You’d think after scoring the highest-grossing opening weekend with “Marvel’s The Avengers,” that Marvel Studios execs would be content to bask in the critical acclaim, overwhelmingly positive audience reaction of their mega-summer franchise.
After all, these licenses to print money don’t come around too often, but showing the same careful planning that led to “The Avengers,” Marvel Studios is already hard at work on the next installments of “The Avengers” franchise leading to the inevitable Avengers sequel. Here’s what you can expect to see in the not too distant future…
Iron Man 3 (May 3, 2013)
Robert Downey Jr. reprises Tony Stark/Iron Man in his third solo outing and reunites with series mainstay Gwenyth Paltrow and Don Cheadle. This time out Guy Pearce joins the cast as Aldrich Killian, a fairly recently created character in the Iron Man mythos and likely villain. Ben Kingsley has been cast, but there’s no confirmation on his role. Iron Man’s main adversary, The Mandarin (think Iron Man’s Lex Luthor or the Joker) has yet to be introduced in the movie universe so that’s been the popular rumor for Kingsley’s role.
Fortunately there’s no crazy talk of this being Downey’s last time as Stark so we don’t need to panic that this will be a lame farewell episode a la “Spider-Man 3.” With “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2″ director Jon Favreau moving on to other projects, Shane Black, who directed Downey in 2005′s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” steps in to lend his take on the Armored Avenger.
Fun Fact: With “The Avengers,” Downey has now played Stark in four movies. Only Christopher Reeve (I almost feel if I have to say as “Superman” you may need to stop reading) and Hugh Jackman (Wolverine in the “X-Men” franchise) have played the same comic book character in as many films. Jackman currently holds the lead with five. **Helpful reader Jon reminded me that Samuel L. Jackson actually holds the lead in this trivia answer as he’s been in five of the six “Avenger” films. Thanks Jon! And Todd reminded me that Jackman’s been in the first two “X-Men” movies, “X-Men: First Class” … and “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” so I’m not sure if I should be thinking him or not. Ha-ha.**
Thor 2 (Nov. 15, 2013)
Not much is known about the second installment of the god of thunder. All of the principal cast and supporting cast from the 2011 hit including main star Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Anthony Hopkins (Odin) and Stellan Skarsgard (Erik Selvig) are signed on for the sequel, which is rumored to also feature Loki’s villainous allies the Enchantress and Executioner.
Captain America 2 (April 4, 2014)
This is the most intriguing of the next round of sequels as the first installment – Captain America: The First Avenger – takes place during World War II. Now in modern times, the script for the sequel has Cap (Chris Evans) continuing his partnership with Nick Fury and SHIELD while trying to make sense of a world still very unfamiliar to him.
Hulk 3 (???)
The green goliath got a much-needed infusion of adoration with his fan-favorite role in “The Avengers.” Mark Ruffalo, who played Bruce Banner in the latest installment, has signed on for six more films and it’s safe to assume one of those should include another Hulk solo project, but the details are sparse as of now.
Longtime Avengers comic fans might have been wondering where fellow founding members Ant-Man and Wasp were as Thor, Iron Man and Hulk formed the team with late arrivals Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow for the movie. Marvel Studios wanted to debut the insect-sized heroes in their own film before putting them on the Avengers.
Hank Pym is a biochemist who creates a size-altering formula, which he uses on himself and finds he can control ants with surprising results. At last word, Edgar Wright was set to direct the film, which doesn’t have a leading man cast in the role yet.
Avengers 2 (2015)
This was clearly in the works as Marvel Studios signed up the main cast for multiple Avengers films, whether in their own solo projects, cameos in other films or main Avengers branch films. Director Joss Whedon is locked in for the sequel so all is right with the Avengers movie world. This is a lock and it’s just a matter of time as to how soon it comes to theaters. Answer = not soon enough.