If there’s two things Marvel Studios lives by, it’s putting on a show and knowing its audience.
The company behind the biggest movie of the year and the third biggest movie of all time, started off by making a reel tying the success of its movies to Hall H, Comic-Con and fandom. “In this room” read one frame, cannily tethering the company to the crowd assembled, and “thank you” read another before finally proclaiming “Phase Two Begins…” and then simply “Now.”
Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige also knows the audience is hungry not only for footage, but for actual news, so he revealed the full titles of the sequels to Thor and Captain America (Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: Winter Soldier) plus unveiled the characters who would be in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
The Thor sequel is scheduled for release on Nov. 18, 2013 followed by the Captain America sequel on April 4, 2014.
"Winter Soldier" appears to be based on a recent Ed Brubaker-penned comics storyline that broke one of the seemingly immutable laws of the Marviel Comics universe--that Captain America sidekick Bucky stay dead--to wide acclaim.
The concept art for Guardians of the Galaxy shows a team based on Marvel's latest version of its team of space heros.
Included in the concept art are Drax The Destroyer, a human resurrected as a green warrior with the sole purpose of killing Thanos (the villain in the Avengers final scene tease); Groot, a giant tree-man; Star-Lord, a gun-toting half-human/half-alien inter-galactic vigilante; Rocket Raccoon, a genetically engineered animal with a knack for guns and explosives; and Gamora, the last survivor of her species who was saved by Thanos to be his assassin but now battles him.
Marvel revaled that Guardians would be released on Aug. 1, 2014.
Then Edgar Wright made a surprise appearance and showed off test footage, unfinished, of his long and still-in-development Ant-Man movie.
Perhaps the topper was introducing Iron Man 3 by having Robert Downey Jr. appear unexpectedly in the back of Hall H, then to the tune of a Luther Vandross song, skip to the front of the hall and onto the stage, with occasional stops with fans along the way.
The goodwill generated was off the charts.
And it’s some goodwill that Marvel, despite Avengers’ success, actually needs to a certain extent. While Iron Man 3 will no doubt be a success, there was some bitter after-taste among the studio’s fanbase after the lackluster Iron Man 2, and the fact that after helming the first two installments, Jon Favreau wasn’t returning to direct the third. (Those duties were handed off to Shane Black, who directed Downey on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.)
The gang assembled sold the new movie as a return to the roots of the Tony Stark character. Downey painted a picture that Black had always been involved, at least tangentially, with the Iron Man series.
He said Marvel execs watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was his “screen test before the screen test” and that even when making the first two films, if they had some issues, a call to Black wasn’t out of order.
Favreau, meanwhile, made it clear that even though he wasn’t directing Iron Man 3, he was cool with his role as an actor and executive producer.
“Shane made me feel very, very comfortable. As did Kevin and Robert," Favreau said. “As far as executive producing, as opposed to directing, I feel like a proud grandfather who doesn’t have to change the diaper but gets to play with the baby.”
Black too was on point, saying “We have Favreau. He’s back as an actor. I get to talk to him all day long…This is the same Iron Man you’ve always liked.”
How much of that subtext the crowd got is hard to tell since they were having too much fun with Downey and the gang riffing.
And of course, Marvel trotted out footage from the still in-production movie, which was not surprisingly well-received by the already primed audience.