CARY'S COMICS CRAZE - Marvel Studios presses ‘shuffle’

Cary Ashby
Jan 12, 2012

Selfishly, I was quite pleased in early May 2008 when three Marvel Comics properties I knew could be Hollywood gold were revealed to be the next projects by Marvel Studios to get the green light.

(For the record, I’ve been pulling for Captain America, Thor and The Avengers to get the Hollywood treatment since about two years ago in my “Cary’s Comics Craze” column.)

So when I heard films based on those same characters would follow “Iron Man 2” in the summers of 2010 and 2011, I was ecstatic – as were millions of other fanboys.

The announcement shows Marvel is determined to make the best use of being in creative control of its box office destiny. The newly formed studio also is striking while the iron (man) is hot. It also shows vision and intentionality in developing one-character films before having those same heroes featured in “The Avengers,” a group which certainly lives up to its claim as being “The World’s Mightiest Heroes.”

Suddenly the world saw Marvel Studios’ Big Plan.

Initially wary of the rumor that actor/director Kenneth Branagh would be directing “Thor,” I became more comfortable with it once I heard Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada said Branagh “gets" the character.

He was impressed with how much the director knew about the hammer-wielding Norse god.

Who else better to tell the grand, mythological story of the God of Thunder than a Shakespearean-trained actor and director?

Just in the last week or so, the Internet has been buzzing that Branagh was close to casting Alexander Skarsgard as Thor and Josh Hartnett (“The Black Dahlia”) as Thor’s evil brother Loki, the Norse God of Mischief.

Combine that with all the “Iron Man 2” casting news (Samuel L. Jackson would be back in a bigger capacity as Nick Fury, Don Cheadle was replacing Terrence Howard as Rhodey, Mickey Rourke was confirmed to play the villain Whiplash, etc.), I naturally expected to hear similar buzz about “The First Avenger: Captain America.” But I kept waiting … and waiting …

So it came as no surprise when Marvel announced recently that everything except for “Iron Man 2” would be delayed.

And wasn’t it a wonderful surprise to know “Spider-Man 4” would kick off the summer of 2011 on May 6?

Again, it all made sense. Putting about a year, instead of a little more than two months, between “Captain America” and “The Avengers” just adds to the tension of resolving Cap’s cinematic conclusion: Being found frozen in suspended animation by The Avengers (decades after being thrown into the sea by a missile explosion in World War II), as his comics history goes.

And I bet a lot of that delay had to do with casting the Star Spangled Avenger.

Don’t forget the Jon Favreau Factor. The “Iron Man” director was already named “The Avengers” executive producer. He’d kind of dodged the idea of directing the team film in various interviews, but you could tell he was excited by it.

The problem was the original time frame between finishing the second “Iron Man” (the only film not to be moved from its original slot of May 7, 2010) and “The Avengers” wouldn’t allow him enough reasonable time to direct both.

Why not have Favreau direct the mother of all super hero films? After all, he has proven he takes the Iron Man mythos seriously and brought intelligence, respect and fun to an unfamiliar genre (for him). Why not do the same for an ensemble project with just as many big-name actors and certainly a bigger budget than “Iron Man”?

Here's a chart to help this make more sense:

• "Iron Man 2" remains May 7, 2010

• "Thor" — was July 16, 2010; now June 17, 2011

• "The First Avenger: Captain America" — was May 6, 2011; now July 22, 2011

• "The Avengers" — was July 15, 2011; now May 4, 2012