Marvel Studios executives are so busy producing Iron Man 2, prepping Thor and coordinating everything with The Avengers that the only person available to accept the studio's Saturn Award was head of marketing Doug Finberg. (Finberg accepted the Saturn Award on behalf of Iron Man on Wednesday in Burbank, Calif.)
He updated us on Marvel projects: Finberg confirmed that the working title of the Captain America film is The First Avenger: Captain America. That would both introduce Cap and lead into the concept of The Avengers, which would follow. "It's something we're considering, and really at the end of the day, everyone is going to know that he is Captain America," Finberg said in an exclusive interview.
Earlier in the week, Avengers screenwriter Zak Penn told an audience at the L.A. Film Festival that he is running around between Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America production offices to make sure his script coordinates with the introduction of key superheroes, and, of course, his script has to be done before the other films are. Finberg was confident that all teams could unite for a solid Avengers film. "Having everybody on board and really being able to actually work as a team together and develop the Marvel cinematic universe is what's most important to us," Finberg said.
The long-term plan is to introduce Thor and Captain America, then combine them with Iron Man to form the Avengers. But that still only accounts for three members of the famed superhero team, four if they throw in the Hulk. Could Penn introduce any new supporting superheroes in the Avengers film itself? That's not off the table, according to Finberg. "I think that really remains to be seen," he said.
After some contractual hiccups, Samuel L. Jackson signed on to continue playing Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., in the Marvel universe films. Expect him to play a major role in the upcoming films, with the possibility of his own film down the road, Finberg said. "Well, we have a multi-picture deal with him, so obviously we're in business with him for a while to come, and we really enjoy working with Sam," he said.
Thor will be another case of Marvel's trusting a director to bring a unique vision to their property, as Sam Raimi did for Spider-Man, Bryan Singer did for X-Men and Jon Favreau did for Iron Man. "Kenneth Branagh at the head of it all is really the critical thing to us, to really create his vision" of Thor, Finberg said. "He and [Marvel honcho] Kevin [Feige] are working really closely together."
As for Iron Man 2, which is currently in production, Finberg assured fans they can expect more of the same action and improvisational drama courtesy of star Robert Downey Jr. There may be no way to manage fan expectations for the sequel to a $300-plus-million-grossing film, but Marvel is committed to pleasing them.
"It really is more to come," Finberg said. "Ultimately, the final expectation, the final verdict, is with the fans, and that's something that the team of Marvel does a phenomenal job at, actually making the best movie from the material they can."
Iron Man 2 is due out May 7, 2010. Thor is next, on May 20, 2011. Then Captain America on July 22, 2011, and The Avengers on May 4, 2012.