Star Wars, DC could take cues from Marvel movie universe

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15 2013 11:25 a.m. MST

Chris Evans, portraying Captain America, left, and Robert Downey Jr., portraying Tony Stark, are shown in a scene from "The Avengers."


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Along with Christopher Nolan's meaner, darker foray into the world of comic books, "The Dark Knight," 2008's "Iron Man" set a new bar for superhero movies.

For thousands of comic fans, though, the most important part of Tony Stark’s journey from self-centered playboy to superhero in "Iron Man" took place after the closing credits when an eyepatch-wearing Samuel L. Jackson stepped out of the shadows and said, "I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative."

Four years and five movies later, Disney’s grand experiment in franchise building has paid off. What's been labeled “Phase One” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe culminated with last summer's "The Avengers," a film which earned Disney more than $1.5 billion and became the highest grossing film of 2012. “Phase Two” is already well under way. Sequels to “Captain America,” “Thor” and, of course, “Iron Man” are currently in production.

Now, it looks like two other high-profile movie properties might try to follow the Marvel blueprint.

In an issue of Entertainment Weekly that hit newsstands Nov. 16, new LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy revealed that Disney hopes to release as many as two to three new Star Wars movies each year.

At first glance, Kennedy’s comment seems to contradict Disney CEO Bob Iger’s original announcement from October when the LucasFilm acquisition was first made public. At the time, Iger revealed to scores of dumbfounded fans that “Episode VII” would hit theaters in 2015 with subsequent episodes following every two to three years thereafter.

This has led some to speculate that Disney might be trying to adapt the Marvel blueprint for the Star Wars universe.

Adding fuel to the fire, news recently leaked that, in addition to writer Michael Arndt (“Toy Story 3”), who has been confirmed as the “Episode VII” scribe, Disney has brought in Lawrence Kasdan (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi”) and Simon Kinberg (“Sherlock Holmes”) to each write their own installments.

Up until recently, it was assumed that Kasdan and Kinberg would tackle episodes VIII and IX, but the latest rumors claim the two scribes might in fact forego the episodic numbering system altogether and instead tackle standalone movies set in the broader Star Wars universe. If successful, those movies could later be tied into the main Star Wars storyline playing out in episodes VII, VIII, IX and maybe even X, XI and XII.

While it’s tempting to dismiss this as a ploy to cash-in on the Star Wars property, fans have every reason to be excited. If there’s one cinematic universe that cries out for a variety of approaches, it’s Star Wars — as evidenced by the huge library of Star Wars Expanded Universe books already out there.

Who knows? Maybe "Captain America" director Joe Johnston will finally get his chance to make a Boba Fett movie.

But Disney isn’t the only studio learning from the success of the “Avengers” model.

After Marvel’s super-powered slugfest became the third-highest grossing movie of all time, Warner Bros. announced a 2015 release date for its own super-team, the long-in-development “Justice League” movie, which would unite comic book heavyweights like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern.

Details of how the studio intends to pull that off, however, have been pretty fuzzy so far.

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