There are several things that rummage through a studio's mind after a colossal debut like the one "The Avengers" just had. Immediately after "The Dark Knight" came out, there was heated speculation as to whether there would ever be another "Batman" film from Christopher Nolan. What does working on a film like that do to you after your featured star dies? But here we are four years later, with another go on the way. The "Transformers" series isn't at all likely to die down anytime soon. I'm surprised Warner Bros. hasn't pushed for further "Harry Potter" iterations wherever they can find them. So the question is worth raising, even if it's already answered, where do "The Avengers" go from here?
Marvel Studios already has its three primary sub-franchises renewed for further adventures. "Iron Man 3" has long been in pre-production, and will soon begin official photography. There's quite a bit of news and buzz surrounding that enterprise, with Ben Kingsley in talks to play a sort of villain for the film. Guy Pearce is pretty much a shoo-in at this point for a role. It's really advocating for a wide palette of stars in every Marvel film to come. They can't make excuses for not having people of high caliber anymore. Shane Black of "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" is set to direct the film after writing it, but what gets me most excited for the film is cinematographer John Toll. Tapping the man who shot "The Thin Red Line" for your film will get you that kind of attention.
"Thor 2" is also in the works for a release next fall, having unexpectedly become the second highest sub-"Avengers" property last summer. Alan Taylor, predominantly known for his work television shows like "Game of Thrones", "Mad Men", and "The Sopranos", has long been named as director, and it seems to continue Marvel's trend of choosing television directors for their films. I think that's a marvelous idea, given that the way they have things structured is that each Marvel character gets their own centric-episode, and then "The Avengers" brings them all back together again for a sort of climactic season-finisher.
What makes "Thor 2" the most interesting prospect for Marvel Studio's second season is how much has been made possible by "The Avengers". Loki has proven himself twice as not merely a compelling villain, but also sort of a tragic hero. Where they go with his character as he returns to Asgard will be a fascinating struggle. They're also dealing with multiple realms on the brink of chaos after the destruction of their inter-dimensional portal, the Bifrost. Not to mention whatever quirky charms we get from Natalie Portman re-entering the scene as Jane Foster. They have many directions to take it, and they have the crew to make it compelling. It's in their hands.
The rest of their properties, currently, aren't quite so set-in-stone as the others. The only one that has a confirmed release date is "Captain America 2", for an odd slate at the start of April, 2014. That's a risky position to be in, certainly in terms of box office, since Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" comes out just a week before. We'll be in for a more kinetically charged cinematic landscape in Spring, 2014. But they don't even have a director down for "Captain America" yet. The last two names still in the running were George Nolfi, straight off of "The Adjustment Bureau", and Anthony and Joseph Russo, who have directed for "Community"... Okay, I'll just keep saying it. TARSEM SINGH! Get him! He's perfect!
There are three other potential films to be made after that, one being a much desired "Black Widow" origin story, which seems like such a brilliantly carnal opportunity after "The Avengers" gave her such a rich history to live up to. Mark Ruffalo has received an amazing credit of praise for the life-affirming jolt he gave to revive the Hulk character, so an "Incredible Hulk" movie centering on him could very well be in the cards. But there's just one film that's been in progress for years that may finally come to fruition: "Ant Man", under the direction of Edgar Wright. Given Marvel's mass degree of profit, they may feel confident, or cocky, enough to finally put it into action.
What makes "The Avengers" such a game-changer for the company is that they instantly increased the value of each of their existing superhero sub-genres. Where "Thor 2" may have once opened to $70-80 million, it is now almost guaranteed of debuting above $100 million. It's given "Iron Man 3" its jolt back after "Iron Man 2" crushed some of the faith. It may even be enough to put "Captain America" through the wee hours of April. They've assured their own survival with this immense gamble. Personally, I'm excited to the degree I would be excited. I like films that are entertaining. It's not to the point of absolute adoration, but it doesn't need to be.