With The Dark Knight Rises out this week, it’s easy to forget that any other comic book franchises exist. The same can be said of just a few months ago when Marvel Avengers Assemble was released in April. In fact, in all the over-marketed run-up to this Friday’s release, the numerous announcements unveiled at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con have been in danger of being overlooked. Despite the genuine excitement felt for the new Batman outing, the statements released by Marvel at the event are just as exciting and, occasionally, bizarre.
Firstly, the makers of the much anticipated Iron Man 3 had a series of details to reveal. The film will see Tony Stark, played once more by Robert Downey Jr., pitted against up to three villains. James Badge Dale, last seen in The Grey and Shame, will play Eric Savin, known in the comics as Coldblood, a cyborg foe of Iron Man.
Guy Pearce will play Aldrich Killian, a scientist partly responsible for the Extremis serum, a nanotechnology attempting to replicate the super soldier serum used to create Captain America which inevitably goes awry, with consequences for both him and Tony Stark. Most excitingly, Sir Ben Kingsley will play the ultimate Iron Man villain: The Mandarin, originally a Chinese warlord empowered by alien technology.
How these various plotlines will combine remains to be seen, but with so many villains in play, there could be a danger that the film may venture too close to the muddled confusion of Spider-man 3, which proved that numerous villains is not necessarily the way to go. Don Cheadle and Gwyneth Paltrow are both set to return, as is Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, replaced as director this time round by Shane Black. Fans of 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang will be happy to see Black and Downey Jr. working together again.
Whilst the unveiling of the Iron Man Mk VIII suit that will be seen in the film met with mixed reactions, the test footage shown in Hall H of the San Diego event is said to have gone down extremely well, suggesting that this may be the best of the franchise.
In terms of Marvel’s future endeavors, exciting news has come in the form of the names of the next Thor and Captain America films. Thor: The Dark World, which is to be released on 8th November next year, suggests that this second installment will focus more on the darker side of Asgard, and perhaps Thor himself. Whilst the familial turmoil of the first film added a new aspect to comic book film adaptations, the name for the second suggests a different direction, perhaps towards a more gritty, and yes, darker story.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, due for release in April 2014, is a little easier to figure out. Historically, the Winter Soldier is a Soviet agent revealed to be the brainwashed Bucky, the cap’s sidekick last seen falling from a train in Captain America. How Sebastian Stan’s character will reappear in the modern day is unclear, but it certainly raises expectations following the arguably disappointing first installment.
Marvel heads have also revealed their intention to give a new comic the big-screen treatment; bizarrely, Guardians of the Galaxy. Audiences can be easily forgiven for not being aware of this series of comics, which only ran for 25 issues before being canceled in 2010. Nonetheless, it has been revealed that this will be the big summer release for 2014.
The Guardians are a team of heroes brought together to protect the galaxy, and are comprised of several slightly odd individuals, including Rocket Racoon, a walking, talking space raccoon often armed to the teeth with a variety of firearms, and Groot, a living, sentient plant able to regenerate from as little as a branch.
These characters seem like an extremely unlikely choice to follow the rousing success of The Avengers, but with the team known to oppose Thanos (the shady character seen at the end of Marvel Avengers Assemble), it seems that the principle villain that they will face is already in play.
These were the biggest announcements made at Comic-Con; however Marvel does have even more in the pipeline, with Edgar Wright of Hot Fuzz/Scott Pilgrim fame announcing he has already begun directorial work on Ant-Man, a hero whose powers seem clear by his very name (changing size and controlling insects).
With all of these films coming, it seems that Marvel has no shortage of work to be done in the future. With hardly any similar projects in the works for DC Comics, aside from Superman’s next appearance in Man of Steel, studio execs must be considering themselves extremely fortunate to have been able to have the exceptional work of Christopher Nolan on their side, and very unfortunate that the Batman trilogy has come to an end.