The Reign of the Marvels

Marvel is taking over the world. After “Avengers” and “Iron Man 3” both made over $1 billion worldwide, these colorful superheroes became household names. Today’s release of “Thor: The Dark World” expands that name even more, taking its characters across dimensions for an adventure on a cosmic scale.
While mainstream audiences rush to see the latest adventures of Thor and Loki, hard core comic fans are gearing up for the next chapter in the ever growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. Where most people see another film, fans see the next issue in a comic book, adding a new piece to the puzzle that is Phase Two of this ongoing, intersecting film series.
Phase One, for those not aware, is the name given to Marvel’s first set of films set in the same universe. “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” got the ball rolling in 2008, followed by “Iron Man 2”, “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”, culminating in the massive success that was “The Avengers”. In the wake of this success, Marvel is now rolling out Phase Two of their plans. “Iron Man 3” was the beginning, and “Thor: The Dark World”, as well as the TV spin-off “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, are merely the next step.
Phase Two still has three more films once “Thor: The Dark World” leaves theaters. Next April brings “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, where we find the good captain re-teaming with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow to fight a conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. and the titular cold war assassin.
In August we have “Guardians of the Galaxy”, which could be Marvel’s biggest risk yet. Based on a more obscure Marvel comic, this film is a “Star Wars”-like space adventure, involving a team of misfits traveling the universe fighting evil. Despite its obscurity, big names like John C. Reilly, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are already attached to the project. The film should shed some light on “The Avengers” villain Thanos, who debuted in that film’s end-credits sequence.
And speaking of “Avengers”, we have its sequel, “Age of Ultron”, set for May 2015. Robert Downey Jr. has renewed his contract to once again play Iron Man (no word on “Iron Man 4”). Instead of Thanos being the villain, our main baddie will be the titular Ultron, an evil robot who wants to destroy humanity. He will be voiced by “The Blacklist’s” James Spader, while two new heroes join the team in super speedster Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson, aka “Kick-Ass”) and his magic wielding twin sister, the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson).
“Age of Ultron” will end Phase Two of this grand experiment, where a major film studio tries to take several separate franchises and make them gel into a cohesive story. The experiment is working so far, but only time will tell if “Thor: The Dark World” adds anything new to this sprawling comic book universe.