Next summer The Avengers will unite for the first time on screen. Yes that’s right, next year we will see Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America assemble attempt to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. To get this far, it has taken five films that each intertwine with each other in order to set up this huge superhero team up. Whilst films in the Marvel cinematic universe are all connected, they are also their own franchises that contain other important supporting characters. With the Avengers fast approaching, are major supporting characters such as War Machine, Bucky and Odin likely to get bumped for the superhero team-up film?
Recent reports suggest a host of supporting characters such as James Rhodes/ War Machine from Iron Man and Bucky Barnes from Captain America: The First Avenger will not be appearing in the Avengers flick. This is understandable from Marvel’s point of view, as it would save them money and prevents the film from overcrowding, but from a narrative point of view, are there too many loose ties to deal with that require these supporting characters in some capacity?
My first point is with Thor. When we last saw the Odinson, he was stranded in Asgard after destroying the Bifrost Bridge. (The bridge that connects the nine realms) Whilst his return to Earth is likely to be caused by the ‘secret paths’ Loki hinted at, how is the Avengers film really going to deal with this without using the likes of Heimdall, Odin and Jane Foster. Using Idris Elba in the film wouldn’t seem too excessive as his appearance could be kept to a bare cameo, but stars such as Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman, who haven’t yet confirmed if they’re on board, would be extremely expensive to have for bare cameos, and would likely need to have some involvement in the story, considering the main villain is likely to be Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
The same goes for the supporting characters in the Iron Man franchise. Don Cheadle recently confirmed that unless he’s recast, he definitely would not be in the Avengers as War Machine. This is understandable considering the team will already have Iron Man, but if the crisis in the film that brings the group together is truly Earth threatening, wouldn’t Nick Fury want another armoured battle suit at his disposal? This is something I hope Josh Whedon acknowledges in the film and that he makes a reasonable excuse for Rhode’s absence. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is fortunately unnecessary in the film, so at least her absence is taken care of.
The absence of Captain America’s supporting characters in the Avengers is easier to explain due to The First Avenger being a period movie. Some key characters such as Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) will at least need referencing in the film, perhaps in flashback sequences in order to emphasize how Steve Rogers has become a man out of time. If the Avengers film were to set up storylines for future solo character adventures, Bucky Barnes could be featured as The Winter Soldier.
Lastly is The Incredible Hulk. Personally this is the hardest film to incorporate into the Avengers movie due to it being released back in 2008 with no further sequels and a recast in lead actor from Ed Norton to Mark Ruffalo. When we last saw Bruce Banner he was hiding out in British Columbia where we saw hints that either he had become able to control the monster within, or it was controlling him. Whilst this will surely be dealt with in the Avengers, the after credit scene with Tony Stark and General Ross hinted that Ross was somehow involved in the set up of the Avengers team. Will this be addressed in the film? I doubt it as I’m beginning to feel Marvel is slowly removing The Incredible Hulk from their continuity.
Hopefully the absence of any important supporting characters will be addressed intelligently, as this is where Marvel’s connected universe will really begin to pay off. For instant I don’t want to see Thor return to Earth with no mention of Jane Foster, nor do I want Tony Stark in combat without acknowledging War Machine’s absence. Hopefully Josh Whedon will pay attention to detail and Marvel will surely pull of something phenomenal that sets new standards for comic book movies.