The Avengers & What’s Next for Marvel Studios

About a month ago, The Avengers kicked off the summer movie season, obliterating the competition the same way the sun obliterates the darkness every morning round about six.

It’s breaking record after record; starting with its $207 million US take on opening weekend, and it will likely end its run as one of the Top 3 grossing films of all time. This will put it ahead of The Dark Knight and in the land of James Cameron (Avatar and Titanic).

Not bad for the guy who brought you Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

But long before Joss “The Boss” Whedon got involved, The Avengers series of films (Iron Man, Hulk, Capitan America and Thor) seemed like one of the biggest gambles in modern Hollywood history.

None of the characters were from the A-List of the Marvel universe, and the likelihood of bringing in an X-Man or Spider-Man were extremely unlikely given that they are properties of other studios. In addition, given the high expectations (read: high budgets) that the public has some super hero films and the sheer number of pictures involved in creating the universe from which to assemble The Avengers, the studio essentially gambled its very existence to make this happen.

So kudos to Marvel for having that sort of vision.

The question this begs, of course, is where do The Avengers and Marvel Studios go from here? Obviously, given the worldwide appeal, green lights have been given to Iron Man 3 (May 2013), Thor 2 (November 2013), Captain America 2 (April 2014) and The Avengers 2 (as early as May 2014). After they finally found the right Hulk in Mark Ruffalo, expect a new Hulk movie within the next 2-3 years as well.

Those will no doubt continue the spectacularness (is that a word?) of the big-budget popcorn movies that we’ve all come to know and love. But…should Marvel try some lower-budget gambles with some of its lesser properties?

One idea that came to mind as I was considering this was an Avengers prequel featuring Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). I’d call it something like Marvel’s Assassins.

Here are two top-notch actors who are definitely not at the forefront of The Avengers, due to their lack of superpowers (Tony Stark doesn’t have superpowers either, but close enough). But their characters are both fairly interesting in that they’re highly trained assassins who can hold their own in the face of a higher level of competition.

My thought was to create a smaller-budget spy-vs.-spy film which started with the origins of each character and then inevitably drew them into competition. Black Widow eludes to the fact that Hawkeye “saved her” in The Avengers; this can ultimately be the resolution of the film.

Rather than the big splash films we’re used to, I envision this much more as a gritty, hand-camera film which really pushes the tremendous acting ability of the two performers and acts much more as a character piece. Really, truly get into the heads of these screwed up individuals, and also perhaps bring The Avengers to a different audience.

With such a diverse roster of heroes (check out the list on Wikipedia; it’s ridiculous) and the tremendous success of the previous films, Marvel really needs to try and push their universe, and take the superhero film in a new direction. As we all know, those who aren’t improving every day are falling behind; while superhero films are en vogue now, they won’t be forever. This could very well be how they stay relevant over the long-haul.

By the way, if any Marvel exec reads this and wants me to write a script, I’m available. 😉