So, in case you haven’t heard, Marvel’s The Avengers has absolutely crushed the opening weekend box office record with the Herculean figure of just over $200 million. This number obliterated the previous champ, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2, by slightly over $30 million. As a reference point, note that The Avengers has also dwarfed the The Dark Knight‘s opening weekend by over $40 million.
This proves a couple of things. First, comic book movies are here to stay. The Avengers was an amazing film (Have you seen it? Go see it.) It has already made over $600 million internationally in three days, essentially tripling the money Marvel Productions put into the project. With numbers like that, you can damn-well put money on production companies green lighting as many comic adaptations as possible just for the slim chance of striking such gold.
Secondly, this number proves that Marvel’s gambit of making their films all fall into one cohesive universe was the right choice to make. While I personally think that The Avengers could have done okay without the five lead-in films, I don’t think it could have any chance of nearing the same success that this film has already seen.
So that nagging question must quickly come to mind. How the hell do you top The Avengers? I’m not talking about box office hopefuls like The Dark Knight Rises, the second Hunger Games film, or even Marvel’s own Amazing Spider-Man. They’ll have their shot and (I feel) they will all fall short. What I want to know is how does Marvel, as a production company, take what they have laid out and improve upon it? How do they one-up themselves?
I think it can be done, but goddamn if it isn’t going to be tough. Especially if they’re going to go in the direction that the stinger at the end of Avengers implies.
Everything after this point may contain spoilers, B-T-Dubs…
So I’m assuming you saw The Avengers. If you’re not in the know, that grinning purple dude in the after-credits clip is one Thanos of Titan. One of my favorite characters in all of comicsdom. In just a few seconds of screen time, Marvel accomplished two big things.
One, they summed up Thanos beautifully. All it took was his malicious smile and that gorgeously crafted sentence about “courting death”. Two, they let us know that he will most likely be the big-bad of the next Avengers film.
How the fuck are they going to pull that off?
Quick backstory: Thanos is one of the Eternals, a race of super beings that supposedly guard our galaxy from their home on Titan. Of course, Thanos looks different than the rest of human-like Eternals and thus becomes an outcast. During his seclusion he falls in love with Death. Not the idea of death, mind you, but the physical embodiment of all dying: Lady Death.
The ultimate case of necrophilia?
What grants Thanos the majority of his popularity is from a little series called The Infinity Gauntlet. In this comic, Thanos gets a hold of the Infinity Gems (magical stones that possess the power to alter reality) and proceeds to ruin shit for everyone in order to appease his would-be boo. This includes murdering half of the universe (Literally half. i’m talking take the entire population of the universe and divide by two) and generally being just a stick in the mud. It then falls on Earth’s mightiest heroes, along with a rag-tag group of random celestials that are up to help, to stop Thanos before he does anything else dickish.
As mentioned in our Avengers 2 Casting Call, the Infinity Gauntlet is depicted in Odin’s trophy room. So the immediate jump to conclusion is that Marvel is planning on turning the Infinity Gauntlet comic into their Avengers sequel. Am I for this? Damned right I am.
But, I mean, what the hell man? How does one even fathom bringing such an epic and cosmic story to the big screen? Especially when your main box office contenders include the human guy in a robot suit and the human guy with a shield. Aside from Thor and, arguably, Hulk, the characters set for the sequel are utterly non-cosmic. How do you spin the contents of The Infinity Gauntlet to fit all these pesky mortals? Have the entire film take place on Earth? Sounds a bit limited.
Could we be seeing Adam Warlock on the big screen soon? Who would play him? We smell an upcoming AiPT Casting Call.
Here’s another problem that quickly arises: More than half of the characters that appear in Infinity Gauntlet have had zero screen time. Adam Warlock (or any of the eternals for that matter), Gamora (Thanos’ adopted daughter), or even such Marvel staples such as Dr. Strange are still bound to the ethereal obscurity of only the largest comic fans. Other major players, such as Dr. Doom and the Silver Surfer, are on loan to other production companies, and thus unusable. The fortunate circumstance for some of the larger off-limit players such as the X-Men and Daredevil is that they are swept into the list of billions that immediately perish when Thanos has a funny thought. So fuck those guys.
Finally, if we look at Marvel’s IMDB page of announced projects for the next two years you have the obligatory sequels to their golden children (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk are all supposedly getting either sequels or reboots) followed by two debut films: Ant-Man and Deadpool. Can Ant-Man carry a movie? I think so. Especially if they were to be so bold to weave in Robert Kirkman’s Irredeemable Ant-Man series somehow. Then you have Deadpool, stuck in some sort of eternal limbo due to either budgeting or MPAA ratings problems.
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Also, what the hell?
Aside from the big boys, these two closing acts are neither most cosmic nor epic characters. Do they deserve their time? They do. They are great characters that could add a lot of interesting aspects to an ensemble cast. But will they gel into a proper Infinity Gauntlet story? I don’t think so.
So with all that negative junk displayed, does it still seem like Marvel is working towards an Infinity Gauntlet story in Avengers 2? No, it really doesn’t. But honestly, in my humble opinion, why even bother with Thanos if you aren’t going to use his best material? There are dozens of just-as-formidable opponents that wouldn’t require half of the build up. But is that the point?
Remember, if there is one thing that Marvel has proven with The Avengers, it’s that building up to one epic film through several other films is the new hotness. Marvel has the power to take their time and carefully craft an interweaving plot that could land us at Infinity Gauntlet years down the road, and we comic fans would eat it up. But what steps are necessary to get there?
First off, let me get a personal requirement out of the way. Involve Spider-Man in your expanded universe. We are only weeks away from the reboot of everyone’s favorite wall crawler and it is very much possible that we could be treated to a build-up stinger like those at the end of each Avengers predecessor. Honestly, if they’re going to keep Whedon on as writer/director (they would be straight-up stupid not to) you need to give him a go at the quip-machine that is Peter Parker. It just has to be done.
Perhaps that post-credit scene could help fill us in on what’s to come. If they are working towards Infinity Gauntlet, I would expect some sort of Eternals film, a Dr. Strange movie and at least one or two additional Avengers characters to grace the big screen (Give me an Incredible Hercules movie, I’m begging you).
Maybe each of these characters don’t need their own film to fit into the universe ahead. Thor 2 is supposedly going to be a cosmic adventure so you could throw Adam Warlock and the Eternals in anywhere there. Luke Cage could pop into the Captain America sequel without anyone batting an eyelash. Any super strong or robotic character (Vision) could be snuck into the Iron Man triquel and at least I wouldn’t be offended. Marvel has multiple opportunities to fully flesh out the cinematic comicverse that they have started and quite frankly I can’t wait.
For now, however, all we can do is sit back and speculate on what’s to come. Perhaps we will be treated to some more information at the inevitable Avengers panel at the upcoming SDCC. All I know is that as of walking out the theater on Friday, Marvel has secured my faith and my money for the next few years to come.