So, we now come to 2017, which also has 5 Marvel properties lined up, 2 from Fox and 3 from Disney. Given how far away these dates are, what we know in terms of cast, crew and plot is very limited for some of the titles.
Untitled Wolverine Sequel. Releases in March 2017 – Fox kicks off very early in the year with James Mangold most likely returning to direct Hugh Jackman in this follow up to 2013’s The Wolverine which was set in Japan. It’s very early days, so we don’t even know which comic book storyline will be used as a basis for the plot. Hugh Jackman will be 48 when he films this, so I wonder how many more years he can keep this up. It will be his 8th time on the screen playing this character since 2000 (not counting his cameo in X-Men: First Class) and just as Disney/ Marvel will eventually have to find a new actor to play Robert Downey Jr., Fox executives will be thinking about how to keep Hugh Jackman looking ageless, particularly considering that Wolverine’s role requires a lot more shirtless scenes than any other Marvel superhero!
Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Releases in May 2017 – One of the most memorable movie sequences for me this year was the mid-credits sequence featuring Groot dancing to MJ’s I Want You Back. This once risky venture is now the biggest box office hit of 2014 (at least for a few weeks more until the next Hunger Games sequel comes out) and it’s a bit of a pity that audiences will have to wait 3 years for the sequel. Although Age of Ultron also releases 3 years after The Avengers, they had standalone Captain America, Thor and Iron Man movies to fill the gap in between. No such fillers for GoTG, so no telling if interest in the characters will wane due to the onslaught of Marvel and DC movies in the interim. I would expect Marvel to keep Groot and Rocket top of mind through their TV cartoon properties and older fans will be keen to see the ongoing quest by intergalactic baddie Thanos to find all the Infinity Stones. There may also be an opportunity to set up Marvel’s future intergalactic superheroes such as Captain Marvel (whose solo movie is scheduled for 2018) and perhaps even Nova (since the Nova Corps were featured in the first movie).
The Fantastic Four 2. Releases in July 2017 – This release depends a lot on the performance of the first movie scheduled for Aug 2015. The actors would be locked in for the sequel, but the director Josh Trank is unlikely to be available as he would be prepping a Star Wars spin-off film for Disney (there is even a conspiracy theory that Disney hired Trank so that he wouldn’t be available to Fox for the sequel).
Thor: Ragnarok. Releases in end July 2017 – In Norse mythology, Ragnarok refers to their version of the apocalypse, so that could mean Asgard’s very existence is threatened by Loki’s machinations (after all, he was sitting on the throne at the end of Thor: The Dark World). But in Marvel comics, Ragnarok has another meaning as well; in the Civil War story line, Tony Stark created a cyborg clone of Thor called Ragnarok. It’s difficult to say which of the above cues the script will take or if it will be something completely new made up for the movies. Either way, Kevin Feige has said this movie will be a watershed event for Thor and the Marvel universe. Do keep in mind that Marvel comics has recently launched a new Thor title with a woman wielding Mjolnir, while the old Thor is still around but no longer worthy of picking up the hammer. There’s no telling if this story element will find its way into the movies.
Black Panther. Releases in Nov 2017 – The Black Panther was the first black superhero in Marvel comics and was created in 1966; the character and the name were inspired by the formation of the Black Panther party in the US that year. Of all the releases in faraway 2017, this is the one which appears to have a clear course charted out, starting with the Avengers sequel in 2015. Eagle eyed fans got terribly excited when they saw a familiar face in the trailer of Avengers: Age of Ultron last month. The face was that of famed motion-capture actor Andy Serkis (who has played Gollum, King Kong and Caesar the ape).
It’s a face rarely seen in its human form on screen. It was known that Serkis was advising James Spader on his mo-cap performance as Ultron, but no one expected to see Serkis himself acting in the film. He appears on screen for just one second, but the character has such a distinctive look that fans were immediately able to recognize him as Ulysses Klaw, a recurring super-villain in the Marvel pantheon. Klaw’s destiny is bound to the rare metal vibranium which is found only in the African kingdom of Wakanda, which of course is where Prince T’Challa, aka Black Panther comes from. So Klaw’s appearance in 2015 will bring Wakanda into the Avengers storyline which will then lead to the Black Panther popping up in Captain America: Civil War in 2016 and finally to this solo outing in 2017. He will be played by Chadwick Boseman who after several years in TV shows, produced a breakout performance as baseball player Jackie Robinson in the film 42 last year. This year, he played another American legend (James Brown) in the little seen but highly acclaimed Get on Up. Frankly, I think it’s poor casting for Panther, because Boseman has African-American features whereas T’Challa should have been played an African, one with a bigger build. But Boseman is a good actor, so I hope he will do the role justice. The film’s concept art released by Marvel during the announcement a few weeks ago looks spot-on.
Based on current popularity, I have no doubt that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will make the most money at the box office in 2017. Black Panther too will get a good run, provided his introduction in the previous year’s Captain America: Civil War is handled well. I think the Thor franchise with Chris Hemsworth could end with Thor: Ragnarok and if it is positioned as the last solo outing for this character, then there could be a big crowd at the theatres. I really don’t know how FF2 will fare, as the outcome of the first FF reboot next year is still a question mark. And the Wolverine sequel will do reasonable but not spectacular numbers.