One of the great fallacies of the modern movie industry is the Beautiful Spin-Off Dream: The notion that you can pluck a supporting character out of a successful film, transplant them into new locales and situations where they can have sexy adventures against a colorful backdrop, and watch the money flow in. Marvel Studios flipped the playbook with their Avengers franchise, essentially creating three successful franchises (and also The Incredible Hulk) which only retroactively became spin-offs. Even before Avengers itself opened this past weekend, Marvel was already plotting their next wave of Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America sequels. Now that Avengers has lit up the box office, though, the question becomes: Will the studio aim for another franchise? Or two? Or seven?
Marvel has been giving hints about a film that moves the focus away from the Avengers. (Certainly, the post-credits sequence hints at a potentially cosmic franchise.) But let’s say that the newly even more cash-rich Marvel executives are looking to expand directly from Avengers. Setting aside the Big Three of Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, which character would you like to see in a movie?
The easy money would be on Black Widow, transformed by the creative largesse of Joss Whedon from Iron Man 2’s eye candy into The Avengers’ playfully self-aware tragically-backstoried eye candy. Scarlett Johansson isn’t exactly a proven blockbuster star, but the time seems ripe for a new female-badass franchise. Conversely, Widow’s ally Hawkeye has the least to do in Avengers – the result of spending half the running time wearing evil-minion contact lenses. Expect rapid movement if The Bourne Legacy hits at the box office and Jeremy Renner becomes a going concern.
And then there’s Hulk, a character who’s already had two disappointing outings in the last decade. Marvel had always been cool about the idea of another Hulk movie, and Mark Ruffalo’s turn as Bruce Banner is probably the least showy role in the movie. But Ruffalo manages to stand out from the crowd – if you ask me, he gets the film’s best line – and a recent Forbes piece indicated that Marvel Studios was reconsidering the possibility of a Ruffalo-ized Hulk spin-off.
There’s also the possibility of a spin-off about Nick Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D. gang. On principle, I’m not a big fan of this idea – I’m more intrigued by the long-rumored idea of making a Young Nick Fury movie, if only because it’s hard to not make a cool Cold War spy movie – but also there could be an interesting S.H.I.E.L.D. angle here. What about a Black Widow/Hawkeye spin-off where the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents get up to some Jack Bauer antics in your favorite fill-in-the-blank fake Marvel country? They could call it Black Widow and Hawkeye: Stings and Arrows. Boom!
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