Timberlake–
In May 2008, Marvel Entertainment released “Iron Man,” their first film in what would become known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although Marvel only released information for the Phase I films at the time, “Iron Man”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Iron Man 2”, “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”, the company was upfront about intending to create a universe of movies lasting until 2017. However, with nearly ten years between the first cinematic release and the last, critics were quick to point out that keeping the attention span of the audience and ticket sales up for so long would be nearly impossible.
Still, Marvel never questioned the comic book fans’ interest or the appeal of the superhero genre to the masses. Neither did the actors, who have noted the intense interest in superheroes on more than one occasion. “In our increasingly secular society, with so many disparate gods and different faiths, superhero films present a unique canvas upon which our shared hopes, dreams and apocalyptic nightmares can be projected,” said Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki in “Thor” and “The Avengers”.
Now, four years later, Marvel has completed Phase I and is now moving into Phase II, which will begin with the release of “Iron Man 3” next May, already one of 2013’s most anticipated films. Coming off this year’s highly successful “The Avengers”, on DVD and Blu-ray September 25, which broke multiple records in theaters and is the third highest grossing film of all time, critics are once again pondering the continued success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
How do they intend to maintain relevance as their releases become more spread out and about less popular characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man? And how can Marvel create such an intricate universe with only three releases every year? Well, Marvel seems to have found the answer in television legend Joss Whedon.
Giving Whedon control over Marvel and ABC’s series “S.H.I.E.L.D.” is Marvel’s attempt at giving more story to fans without having to clear big budgets on movie shoots.
As “The Avengers” writer and director, Whedon has won the trust of the company and fans alike, many are pleased that he has agreed to accept some control over the show.
After ABC announced they green lit the show, Whedon clarified, as best he could without telling too much, what the show would be: “The S.H.I.E.L.D. show kind of dropped in my lap, and I love working in TV… I get to really build a show with people I really trust and love. What we’re building is entirely autonomous from ‘The Avengers’. It’s got to be a show that works for people who haven’t seen the Marvel movies. It will please Marvel fans, I think.”
For fans of Whedon, his involvement in the show, to any extent, is cause for celebration. The “Buffy” and “Angel” creator has left a large impact on television – at least for those born in the mid-eighties and later. Although he has denied he will be the show runner for “S.H.I.E.L.D.”, but instead just a consultant sharing his ideas and experience with whomever the show runner may be, knowing he has a presence on set has excited many fans of both the writer/director and Marvel. Whedon was also recently given the job of writing and directing “The Avengers 2”, which is set for release May 1, 2015. And the pressures of sequels are something not lost on the cast. Robert Downey, Jr. has discussed how he felt going into “Iron Man 2”, saying, “I’ve never been in a sequel, and it’s very daunting because I feel the expectation of the millions of people who watched it and enjoyed it and told me that it was a little different than your usual genre picture and that they expected us to not screw up. So I actually have taken ‘Iron Man 2’ probably more seriously than any movie I’ve ever done, which is appropriately ridiculous for Hollywood.”
Phase III should begin within months of “Avengers 2” and start winding down the Universe in 2015 until the final film in 2017. Which heroes audiences are to meet then has yet to be determined, but with the recent reacquisition of the rights to Daredevil from Fox, comic book fans are hopeful they will see a reboot soon.