Marvel Studios, best known for making your kids know who Iron Man is and turning a raccoon and a tree into movie stars, called a special “secret” press conference today, which turned out to be an announcement of its slate of films for the next few years.
Marvel’s producer, Kevin Feige, helped pioneer the idea of an interconnected superhero film universe that can keep spinning off films indefinitely. Now he’s here to show how the company will deal with its biggest challenge to date: Robert Downey Jr. is scaling back his involvement, which means no more Iron Man movies for the next few years. What will they put in the place of the snarky guy in the robot suit? Well, it turns out, they’ve got a lot of space stuff. And their first star of colour, and their first female solo star. But mostly space stuff. Here’s how the schedule breaks down:
May 6, 2016: Captain America: Civil War. Loosely based on a 2006 Marvel Comics story that sold extremely well, even though almost no one claims to have liked it, this film will feature Captain America and Iron Man clashing over some kind of semi-political issue, so we get a movie about superheroes fighting each other, instead of fighting villains. For the uninitiated, heroes punching each other over a misunderstanding is considered “childish,” but heroes punching each other over politics is “mature.”
Nov. 4, 2016: Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme, who is the first person in the franchise to work magic. Unless you count Thor, except his magic is supposedly only advanced science. Though wait, Dr. Strange’s magic may also turn out just to be advanced science, as well. Anyway, he’s a doctor who casts spells and fights demons and things.
May 5, 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy 2, the sequel to the Raccoon-Tree film. No announcement on whether the ’70s pop soundtrack will give way to a different era of musical nostalgia this time.
July 28, 2017: Thor: Ragnarok. Ragnarok is the Norse Gods’ version of the Apocalypse, so a lot of things will be destroyed and blow up, and maybe Thor will have to leave his kingdom and buy a condo in New York or something.
Nov. 3, 2017: Black Panther. In the 1960s, Marvel introduced the first mainstream black superhero in the form of T’Challa, the king of a mythical African country called Wakanda, who also doubles as a superhero and goes back and forth between liking and disliking the non-Wakanda world. The comics are a rich treasure trove of slightly condescending portrayals of African life, and the movie , starring Chad Boseman as T’Challa, may have to find a new and different way to be slightly condescending.
July 6, 2018: Captain Marvel. Okay, deep breath. This character is Carol Danvers, introduced in a book called “Captain Marvel’ as the girlfriend of an alien superhero (who was totally not Superman). Then she got super-powers of her own and became Ms. Marvel. Then she lost those powers, got new powers, and started calling herself Binary and went off to join a roving band of space pirates. Then she traded those powers for her old powers, also picked up a drinking problem, and became Warbird. Then she went back to being Ms. Marvel. And recently, she decided to take on her old boyfriend’s title and become the 35,567th hero to be called Captain Marvel. Anyway, that’s what she’ll be called in the movie, at least at the end. We’ll see if they have room for a plot after they get through explaining all her names.
May 2018: Avengers: Infinity War Part I. Yes, the next Avengers movie is being split into two movies. The title suggests it will be partly based on the “Infinity Gauntlet” storyline, a Cosmic story. “Cosmic” means “in space, only not fun like Star Wars.”
Nov. 2, 2018: Inhumans. Created in the pages of Fantastic Four, this is a proud race of people with super-powers who live on the moon and don’t like to mix with humans. They’re like mutants, only snobbish. Marvel doesn’t have the rights to use mutants in movies, so they’re going to use Inhumans instead. The lead characters of the Inhumans include a king who can’t talk because his voice can kill people, and a woman who can use her hair as a weapon. And Marvel Studios will make them popular, because see above about the raccoon and the tree.
May 2019: Avengers: Infinity War Part II. The Avengers return to finish fighting Thanos, the bad guy who’s popped up for cameos in Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy so far. Expect lots of big space battles from people who probably have no business being in space.
And that is that. Characters not scheduled for their own movie yet include Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk (Hulk’s last solo movie, with Edward Norton, was Marvel’s only box-office disappointment to date). Expect most of these movies to get sequels, and sequels to get sequels, and spinoffs of their spinoffs. Because this is what movies are now—and, no matter how much we complain about it, we’ll go to see the films and probably enjoy them.