Marvel Studios spends most of its time clamping down on secrets, so when they open up the vault, it’s usually for something big. In this case, it was colossal—and bound to bust loose on its own.
Marvel announced so much news on Tuesday morning at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood, it’s difficult to know where to start: A two-part Avengers 3? Official confirmation that Iron Man and Captain America will do battle in a Civil War saga? More exploration of the cosmic realm in Inhumans?
It was also a major announcement in terms of diversity. Marvel is giving us its first superhero film to star a black actor, with Chadwick Boseman portraying Black Panther, and another that places a female character in the title role, Captain Marvel (although no actress has been chosen yet.)
The only way to approach it is to run through it in chronological order (before the Infinity Gauntlet renders time meaningless)
Read on …
The morning began with questions and suspicions. What would Marvel reveal, and what would they hold back? Such events are unusual, and tend to be saved for San Diego’s Comic-Con and the attention of 6,000-plus screaming fans.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange? (That leaked yesterday.) Full plans for Phase 3 after next May’s sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron? (Possibly.) As it turns out, the latter was exactly right.
10:35 – Among those sitting in the very front row of the theater were Anthony and Joe Russo, the directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, who are also overseeing the third Cap film. The brothers were also at Comic-Con last July and hoped to make an announcement about their film there, but held back at the last moment because some details weren’t finalized. Robert Downey Jr. has been in talks to co-star in Cap 3, bringing the clash between Iron Man and the do-gooder patriotic hero to the fore in a cinematic version of the Civil War comics storyline.
That was the first clue fans would be hearing more about that shortly.
10:45 – Avengers writer-director and Marvel brain-trust member Joss Whedon takes a seat in the second row behind the Brothers Russo, who turn around in their seats to talk with him and Marvel Studios co-president Louis D’Esposito. Whedon wouldn’t be here if the event didn’t involve the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe. That was the second clue that this reveal would be bigger than most people were expecting.
11:11 – Make a wish. The program begins, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige takes the stage. “I’m going to show you something you’ve already seen, thanks to the fine people of H.Y.D.R.A. … The teaser for Avengers: Age of Ultron.” (The promo was supposed to air tonight during ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but leaked online last week.) Feige says over 70 million people have watched the footage since then. “I’m assuming some of those 70 million are in here today,” he says to cheers from the crowd, which includes hundreds of fans as well as scores of press.
11:14 – Feige points out Whedon in the audience. “He’s working very hard in the cutting room helping us finalize Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Feige says, and then sets about filling in all the blanks on that “untitled” schedule the studio already announced through 2019.
He then moves on to mention Guardians of the Galaxy, the studio’s 10th film, and the highest grossing domestic release of the year, so far. “That’s thanks to you, who believed in Peter Quill, and Gamora, Drax, and Rocket Racoon, and… what’s the name of that other guy?” he jokes.
“GROOOOOT,” comes the sonorous reply from the crowd.
“That’s the one,” Feige says. “You guys came out and said you like new things. You like things that are fresh. Speaking of which, Ant-Man, Peyton Reed is working on it in Atlanta, Day 50 of shooting. Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, and Evangeline Lilly. We’re very eager to share … but we didn’t invite you here to tell you things you already know.”
Another loud reactions of glee from the audience.
“When we have information to reveal, we want to reveal it. Sometimes that’s in a press release. Sometimes that’s at San Diego Comic-Con, and sometimes it’s on a random Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the El Cap theater… Let’s talk about Phase 3!”
A chart appears on the screen behind him, showing half a dozen dates along a timeline, all of them marked “Untitled.” “Here’s what you know about Phase 3,” Feige says with a laugh, explaining: “You plant a lot of flags. You know you want to make a movie, but you’re not sure what the movie is, so you plant a flag on a weekend.”
11:16 a.m. -- Feige points out the Russo brothers in the audience, and says, “they reinvented the franchise of Captain America, they shattered and changed everything going forward, and they will be back for Captain America 3.” The subtitle for the film (out May 6, 2016) will apparently be Serpent Society. (Some disappointed faces in the crowd, hoping for Civil War.)