A full report on Comic-Con 2012 will be online later in the week, but I wanted to recap the exciting news that came out of Marvel Studios' panel on Saturday, July 14. Saturday has always been the biggest and busiest day of the convention and this year was no exception. Quentin Tarantino had kicked things off that morning with a preview of "Django Unchained." After a slight lull, Warner Brothers blew the competition out of the water with a massive 3-hour block featuring three enormous screens of multimedia goodness. Included in their panel were previews of Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim," Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel," Gareth Edwards' "Godzilla," "The Hobbit," and surprise appearances by Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis to promote "The Campaign." Marvel had their work cut out for them, but they knocked it out of the park. If Warner Brothers was the main course, Marvel was a delicious desert with a ripe cherry on top.
The presentation began with a highlight reel incorporating previous Comic-Con panels along with each Marvel Studios film. It started with the very first Marvel Studios panel in 2006 where producer Kevin Feige discussed "Iron Man" and the hope of eventually building to "The Avengers." The video package climaxed with the 360 shot of the team and the words "Phase Two Begins…NOW."
Feige was introduced to the capacity crowd in Hall H to officially announce Marvel's upcoming slate of pictures. "Iron Man 3," which is halfway through production, is scheduled to be released next year on May 3rd. Following that will be "Thor: The Dark World," directed by Alan Taylor, whose credits include numerous episodes of "Homicide: Life on the Streets," "The Sopranos," and "Game of Thrones." As rumored, Zachary Levi will take over the role of Fandral due to Josh Dallas's commitments to ABC's "Once Upon a Time." The Thor sequel will be released November 8, 2013. On April 4th of 2014, Marvel will release "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," to be helmed by Anthony & Joe Russo, known mainly for their work on sitcoms like "Arrested Development" and "Community." For more on the Winter Soldier, check out my annotations for "Captain America: The First Avenger." "Guardians of the Galaxy" was confirmed as the second Marvel film of 2014. It is almost certain that "Guardians" will have repercussions for "Avengers 2" since the titular team has frequently clashed with Thanos, the villainous puppet master glimpsed in the mid-credits scene of "The Avengers." For those who don't know, the Guardians of the Galaxy are an intergalactic team of adventurers led by Star-Lord, a former astronaut from Earth turned space cop. Other members will be Drax the Destroyer, Groot the living plant monster, and the gun-toting Rocket Raccoon. Not mentioned, but shown in the concept art is Gamora, the most dangerous woman in the galaxy, and the adopted daughter of Thanos.
Edgar Wright arrived next to give everyone a status update on "Ant-Man," a project that Wright himself spoke on during that fateful 2006 panel. He and co-writer Joe Cornish have been hard at work on the script. Wright brought with him a copy of Tales to Astonish #27, which featured the first appearance of Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man. The director of "Shaun of the Dead" took inspiration from that issue as well as Marvel Premiere #47 in which former burglar, Scott Lang, steals the Ant-Man suit to save his daughter's life. This fuels the possibility that the movie will utilize both Pym and Lang. Test footage was shown of two guards (SHIELD agents?) in three-piece suits and sunglasses flanking a doorway at the end of a corridor. The camera pulls back and into an air vent where a miniscule Ant-Man awaits. His costume isn't the red spandex of the comics, but a red and silver armor with an ant-like helmet that obscures his face. He leaps out of the vent and charges down the hall unseen by the guards. Suddenly, he grows to normal size as the surprised sentries draw their sidearms and open fire. Ant-Man shrinks down, runs along the barrel of one of the guns, then punches the wielder right in the jaw, knocking him unconscious. He bounces off the guard's cheek and grabs the other by the tie, shifts into full-size, and throws him through a window. Ant-Man enters into the elevator they had been watching. According to Simon Pegg's Twitter account, he and Wright will film "World's End" soon before the latter jumps into "Ant-Man" next year.
Finally, the time came for the "Iron Man 3" portion of the panel. Before Kevin Feige could finish his thoughts, "Never Too Much" by Luther Vandross played over the P.A. system. A spotlight hit the back of the room as Robert Downey Jr. made his entrance in total Tony Stark mode. Wearing an actual Iron Man gauntlet on his right hand, he doled out high fives and danced to the music. Nearly 7000 attendees cheered wildly as Downey sprinted to the stage and basked in their adoration. He then introduced the first ever footage of "Iron Man 3." The reel began with Tony in his lab preparing to try out the newest version of his armor. The scene had echoes of the original film. Tony holds out his arms and pieces of the suit fly off the workbench and attach themselves to his body without the aid of mechanical arms. It doesn't work according to plan as the codpiece hits Tony quite hard in the crotch while another piece shatters a glass case. The last component is the faceplate. As it zooms towards Tony, he flips upside-down with the aid of his repulsors and completes the suit. The color scheme of the new Mark VIII is primarily gold with red and slight blue accents. The suit was on display along with the other armors in the exhibit hall.
The next sequence was a video chat between Tony and Happy Hogan, who is no longer in his employment. The fast-paced, witty banter that highlighted the first two installments was present here along with references to the events of "The Avengers." Happy calls Tony's new comrades, "The Super Friends," and mentions how his grandmother jumped out of a second story window when "giant robot snakes" attacked Manhattan last year. After that was a series of quick shot set to a mysterious and sinister voiceover proclaiming, "You call me a terrorist? I consider myself a teacher. The first lesson: there are no heroes. Any who stand against me will be silenced." We see flashes of Pepper Potts, Rhodey, Rebecca Hall as Dr. Maya Hansen, Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian, the logo of the Ten Rings, and a red, white & blue version of the War Machine, which had been previously misidentified as the Iron Patriot. Attack choppers strafe Tony's Malibu mansion with missiles and knock it into the ocean with Tony and Pepper still inside. Tony somehow manages to get in his armor, but is buried by rubble underwater. The footage cuts to a close-up of two hands wearing a ring on each finger. The camera pulls back to reveal Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin, clad in a flowing dark green robe and a long black beard.
Needless to say, the crowd went ballistic before Downey welcomed director Shane Black, Don Cheadle, and Jon Favreau. The man who originally helped bring Iron Man to the silver screen was excited about being involved with the film from a different perspective. Favreau also mentioned how Black was an unofficial adviser whenever they had problems cracking the story. When asked if Bruce Banner would make an appearance, the panelists joked that Tony drove him to Port Authority and hasn't seen him since. Downey continued to charm his captive audience with his flair for quips and even led the entire auditorium to sing "Happy Birthday" to a young lady who just turned fifteen.
All in all, it is going to be an exciting three years as Marvel commences the second phase of its cinematic universe.